Mac OS X is the most successful PC operating system in history. A bold claim, but read on to find out why.

Success for some pundits is expressed by quantity - the number of software licences sold, the size of the installed customer base, the extent of the monoculture monopoly.

We’re not talking about quantity though. Mac OS X has been the most successful OS as it has the highest standards of consistency, of attention to detail in the user interface and in its usability. It’s the safest, most steady and reliable computer platform for everyman, and arguably the easiest for real people to use.

The only computer operating system that’s proven more successful by this metric, even more intuitive, is one also devised by Apple, and that’s iOS – the system that fuels tens of millions of iPhones, iPods and iPads across the globe.

Which is perhaps why Apple has chosen to morph some of the mobile system’s features and interface elements into OS X. And that is ‘OS X’ now rather than ‘Mac OS X’, for with this release, we see the end of Mac OS X as a name, and the beginning of OS X – minus the ‘Mac’.

First impressions – changes to the interface

The first thing you may notice on a Mac laptop when moving to Lion from earlier versions of Mac OS X — and any other OS for that matter — is that scrolling now works backwards.

Instead of using the paradigm of using two-fingers to pick up a window’s scroll bar to drag up and down, you’re now resting your fingers on a page in a virtual way, and sliding that page up and down as if your fingers were physically touching it.

Lion natural scrolling

Natural scrolling is introduced with OS X Lion, taking its cue from the iPhone and iPad

Some users have found this disconcerting at first, but after a few hours’ use, we found it awkward to return to the old scroll style. Apple calls it natural scrolling, and that’s how it now feels. It’s switchable from the Scroll & Zoom tab of Trackpad preferences, but we feel it’s worth perservering with if at first it seems ‘wrong’.

There’s also an element of bounce when your scrolling hits the end stops, just as in iOS. This depends on the app you’re using at the moment: some native Apple apps such as Safari show this bounce behaviour, while others like iTunes and Firefox do not.

Also not consistent across the board right now is the full-screen experience. We found that Safari, Preview, Terminal and QuickTime can be expanded to smoothly fill the entire display, after clicking a diagonal-arrow icon that appears in specific programs’ top-right corners.

Full-screen apps may sound like a tumble back to Windows 95, but it’s a great facility for removing all distractions while making the most of available screen space, as we’ve become used to in Apple’s own word processor app, Pages, which had a similar function — ‘had’ being the operative word here as it’s now strangely disabled in Lion, perchance awaiting an update in iWork ’11.

Unlike the old Windows full-screen modus operandi though, it’s very simple to see what’s also going on on your Mac, by sliding back to the main desktop with a three-finger flick to the right.

Mission Control

In Lion, OS X’s virtual desktop system (‘Spaces’) and the window-layering Exposé feature have been mashed up together into something called Mission Control. This simplifies the many options available with the two former systems, at the expense of some loss of control and readability.

For example, we would set Spaces as a two-by-two grid of four virtual desktops, viewable in birds-eye view as such from a mouse hot corner; and this view would show at decent size what’s going on in each Space. And from here, it’s a doddle to slide any open app window to another desktop.

Lion Mission Control

Spaces meets Exposé in OS X Lion's Mission Control

Mission Control now runs thumbnails of each virtual desktop across the screen top when activated, but each at just a fraction of normal size. You can have up to 16 such spaces ready for use, yet even with only four set up, it’s difficult to see quite so clearly what’s happening on each.

More annoying though, you cannot pick up a window from another desktop and move it at will, until you switch to that space first. And windows currently minimised to the Dock are now longer exposed for browsing under Mission Control. Exposé’s show desktop is still available from the thumb-and-three-finger gesture, via a new three-fingers-and-thumb ioutward pinch gesture on the trackpad.

A very neat touch is that you can customise each desktop with its own wallpaper, a long-overdue touch. Even more welcome though, may be the final introduction of Finder window resizing from any corner and any window edge.

Dashboard and its manifold little widgets remains, and can be found one screen to the left of the main desktop.

Scrollbars are now transparent by default — until you start to scroll by trackpad or mouse anyway — which has the advantage of tidying the interface, if making it impossible to see how far you are down a long document or webpage, until you start to scroll the page again. You can deselect this invisibility option in the General pane of System Preferences.

Perhaps the biggest gotcha also inherited from iOS is the restoration of windows and open apps when restarting the computer or logging back into a new session. When we restart a computer, we expect a clean slate of operation, save those programs we choose to auto-launch on startup.

Now, Lion will always re-open any previously opened apps on startup, along with documents you previously had open too. The latter can be prevented by deselecting ‘Restore windows’ from the General pane of System Preferences, but we really need an option to return to classic tabula-rosa computing as an option too.


A retro ‘50s rocket symbolises Launchpad in the Dock, a new way to overview all installed applications on the computer, then pick one to launch. Also available from a three-fingers-and-thumb inward pinch gesture, Launchpad strongly echoes nothing less than an iPhone or iPad’s home screen. You can even rearrange them to taste like in iOS.

Lion Launchpad

Find any app with ease with OS X Lion's Launchpad

Anglophones will be pleased to see that all-American Apple has finally included a British English dictionary and thesaurus in the system’s Dictionary application, courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary.

iCal and Address Book get a twee iOS-like leather-bound desk accessory look. In the case of iCal especially, this can slow down productivity, since you must wait for each page leaf to slowly turn when you want to flick through pages of the calendar. You can return to the faster instant-flick browsing, but only after holding down the Alt key.

In another small step backward in usability, the colours of icons in the Finder sidebar windows have been removed. Where once were easily recognisable shortcuts for USB drives and FireWire disks (orange icon), Windows and UNIX sharepoints (Blue screen-of-death icon), along with coloured symbols for Applications, Documents and so on, we now have uncoloured grey outlines. This brings the Finder in line with the last update to iTunes, but that doesn’t stop us finding rapid folder and drive identification that much harder.

Other minor tweaks to the Finder include smaller ‘traffic light’ red/yellow/green buttons for close/minimise/maximise, and a default view in new Finder windows that shows ‘All My Files‘ — a multi-tiered Cover View-like graphical overview of, almost literally, all the files on your computer.

Lion Finder

The Finder file browser in OS X Lion has been simplified, and has a more monochrome look

In a bid to simplify the Finder interface and take the user further away from any confusing system files, the Macintosh HD shortcut no longer appears in the Finder sidebar; and a user’s own Library directory is now invisible. You can temporarily summon it up easily enough though, using the Shift-Command-G shortcut, then typing in ~/Library.

Overall speed of a Mac running Lion feels subjectively snappier than Snow Leopard. It’s a trend that’s been continuing with almost every feline update since 2001, only we’d wager more noticeably so with the transistion from 106 to 10.7. That could be down even more trimming and optimisation at a low level of the operating system. There have been some significant changes under the bonnet.

NEXT PAGE: Under the bonnet >>>

Under the bonnet

Snow Leopard saw the move to an all-Intel software architecture of mixed 32-bit and 64-bit construction, with Rosetta as a translation layer to run older PowerPC apps.

Lion is similarly Intel-only but sees another step further away from older software by abandoning Rosetta altogether, to make Lion a home only for pure-breed Intel-coded applications. It also seems to be installing a 64-bit kernel for all legible Macs. Several of Apple’s own applications await the transition to 64-bit, including iTunes, the iWork suite and DVD Player.

We witnessed some changes in the behaviour of server connections. A new SMB system has been implemented, and in our tests, we sometimes had difficulty in making connections to the Windows server in the IDG office, as well as QNAP NAS drives.

Download and installation

OS X Lion is the first operating system upgrade that Apple will not offer on a physical disc. With the help of its new datacentre in North Carolina, the company is extending its online media and software delivery services to include the entire Lion OS, all 3.76GB of it.

This is a controversial decision, not least because it means that you must have a shopping account with Apple to buy it through the Mac App Store; and if you have a minor fleet of Macs in the home or office, Apple’s advice is that you must download the hefty package to each and every one individually.

There have been hints from users who have tried the Developer Preview that you can extract the necessary .dmg file from the ‘Install Mac OS X Lion’ package, and use this to create a bootable install disc.

During the installation process, a recovery partititon is created on the Mac’s boot drive, from which it’s possible to effect repairs on a damaged primary partition.

Lion Filevault

Full-disk encryption, not just user directory encryption, is possible with Filevault in OS X Lion

Security has been tightened further in Lion, starting with the expansion of file encryption. File Vault has been around since 10.3 Panther but the move to Lion sees a new option for full-disk encryption. We tried this extra level of security on our ageing MacBook Pro, and can report no perceptible slowdown in performance.

250-plus new features

Apple lists 250+ new features in Lion. We’re still to explore some of these, most notably Air Drop, which we couldn’t test as the wireless adaptor on our macBook Pro (Early 2008) did not seem to be compatible.

Air Drop is a novel way to combine traditional wireless networking with ad-hoc wireless, which gives point-to-point connections between individual computers.

The system is designed to automatically show other Lion Macs in your local wireless zone, and let you simply drop documents into their dropbox to share and exchange files.

We will update this review as soon as we’ve tried this facility.

NEXT PAGE: Original Macworld US first-look of Developer Preview

The next version of Apple's Mac OS X operating system is codenamed 'Lion'. Here we look ahead to its launch, and preview our pick of the 250 new features that Apple has crammed in - many of which are borrowed from iOS. Stay tuned for a full review nearer launch time.

Apple engineers have been hard at work in the eight months since Apple CEO Steve Jobs first previewed Lion at last October's Back to the Mac event. The next version of Mac OS X got a 30-minute spotlight at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote where some of Lion's 250 new features were demonstrated - and the new OS's July ship date, £20.99 price tag, and Mac App Store exclusivity were revealed.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': Multi-Touch gestures

If you're still holding out for a touchscreen Mac, we have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you're going to have to wait a long, long time - it's never going to happen. The good news is that you can still get your Multi-Touch fix - without suffering painful arm fatigue - thanks to Lion's many new OS-wide gestures.

Rather than directly interacting with your Mac's screen, you'll instead use an input device like Apple's Magic Trackpad (or, if on a laptop, a built-in trackpad) to swipe, pinch, zoom, and scroll. Far fewer gestures will work with the Magic Mouse.

Mac users have long relied on the mouse to painstakingly click, drag, and move windows around, slowing down productivity, but in Lion, Multi-Touch gestures have been implemented across the board, letting you swipe, pinch to zoom, and more - even momentum-based scrolling is system-wide. While Lion supports lots of brand-new Multi-Touch gestures, some are more familiar.

In Safari, for example, it will be possible to use a two-finger swipe to go forward and backward in the browser; a reverse-pinch gesture will allow you to zoom fluidly, and you can swipe full-screen apps on and off the screen.

By default, Lion documents scroll in the opposite direction, as if you're pulling or pushing the content up or down. In other words, Lion's two-finger scrolling behaviour works more like iOS scrolling than Snow Leopard scrolling. There's still an option to turn that behaviour off - for now, anyway. Lion's iOS-like scroll bars mean that we no longer need traditional scroll bars because we can now 'push' content using gestures. Lion's default setting is to show scroll bars only when you gesture to scroll.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': Full-screen applications

The Mac has traditionally displayed applications in adjustable, positionable windows. In contrast, on the iPhone or iPad, apps fill up the entire screen. While Lion keeps the basic functionality of the Mac window that we know and love, it also introduces a modern iOS-inspired compromise: full-screen applications. Click a button, and the program's window will fill up your screen - eliminating the Dock and top menu bar - so that you can focus on the task at hand.

You can send an application into full-screen mode by clicking the fullscreen icon in the top right corner of the window. In full-screen mode, the application behaves like a devoted Spaces desktop. To switch back to your original Desktop and other windows, you can use one of Lion's new Multi-Touch gestures, or a keyboard shortcut like Cmd-Tab.

Apple has integrated fullscreen mode into many applications in Lion including Safari, Mail, iCal, Preview, Photo Booth, iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes, Aperture, Keynote, Pages, Numbers, and Xcode. Mac OS X Lion will also offer developers an easy way to build this kind of full-screen support into their latest applications.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion'

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': Mission Control

Devised to enhance and replace Spaces, Exposé, and Dashboard, Mission Control gives you an overview of everything on your system: windows, applications, and Spaces workspaces. Activated by a Multi-Touch swipe, Mission Control displays your current workspace and all its windows, grouped by application. You can get a Quick Look preview of an individual window by hovering over it and tapping the Spacebar, or isolate an application's windows with a two finger swipe.

Spaces workspaces, previously managed within System Preferences, have taken root along the top of the Mission Control screen, and Dashboard has been converted from a hover overlay into its own workspace (positioned at the left end of the workspaces bar). You can drag applications and windows from desktop to desktop, and even add or delete desktops directly from Mission Control. Click on a desktop, and you'll be taken there; and switch between them using a Multi-Touch gesture.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': The Mac App Store

In addition to it being the only way to download Lion upon the OS's July release, the Mac App Store - first introduced in Mac OS X 10.6.6 - will feature prominently in Lion. New store-related features coming in Lion include the ability for developers to add iOS-like in-app purchases, sandboxing (for heightened security), and push notifications to their apps.

The Lion version of the Store also offers faster software updates thanks to switching to 'delta' updates which only downloads changes in code rather than forcing users to download the whole OS file every time it's updated.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': Launchpad

A direct homage to iOS's Home screen, Launchpad looks almost entirely like someone has copied an iPad's Home screen and stuck it on the Mac. You can see your entire application library laid out in icon form, arrange folders, scroll through pages, and rearrange apps as and when you see fit.

This new layout offers simple application management for those who wish to avoid digging around in the Finder. You view Launchpad with a four-finger pinch gesture or by clicking its app in the Dock, and it shows all of your application icons laid out in an iOS-like grid. You can drag applications to organise them, create folders, and add additional screens. When you purchase apps from the Mac App Store, they're automatically added to Launchpad - you can then track the current download status of an app via the progress bar icon within Launchpad.

Anyone who is in love with their iPhone may very well take a liking to Launchpad's Home screen-like interface; but for experienced users with oodles of applications, it may prove too unwieldy for general use.

Keep this page bookmarked for a full review of Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion' nearer the July launch. Next page: Mail, AirDrop and other new features >>

The next version of Apple's Mac OS X operating system is codenamed 'Lion'. Here we look ahead to its launch, and preview our pick of the 250 new features that Apple has crammed in - many of which are borrowed from iOS. Stay tuned for a full review nearer launch time.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': Resume, Auto Save and Versions

These three Lion features are designed to work in harmony with each other to keep your productivity high and workflow streamlined. Nothing's worse than having to stop something - say, browsing in Safari - to restart your computer, only to lose all the tabs and windows you were looking at. iOS solves this problem by allowing your apps to freeze their state upon exit or shutdown, enabling them to resume at the exact place you left off.

With Lion's Resume feature, Mac owners can look forward to something similar. Resume lets applications freeze in place upon quit; when you relaunch an application, it will remember where everything was - open documents, palettes, windows, and the like - the last time you quit and restore everything precisely. The feature will also work system-wide, allowing you to restart your Mac, or log out, and bring it back to that state the next time you log in.

Auto Save, meanwhile, will automatically save every document periodically as you work, so you don't have to worry about accidentally losing data. Via a new menu that appears when you click a document's name in its title bar, you can also lock documents you'd rather not automatically save; duplicate documents to work on a copy; or revert to the document's state when you last opened it. As before, you can also manually save at any time.

Versions works with the Auto Save feature to let you restore documents, or portions of documents, from earlier saves. You can enter a Time Machine-like interface to browse all saved versions of the current document; you can then cut and copy between an older version and the current version, or select an older version to restore in full.

When you share a document with someone else, however, your revisions stay with you - there's no need to worry about your colleagues and clients being able to browse the thirty previous revisions on their own computer.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': Mail

OS X's email client has got a full makeover in Lion, adding a new three-column view, a conversation view, message previews in the message list, search suggestions, colour-coded threads and multiple flags.

Conversations allow you to see every email from a thread - sent and received - grouped nicely; within the emails themselves, quoted text has been hidden, to allow for more coherent reading. If you start typing words into Mail's search box, search suggestions will prompt you with ideas for what you were typing - names, subject headers, dates - which you can accept by hitting the return key on your keyboard.

You can stack up multiple suggestions to create multi-tiered searches, like searching for one author and a specific subject line, for example. Also new is the Favourites bar, which lets you place frequently used mailboxes above the message list so you can hide the mailbox area.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': Always on

With iOS, Apple has more or less been able to eliminate the notion of running apps versus closed apps. Now, it seems as if the company is attempting in part to translate that idea to Lion. By default, the OS eliminates the tiny blue indicator lights under applications in the Dock that let you know whether a program is currently running. While you can turn those lights back on in the Preferences pane, it's another sign that Apple would like to blur the line between open and closed applications for the average consumer as much as possible.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion'

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': Photo Booth

New effects coming to the program along with Lion include the Dizzy filter, which will animate a flock of birds circling over your head, cartoon-style. The application will also take advantage of new face-detection technology that follows your face around the screen.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': AirDrop

Designed to make it simple to share files with other users on a local network, AirDrop is a fully encrypted, peer-to-peer file-sharing feature that works over Wi-Fi (and, strangely, only over Wi-Fi).

When you select the AirDrop item in the Finder's Sources sidebar, you see other AirDrop users on your local network, each represented by an icon. To share a file, simply drop it onto the icon of the person you wish to send the file to. The receiving party will see a notification asking them if they'd like to accept or decline the transfer.

If you think this feature sounds a lot like DropCopy, you're not alone.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion': Developers

Developers will have plenty of new Lion tricks to tinker with as it features over 3,000 new APIs, including versioning, push notifications, gesture tracking, fullscreen mode, and lots more.

Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion' promises a slew of other new and updated features waiting to be played with, including easier migration from Windows PCs; an upgraded version of FileVault; FaceTime; system-wide dictionary lookup; a Finder reorganisation and new All My Files section, organised by type; one-click archiving in Mail; Quick Look Spotlight results; iChat service plug-ins; window resizing from any edge; local snapshots in Time Machine; Exchange 2010 support and more. Lion will be available in July for just £20.99, exclusively from the Mac App Store. As with other Mac App Store-purchased software, you’ll be able to install that copy of Lion on any Mac that uses the purchaser’s Mac App Store ID.

Serenity Caldwell

Apple OS X 10.7 Lion: Specs

  • Mac with Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 or Xeon processor
  • Mac with Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 or Xeon processor


There are a few niggly points in the Lion’s den, such as reduced legibility in Finder sidebar icons, reduced virtual desktop options and issues with Windows shares. Then there’s the removal of Rosetta and the Front Row media centre, and the troubling insistence on restarting every application you leave open whenever you log back into your Mac. Yet the streamlining of certain interface elements, the added speed, and as-yet untested features such as Air Drop all conspire to make this a near-essential upgrade for most users. Priced at just 21 quid, it's an absolute steal.

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