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Sunday, July 24, 2011

OS X Lion, Part I: The pros

I took the plunge.

You see, I’ll usually wait awhile before upgrading my computer’s operating system or software so that the general population can work the bugs out. I mean, why should I have to test it, right? By waiting a little bit, you get the advantage of avoiding the mistakes that others make, and you can read the reviews of other users who are more like yourself.

This time, though, I couldn’t wait.

Apple had finally released its much-anticipated follow-up to OS X 10.6, or Snow Leopard. Mac OS X 10.7, or Lion as it’s usually called, takes OS X into new territory for desktop computers, but familiar territory for mobile, or tablet-style, computer users. It’s mobile-esque interface and fancy new features piqued my curiosity. So, I plopped down a reasonable $29 (download version) and installed Lion on my Mac Mini at home. 

So, if you’re thinking about upgrading but haven’t decided if you should yet, I hope to give you some of the pros and cons to help you decide. And while Apple lists 250 new features in Lion, I’ll try to break them down into the most popular – or useful – features for regular users like you and me.

Today, we’ll take a look at the pros:

Full-screen apps: This is a no-brainer. I don’t often use full-screen apps, but when you need to maximize the real-estate on your screen, this comes in handy. You see, I use my home television for my home computing, which may sound nice on a 42-inch screen, but when you sit 10 or so feet away, it can be very difficult to read the screen. So, anytime you can utilize the entire space, I’m happy. 

OS X Lion enables applications to run in full-screen mode.

Launchpad: Sounds neat, and it is. Launchpad puts all of your applications in one spot and makes it much easier to find those not-so-often used apps. For example, every once in a while, I may use the Preview program, but not enough to put it in my dock. Before Lion, you would have to go to your desktop, open a new finder window, find and click on the Applications folder and navigate to the Preview icon. Of course, there were other ways to access it, but that’s one of the more common – and tedious - methods. That’s where the Launchpad comes in handy. Launchpad is an icon that sits in your dock where you can click it for easy access to everything in your Applications folder. It works a little like Snow Leopard’s Application dock icon, but is much easier and utilizes mouse gestures to scroll through all of your apps and sub-folders. Pretty neat.

Launchpad puts all your apps in one easy to access location.

Overhauled System Profiler: The System Profiler, which is accessible through “About this Mac” is a very handy app for looking “under the hood” of your Mac. This app holds information on all of your hardware, software, memory and more. And with the latest version of it, Apple has created a very nice graphical interface that quickly shows how much hard drive space you have on each of your hard disks and uses a bar graph and color scheme to show which types (music, video, etc.) and the sizes of files you have stored on your drive. It’s still located in the Apple in the upper left-hand portion of your screen.

The graphical interface of Lion's System Profiler is a nice touch.

Well, that’s it for the pros. There are some other advantages that I do like, but these are the major ones. Be sure to check back later this week for the cons to OS X Lion.