Mac OS X Lion: First Thoughts

As you would all know, OS X Lion was released less than two days ago, gathering over a million downloads in the first day. I bought it a few hours after it came out, and so I thought I’d write down a few first impressions.

Once downloaded, the upgrade process was very smooth and took a bit over thirty minutes. The first thing I noticed is that I no longer see the blue screen before the desktop when booting up; the desktop background just zoomed up, a nice touch. The next thing I noticed were many little visual changes, which I’ll get into later.

Mission Control

Now this is one feature I really like about Lion. I’m always for unifying things, and this is just what Mission Control does. As you know, it’s Exposé, Spaces, and Dashboard in one. Mission Control’s core is in the spaces; the Dashboard is a space, fullscreen apps are spaces (for that app only though), and then you’ve got all your regular spaces. The Exposé side of it shows all the windows in the current space (you can switch spaces while in Mission Control by swiping with two fingers). What’s really cool is that you can move windows from space to space, or even into a new space.

Overall I think it’s really polished and a great addition to OS X. The fact that it unifies four (fullscreen apps included) things so well makes a lot simpler in my eyes.

Fullscreen Apps

Fullscreen apps are nice, especially if done right; iPhoto is a great example of this. The thing I like most is that you’ll be able to have multiple fullscreen apps at a time, thanks to them each being their own space.

I’m not sure how to feel about the fullscreen button on the right corner of apps that support fullscreen; it sort of looks a little intrusive the minimalism of the window’s bar, but it’s nothing big.


I don’t really like Launchpad, it’s just not my style. Some people will love it, but I don’t think I’ll use it. I think this sort of thing works wonderfully on iOS, where you can’t get to filesystem directly, but on Mac, I don’t think so. The one positive thing is that the visuals are very nice.

Maybe I’ll come to like it later on, but not for now.

Re-Done Apps

I’ve noticed a number of the apps have had a makeover. Of course there’s Mail 5, but I haven’t used it since I use Sparrow for my e-mail. But iCal and Address Book (there may be more apps too) also have a new look to them, which I really like. (I was going to give some screenshots, by my app for that doesn’t work with Lion it seems.)

Little Changes

There’s a lot of small changes coming with Lion, largely visual changes. Many user interface controls have a slightly different look to them, all window corners are round, the title bars on windows have a slightly different gradient, the traffic lights on windows are smaller (don’t really like that), and so on. Many of the changes I like, some I couldn’t care for, some I don’t like.

I generally like the changes to scrollbars, they do look better, although with a dark background you can’t see them in TextMate (I think that’s going to fixed soon). I don’t like the reverse scrolling however; I turned that off by going to System Preferences -> Mouse -> Point & Click and unchecking “Scroll direction: natural”.

Probably my biggest annoyance with Lion is that you no longer can navigate backwards and forwards by swiping with two fingers, that now changes spaces. The stupid thing is that you’re not given the option; I’ve got no idea why Apple did that.

App Compatibility

Some apps do have trouble with Lion (I assume this is because of large API changes), though I haven’t had many issues. Some people will however, so you may want to wait a little for developers to get there apps up to gear. In the meantime, this table should help you out.

Lion also introduces many new features that apps can make use of, like Versions, Autosave, etc. Of course, many apps haven’t got this yet, so I think Lion will really shine when more apps start adopting these new features.


Overall, I think Lion is a worthwhile upgrade, and I’m having a good time with it. Not as revolutionary as other releases I should think, and certainly not something I would pay $130 for. But, since Apple are offering it for $30, I think it’s totally worth it.

Thanks for reading!

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