This year it’s Mountain Lion (ostensibly, ‘higher‘ than a plain old lion). The first commercial version of OS X was Cheetah, launched in the summer of 2001. 11 years later, Mountain Lion takes over and becomes more like iOS on the iPhone and iPad. Here are 20 new features in Mountain Lion that will make the upgrade enjoyable and productive.
What’s Old Is New Again
A few hundred Apple customers use iPhones and iPads and iPod touch devices, all of which run a version of OS X known as iOS.
Mountain Lion on the Mac makes a jump toward iOSification by incorporating a number of functions and features long used in iOS.
Apple claims over 200 new features have been incorporated into Mountain Lion. As is usual with our favorite Mac maker, this latest version is all about the user experience.
Here are my Top 20 new features you didn’t know would make your Mac life more enjoyable.
Mail: The app we love to hate gets reorganized in Mountain Lion. There’s a new VIP mailbox, to match up with your VIP contacts. Gone is RSS. And Todo and Notes.
Calendar: iCal is replaced by Calendar, which is the name Apple gives the calendar in iOS. New are the Calendar picker popups, now with more detail. Calendar also integrates with Mountain Lion’s new Notification Center (and, like iOS, you can choose how alerts are displayed in Calendar).
Contacts: Address Book is replaced with Contacts (also the name of contacts in iOS). It’s still a book look, but gives groups more prominence in the layout. The Share Sheets button lets you send contact information as an email, message, or AirDrop.
Full Screen: Who doesn’t like the Full Screen option in Lion? In Mountain Lion Full Screen works with multiple displays on your Mac, but it’s a kludge. You have to set a Full Screen target display. When an app goes full screen, the other screens blank out.
iCloud: Sure, we’ve had iCloud for awhile, but in Mountain Lion, iCloud gets integrated in a number of areas. It supports Documents in the cloud, and some apps have an option to save a document in iCloud.
Accessibility: Apple gave a facelift to the Accessibility preference pane with more controls over each component, including display, zoom, VoiceOVer, audio, keyboard, Mouse and Trackpad, Speakable Items and more.
Game Center: If you’ve ever used Game Center on your iPhone or iPad, then you’ll love the option to use Game Center on your Mac. Unfortunately, there are no games on the Mac App Store ready for Game Center. You’re stuck with playing the bundled Chess.
AirPlay Mirroring: This new function alone is worth the price of the upgrade to Mountain Lion. The right Macs can now send their screen to a nearby television using Apple TV.
Dictation: If you like Dictation on the iPhone 4S and new iPad, then you’ll love Apple’s cloud-based Dictation feature. Enable Dictation, speak to your Mac, and it records the audio, sends it back to Apple, which converts the speech to text, and sends the text back to your Mac.
Safari: Our favorite Mac browser gets a few new goodies and loses a few, too. No more RSS but there’s a built-in iCloud sharing tab, and an offline Reading List, as well as more privacy settings. There’s also a nifty way to have web sites send an alert to the new Notification Center. The tabs are more like tabs in Safari on the iPad.
Notification Center: This one is new and old. New to the Mac, but used in iOS 5 for iPhone and iPad. Like the iOS brethren, Notification Center drops specific notifications and alerts onto the Mac’s screen. In System Preferences, there’s a new preference pane for Notifications.
Reminders: One of the most used new apps in iOS 5 is Reminders, which is tied into Siri’s intelligent assistant function. Reminders on the Mac syncs up with reminders on other iOS devices, including the geo fence location function. Take your Mac over the got fence and get notified, just like on the iPhone. Add due dates, priorities, notifications, and more.
Updates: Future OS X updates will be downloaded through the Mac App Store.
Share: Share buttons and Share sheets are visible in many apps, again, similar to the same functionality in iOS. Share via email, iMessage, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, and Flickr.
Dashboard Widgets: There’s a new Widget browser which replaces the old method (clumsy at best). There’s even a search field to find Widgets and a one-click install to add to Dashboard.
Messages: Now you can sync up messages from Mac to iPad to iPhone. Messages has autocomplete, groups, and you can send a message to an email address or a phone number. There’s even delivery receipts, and a way to switch to a video call in FaceTime.
Notes: Notes are gone from Mail and it becomes a standalone app, just like on the iPhone and iPad. Notes are saved to iCloud and synced between iDevices. Notes can also be organized by folders.
PhotoBooth: Yes, PhotoBooth gets an upgrade, too. There’s Share Sheets for AirDrop, Messages, Mail, Facebook, Vimeo, Flickr, and Twitter.
Power Nap: Yes, your Mac can still go to sleep, but using Power Nap is better because email, notes, reminders, and messages are all available when your Mac wakes up from the nap. It even does Time Machine backups and software updates during the nap.
Security: Mountain Lion brings a number of security enhancements to the Mac. Sandboxed apps. Tools to manage FileVault. Gatekeeper gives the Mac three security options for downloading and installing apps.
ScreenSaver: Photos in iCloud Photo Stream can be used as the Mac’s screen saver. And, there are new screen saver slide shows.
Time Machine: Now you can create encrypted backups on Apple’s Time Capsule hardware, and choose multiple backup locations in Time Machine.
These are just the tip of the proverbial feature iceberg. Apple claims over 200 new features in Mountain Lion. For example, Safari gets a Do Not Track option and one field for both search and web addresses.
Preview lets you store documents in iCloud so they can be viewed on Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Launchpad gets a search field so you can find apps that are not easy to find when switching through many Launchpad pages.
You get the idea. Mountain Lion is another step toward homogenizing OS X, whether Mac or iOS.