Apple OS 10.8 Mountain Lion released
Today, after several developer builds and many updates, Apple released OS X Mountain Lion. The next generation Operating System for Mac computers, Mountain Lion (10.8) follows hot on the heels of Apple's last major Mac OS update, OS X Lion, released only 4 months earlier. Is it worth an upgrade, at the affordable price of £14.99?
Why upgrade to Mountain Lion?
In this article I’ll be looking at the major new features, and also throwing in a couple of the smaller ones that don’t necessarily come out in other reviews. OS X Mountain Lion is now available in the Mac App Store and is only going to set you back a modest £13.99.
First of all is something subtle that Apple have dropped in and not many people have noticed. They’ve dropped the “Mac” part of their OS. Previously it was called “Mac OS X” Now, it’s simply “OS X”. Apple have done this to prove that their Operating System is no longer just made for Macs, it’s conforming to their idea of a cross platform OS. For example, “iPhone OS” which was branded “iOS” When the iPod Touch and the iPad came out. This brings them one step closer to running the same system on both iOS devices and Macs.
OS X Mountain Lion has been built around iCloud, almost every part of its OS is integrated into the Cloud in one way or another. It brings a whole new meaning to wireless syncing. From personal experience it works phenomenally well, I have an iPhone 4S and an iPad as well as a MacBook Air (running Mountain Lion) and the speed and efficiency with which it syncs my data is truly phenomenal. When you first install mountain lion it asks you to sign in with your Apple ID:
“Just sign in once with your Apple ID to set up iCloud in Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Safari, the Mac App Store, and FaceTime.”
Retaining the great features already provided with Lion, such as “Find My Mac”, iCloud will now also sync Notes, Reminders and Game Centre notifications. Handy.
From iChat to Messages
If you’re an avid Mac fan, or even if you’ve just used one for a few days, you’ll know what iChat is. iChat is an instant messenger service that you can connect all of your IM accounts to and talk to everyone at once with. You can chat with GTalk/Jabber/Yahoo Chat and MSN Messenger contacts with ease.
OS X Mountain Lion introduces a new, improved messaging app that replaces iChat, called “Messages”. This keeps all the functionality of its predecessor, but also adds the ability to iMessage from your Mac. You can now iMessage any Apple device from any Apple Device (running iOS 5).
Now thanks to iCloud, your iMessages will be pushed between all your devices. So you can start a conversation on your Mac and finish it on your iPad.
Notes & Reminders
iOS 5 brought with it a wealth of new features to your already amazing iDevice. Personally, I find ‘Notes’ and ‘Reminders’ to be real life savers, as I always forget things when out and about. Mountain Lion has brought these features to the Mac, and with iCloud integration they are now wirelessly pushed between all your devices. Make a reminder on your iPhone? It’s waiting for you on your Mac. Jot a quick note down from your Mac and it’ll be ready on your iPad almost instantly.
‘Notes’ on Mountain Lion now allows you to add images and format documents as well, something which you couldn’t do on your iDevice previously. It comes in really handy when you want to jot down a recipe and add an image of what your baked goods should look like!
No more pop-ups
Remember that breakthrough Notification Centre introduced in iOS 5 on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch? It killed off the annoying pop-up notifications that caused us all a lot of heartache when we were playing games or watching videos. Well luckily Apple loved the new Notification Centre so much they have implemented it into Mountain Lion too! Any messages your apps have to tell you will appear in the notification centre, so you can review and act on them at your leisure. It also brings up a little banner for anything it wants to notify you about. Not unlike Growl (Mac users may be familiar with this program).
Up in your status bar, on the far right hand side, you’ll see a new icon that looks a little bit like a bullseye. This is your gateway to the Notification Centre. Click it and everything will shift slightly to the left to make way. You’ll notice it has the same background style that you see on your iOS Devices as well.
Frequent tweeter? You’ll be glad to hear that Apple have built Twitter into their new OS; so you can now tweet freely from almost anywhere! Another handy feature that’s ported across from Apple’s mobile OS is a dedicated Twitter button in the Safari web browser, so you only have to click one button to directly post a favourite web page or photo to your Twitter stream.
All your direct messages, tweets and mentions will fall straight into your Notification Centre, giving you easy access to all your Twitter updates without you actually visiting the site.
This feature won’t actually be released immediately, however coming in a update due very soon is the addition of Facebook integration as well as Twitter. The idea is pretty much exactly the same. You will get notifications for posts on your wall, messages and everything else come directly into your Notification Centre. You can also post your status direct from the notification centre.
Do Not Disturb
“Do Not Disturb” was added half way through the Mountain Lion developer previews. It is a mirror feature, with an iOS 6 counterpart. Sliding the banner to the “Off” position will stop any notifications from disturbing whatever you are doing. You won’t get pop up notifications and you won’t get banners either. Everything will still come through to your Notification Centre, but you won’t get any pop up notifications. To access this, simply open the Notification Centre and scroll up to get the menu.
This is a feature only available on certain Macs (Air and Pro 2010 and later). This feature is accessible under “System Preferences”. If turned on, when your Mac goes into sleep mode it will enter a very low power state and continue to receive notifications, messages and iCloud updates, while backing up your content to Time Machine. All while the lid is closed. Power Nap has been designed to use as little battery and processing power as possible. This means that your fan won’t turn on during the updates to make sure you get your beauty sleep, without being woken by your Mac updating itself. You can change the feature to allow it to work on Battery and Power, or you can turn it off completely.
Pre-loaded into the new Mountain Lion build is the next version of Safari, Safari 6. This updated version brings a couple of nice upgrades and a few new features to the table. The first being iCloud tabs. If you have an iOS device; iPhone, iPod touch or an iPad, then you can now sync your tabs across all of your devices - including your other Mac computers. This will save what page you’re on and where on the page you actually are. Next is the unified search. If you’re a fan of Google Chrome you’ll know this feature has been present in other browsers for a while. Rather than having the address bar and a separate box for your Google search, you can now search by typing directly into the address bar (and it will perform a Google search - you can also change this!) Reading Lists, which became available with Safari 5.2, are now available offline, which makes it easier to read in places sans connection. There is a new “Password Pane” built into Safari, which will allow you to manage your frequently used saved usernames and passwords without having to look through your Keychain! Last but not least there’s the “Do Not Track” feature, which when enabled, makes sure that websites you visit won’t save to your history or your cache. Safari 6 is available as a stand alone download if you are still on Lion. Head to the Mac App Store to receive the update.
*Note* - We have noticed that Apple don’t seem to be supporting Windows with the latest version of Safari. On their website, it is appearing as Mac OS X only.
Game Centre has now officially launched for the Mac, although with significantly fewer games than its iOS counterpart for now. If you’re not familiar with Game Centre, it's a platform that allows you to play against other iOS/Mac OS users and earn achievements and points. You can challenge your friends to be top of the leaderboard or see where you are in the world for that game. It’s a bit like how XBOX Live works for gaming consoles. The Mac launch gives developers more options to bring entertainment to your Apple computer.
By far my favourite feature so far. If you’ve got an Apple TV and an iPad 2/iPhone 4S you’ll be familiar with a feature known as Airplay mirroring. It allows you to “mirror” your iPhone or iPad on your TV, so you can share photos, watch a movie or enjoy a YouTube clip on the big screen. Well now your Mac can mirror itself too!
Airplay is integrated into OS X Mountain Lion, and having played with it I find it one of the best things they’ve ever put in. With the click of one button what’s displayed on my Mac monitor is mirrored on my 42” TV. No wires, no fiddling around with settings, just one click. This is great for watching family movies, displaying a presentation at the office or working on a collaborative team project.
As you may have noticed, Apple seem to have borrowed a lot of features from their latest Operating System for mobile devices. I believe this is the first in a series of stepping stones to finally unite the two Operating Systems into one. Eventually it won’t matter which Apple Device you’re using, you’ll always be using the same clean, simple and elegant OS. This may take a while to fully complete (Possibly by the time OS XI comes out), but Mountain Lion is a great start. I would thoroughly recommend the upgrade, but before you do upgrade your Mac software, make sure to back up your documents, files, photos, media content and settings.