Mountain Lion was first revealed through Apple’s Website on the 16th of February, merely seven months after the release of Mac OS X Lion. The update was sort of unexpected and unlike most previous OS X updates, Apple did not reveal Mountain Lion through an event, in-fact it was quitely put up online. A little more than five months later, Apple has now released the Mountain Lion upgrade primarily as a $20 download from the Mac App Store.
Starting With Mountain Lion, Apple is planning on picking up the pace of its OS X updates. Apple says it’ll be issuing yearly OS X updates from now on, just like it does with iOS. Like it did with Lion, Apple is bringing a whole lot of features found on its iOS platform to OS X, but that is not all, it also brings better familiarity and integration with various web based services. The update is by no means a small one, with Apple claiming that Mountain Lion has 200+ new features. I really liked most of the headline features, but I have gotten really used to some of the smaller one’s as well.
One of the first things that I noticed about Mountain Lion is its improved integration with iCloud. Unlike in OS X Lion, in which the iCloud integration was rather lackluster (Mainly due to the fact that iCloud was announced alongside Lion), Mountain Lion brings a deep and system wide integration with iCloud. In-fact, the iCloud experience begins right at Setup, the Setup Assistant asks you for your iCloud credentials even before you can start using OS X Mountain Lion, so that it can configure and setup your Mail Account, your FaceTime account, your Contacts, Messages, Reminders and more, all out of the box. This makes things extremely convenient for users, and is easily one of the best integrations in OS X.
During WWDC, Apple introduced another feature that is powered by iCloud and adds great functionality when it comes to saving and opening files. The feature is called “Documents in the Cloud”. Documents in the Cloud allows users to save files on the iCloud server in-stead of the Mac (So that they can be accesible across all devices) and it also enables users to open all the documents stored in iCloud. Although this might seem like a small feature, it is actually quite significant, as this is the biggest change Apple has made to the Open and Save dialog box in the past 28 years. If you want to save or open documents on your Mac, the dialog box still remains the same as in Lion, however the Dialog for saving or opening “Documents in iCloud” is completely different and is actually kind of like a mini LaunchPad (Dark Linen Background, Icons instead of lists and has iOS like Folders as well). Users who prefer storing documents on the Mac can still save files on their local hierarchical file system.
Safari has gone through some relatively small but interesting changes in Mountain Lion and the first one of these that I noticed is – A new unified search field, which can be used for entering URL’s, searching the Web, searching through bookmarks as well as searching your history. Basically the two seperate bars for entering URL’s and for searching the web, have been combined. Although this feature has been present in Firefox and Chrome for a while now, its finally coming to Safari with Mountain Lion.
Tabs in Safari 6 have also recieved a slight makeover, the tabs are now dynamically sized and they fill up the entire window and they get smaller as you open more and more of them. Apple has also introduced a Tab View, which you can bring up by pinching in with two fingers. The Tab View, shows you all your open tabs in an iOS like manner, allowing you to slide through the live preview of them.
If you are like me and have various iDevices, it would be convenient to start browsing on the iPhone and then pick it up on the Mac, and now this is possible with iCloud Tabs. iCloud tabs, shows you the tabs that are open on your iOS devices. (Works only with iOS 6 though)
Safari 6 also introduces Share Sheets, which let you share a link to – Twitter, Facebook, Email and Messages. The button also lets you Bookmark a page, or add it to the Reading List. Reading Lists (Which was a feature introduced in Safari 5), now supports Offline Reading, enabling users to read the items in their Reading List, even without an internet connection. In-fact Safari automatically presents the Reading List, when not connected to internet.
Notification Center is another extremely popular feature of iOS that Apple is bringing to OS X. Similar to iOS, in which you can bring the Notification Center up by swiping down from the top, in OS X you can bring up the Notification Center by simply swiping to the left from your extreme right. It can also be accessed by clicking its icon in the extreme right of the menubar (Next to the Spotlight icon)
Notification Center is basically a non moveable vertical tab, that allows you to manage notifications from various apps, on your Mac. It even lets you customize how each app’s notifications will appear, allowing you to either, disable notifications or set them to banners or alerts. The main difference between alerts and banners is that in banners, a notificaiton will be displayed for around 5 seconds and then it will automatically disapear however an alert will not go away until you close it.
Notifications are categorised by the App’s they come from. In order to clear a bunch of notifications, you can just click the cross sign next to them. If you scroll down all the way to the top, you can even temporarily de-activate notifications by turning off, the Show Banners and Alerts button.
Although unlike its iOS counterpart, it does not have the weather and stocks widget, the Notification Center can be used to quickly post to either Twitter or Facebook. The Notication Center can be used by any app, and it already supports a whole bunch of apps, including all of Apple’s apps, along with Twitter, Google Chrome, Facebook and more.
Since the release of Lion, Apple has seen a significant rise in the appearences of Trojans, Malwares etc on the Mac. As part of its efforts to improve security on OS X, Apple has introduced a new feature, called Gatekeeper. The feature, enables users to select and restrict the sources they can install applications from. Users can do this by accessing the Gatekeeper settings under the Security and Privacy section in the Settings app. Here you can select whether to allow app downloads from – The Mac App Store, The Mac App Store and Trusted Developers or Anywhere.
If you receive an alert that an app is from an unidentified developer, you can still choose to install it by Control-clicking the installer or the application icon to reveal a contextual menu. Choose Open and you’ll see a dialog that allows you to install the application.
Although it is extremely simple in the way that it operates, I think its a brilliant way to combat malwares and hardly see any downside to it.
Notes & Reminders
I have been constantly using the Reminders app on iOS 5 (Thanks to Siri) in order to set mundane reminders and to make to-do lists through out the day, so for me Reminders landing on OS X is sort of a big deal, as my reminders will now stay in-sync across all my devices. With Reminders for Mac, you can create both lists and individual reminders. The app lets you set a priority for each reminder, as well as a due date. Similar to the iOS app, you can even set location based reminders, such as a reminder for when you reach home. All of your reminders can be searched through the search field, and Reminders works with CalDAV services like Google Calendar and Yahoo! Calendar, as well. As I mentioned earlier, I like to use Siri to set up reminders or to-do lists, and since Reminders is the only app thats compatible with Siri, Its really convenient to set-up the reminder on my iPhone and complete it on my Mac.
Before Mountain Lion, Notes in Mac OS X, was accessible either through the Mail.app or through the widget. With Mountain Lion, Notes now gets a stand-alone app. Users can sync their Notes across multiple devices, using iCloud, Yahoo, Google or other mail services that support note syncing. Visually, the Notes app for Mountain Lion looks exactly like its iPad counterpart, with the OS X app having the same yellow legal pad interface found on the iOS app. Notes for OS X lets you easily add in-line images and links. The app also supports font formating and styling – allowing users to change the size, color and formatting of their fonts. Notes in Mountain Lion can be organised within folders, a feature that I really liked. Users can also use the search field in-case they aren’t able to find a particular note. One thing that I did not appreciate about the Notes app is that, although most apps in Mountain Lion most apps let you share data through various platforms, Notes will either let you share through Messages or Email.
iChat has been the default app for instant messaging on Macs, ever since Apple released Mac OS X v10.2 way back in 2002. Almost 10 years later, iChat has been replaced by Messages in Mountain Lion. It has a similar layout as the Messages app on iOS and supports Apple’s iMessage service along with AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk and Jabber services. The great thing about Apple introducing Messages for Mac is that you can sync your iMessage conversations between your Mac, iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, allowing you to initiate a conversation on your iPhone and pick it up on your Mac. The Messages app lets you send Text, Photos, Notes and even Videos to other iMessage users (You can even send links, right from Safari). In case you want to start a video conference, the app has a button that lets you initiate a FaceTime conversation through the Messages app, by simply clicking the FaceTime icon next to the contact.
Another system-wide addition to Mountain Lion will come in the form of Dictation – which will provide built-in support for speech-to-text, allowing users to talk instead of typing, in order to write. Before you can start using Dictation though, you must go activate it in System Preferences, via the Dictation & Speech section, where you can set the shortcut that activates Dictation (Mine is set to the Fn Key) and you can also select your preferred language, Dictation supports U.S, U.K and Australian English, French, German, and Japanese. Once you have activated and set up dictation, the rest is rather simple – Just press your keyboard shortcut twice and the Dictation toggle will appear. Speak into it and press done, and your text will magically appear (Most of the Time). The cloud based dictation feature which was previously supported only on the new iPad and the iPhone 4S, allows users to convert speech into text. Dictation sends audio of captured speech to Apple’s servers, which sends it back in plain text.
Twitter and Facebook
With Mountain Lion, Apple is bringing deep integration with two of the largest social networks in the world - Twitter and Facebook. iOS-style share buttons have popped up all over Mountain Lion, offering you the ability to quickly share almost anything via Facebook or Twitter. Just like on iOS 5, both Twitter and Facebook have been deeply integrated through out the system, you’ll get notifications for both the apps, you will be able to post to either Facebook or Twitter from virtually anywhere in OS X. Apple has also promised contact synchronisation with both Facebook and Twitter.
Apple’s social gaming network - Game Center (Which already has 100 Million users) comes to the Mac as a new desktop app on Mountain Lion. Boasting the same feature set of its iOS counterpart, Game Center for Mac will allow you to find friends, check on leaderboards, play online against friends on a different device, and send friend request to other gamers around the world. You can begin using Game Center, by either creating a new Game Center ID using your Apple ID or by logging in, with your Game Center ID from iOS. Game Center, lets you decide wether you want to provide it with access to your contacts in order to find friends, as well as wether or not to make your Game Center profile public. Once your account is set-up, you can access your Achievements, Leaderboards and Find oponents. Game Center works across all of Apple’s platforms, allowing users to play Games between their Mac and iOS devices. Although, the Mac still lags behind in terms of Gaming when compared to the PC, this is definitely a step in the right direction.
Airplay was a feature that Apple introduced first on iOS 5. With Mountain Lion, you can use Airplay in order to mirror whats on your screen to an HDTV, wirelessly via an Apple TV. Airplay Mirroring in Mountain Lion supports up-to 1080p. If your Mac and your Apple TV are on the same wireless network, Mountain Lion will automatically detect the Apple TV and the AirPlay Mirroring icon will appear in the menu-bar. Since I don’t own an Apple TV, I haven’t really been able to try this feature out completely, though I have used Airplay to mirror audio wirelessly to my speakers via my Airport Express and this works just fine (Like it did with Mac OS X Lion).
I think the Mountain Lion upgrade is well worth the $20 you would spend in order to get it (Free if you have purchased a Mac in the past one month). The app continues the iOSification of OS X and brings some really solid integrations as well (Specifically the system-wide iCloud integration). In the past month that I have been testing it out, I have already gotten addicted to features like Documents in the Cloud, Dictation and the Notification Center along with the deep Facebook and Twitter integration. I am buying it right away and I highly reccommend you do so too!