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Operating systems software Reviews
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Apple Mac OS X 10.7 Lion review

£20.99 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Apple

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Mac OS X is already the most successful PC operating system in history. A bold claim, but read on to find out why... UPDATED 20th JULY 2011

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 >>

Apple OS X 10.7 Lion Expert Verdict »
Mac with Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 or Xeon processor
  • Ease of Use: We give this item 9 of 10 for ease of use
  • Features: We give this item 9 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 10 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 8 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

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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