Thoughts on Lion

I’ve had OS X 10.7, Lion, running on the ol’ MacBook Pro now for about thirty-six hours. My initial thoughts…

First, like many other users I experienced a noticable slowdown in performance for a couple of hours after the install. The install itself went super-smooth. But, come to find out, Lion completely re-indexes the Spotlight search. Meaning it re-indexes your entire hard drive. Well, I have two internal and three USB drives attached to this machine. So it took a little while. Once that was done, though, it was super-fast again. I haven’t noticed any performance issues on my 2008 Macbook Pro since then.

But, as I said, the install was painless. The download was fairly quick on my—pretty fast—cable modem connection and it worked its magic with no hiccups. A quick restart and I was up and running with Lion. The whole process took less than an hour including downloading the installer.

My only ‘issue’ with Lion is the so-called reversed scrolling behavior. It’s not actually reversed. In fact Apple calls it Natural Scrolling. Indeed, it’s the more natural way to scroll. You go up, the page goes up. We’re just so used to the way it has been with a mouse and/or scrollwheel that it feels backwards to us. Those of us with iOS devices, though will recognize the behavior.

But why, many may ask, make the Natural Scrolling the default behavior? Simple. If Apple didn’t do it that way no one would ever do it. Making it the default ensures that a certain percentage of users will make the switch because they won’t know how to change it back. And why do it that way at all? Because Apple is moving towards a more unified user experience and in this instance that means scrolling the way you do in iOS.

I used the Natural Scrolling for a couple of hours and I can say it is pretty easy to get used to. My problem though is that I have to use a PC for work. And until I take the time to find the random menu—it’s not in the Mouse menu, I checked—that will let me switch it to be like Lion, I’m going back to old-fashioned, wrong scrolling.

The Launchpad and Mission Control seem useful, I guess. I just don’t think they’re utilities I’ll really use that much. Launchpad is as iOS-ey as they come. But, I’ve got my Dock the way I want it. I’m not going to take the time to arange apps in another app that I then have to launch to use. Launchpad seems more geared towards users whose first Mac experience was an iPhone or iPad. And if I never used Expose, I don’t see any need to use Mission Control. Great for those who need it, but I just don’t.

Full screen apps work really well thus far. My favorite thing about the full screen apps is that it fixes what was one of my biggest problems with iTunes. In the previous version(s) of iTunes, if you were playing a movie in Full Screen, and clicked the X-in-a-circle in the top left of the screen, all it did was reduce the size of the movie back to the iTunes window. It didn’t quit the movie. So you would have to click the damn X again to quit the movie. Now clicking the X stops the movie and takes you back to the non-full-screen iTunes window—as it should have all along.

And speaking of iTunes… They have fixed my other big proplem with that program. In making iTunes a true 64-bit Cocoa application, the database management seems to be much, much improved. It used to be that I couldn’t delete a file, or open a movie, or even Edit Info without enduring several seconds of the dreaded Spinning Pinwheel. Those operations are all lightning fast now. I am very, very happy about this.

Some of you will remember that my most anticipated part of Lion was a—much needed and long overdue— update. And it is all that Apple promised. You can have an Archive button (not default, you have to customize the toolbar) for your Archive-enabled accounts like Gmail. Mailboxes are hidden behind a sliding panel showing the contents of your inbox. This is nice because the most anal amongst us (ME) cannot stand to see the number of unread messages in All Mail or in Spam. Now I don’t have to see anything other than my Inbox. That’s all I see in iOS and it’s worked just fine for me so far.

Threaded conversations work as promised. Like Gmail, there is no inclusion of your own Sent messages, but one click on ’Show more from…" shows the replies tacked onto the bottom of any message. Provided your friends aren’t deleting what you’ve said when they reply it’s all right there. It even folds out pleasantly like a piece of paper. Another cool touch is that numbers the emails in the thread, with the latest/highest number at the top of the thread. So you now how many messages are in the thread and their chronological order without having to look at timestamps. Though, they should be in order anyway.

Other things. The Reading List in Safari seems all but useless without the corresponding update to Mobile Safari that will come this fall in iOS 5. Even then I honestly don’t expect it to be all that useful to anyone but the most casual users. Between Instapaper and Pinboard I’m all set. I can’t see how Reading List will benefit me at all. I probably won’t use AirDrop ever. I don’t even have two Macs that will run it, so…

The versioning and autosaving I haven’t had a chance to test yet. And since I’ve used computers since before Windows (Yes, I do still know some DOS commands.) I am very used to hitting ⌘-S all the time. I’m sure it will end up saving my rear-end sometime though.

If you would like to further educate yourself about all things Lion (or torture yourself, depending on your point of view) please see John Siracusa’s excellent Lion Review over on Ars Technica. And if you’re feeling generous, you can use THIS LINK to buy it on Kindle for only $4.99. That way Mr. Siracusa gets a small return on the enormous work he’s put into his latest review. It’s a long read but well worth it.