The Mac OS X Lion Report: So Where’s the New Finder!

October 21st, 2010

Predictably, Apple has taken the iOS experience to heart in crafting Mac OS X Lion. In the first preview of 10.7, Apple focused on four major features, or “tent poles,” if you want to use the label applied to the initial demonstrations of iOS 4 earlier this year.

In keeping with that tradition, the first Lion preview made it clear how the iOS has influenced Mac OS X’s developers. This is particularly true of the first features to be revealed, one of which will actually debut for Snow Leopard users within 90 days.

That new feature is the Mac App Store, which is totally reminiscent of the iOS App Store. You’ll be able to search, browse, purchase, and, of course, download the titles you want. You’ll also be able to upgrade in place without having to run special installers, copy files from a disk image or anything of that sort.

How this will integrate with existing apps is a good question. I suppose many will be readily adapted, but I wouldn’t necessarily regard it as suitable for a sprawling productivity suite, such as Microsoft Office or the Adobe Creative Suite. Then again, I’ve been proven wrong before, and, frankly, I was hot and cold about the rumors of a Mac App Store when the rumors first arose some months back.

A key Lion feature is clearly influenced by an app from the Classic Mac OS, known as Launcher. Launchpad, however, lets you observe and launch all of your available apps from a full-screen of icons that will supplant your regular desktop and open document windows. It’s heavily influenced by the iOS Home page.

You’ll also be able to categorize apps into folders, just as you can with the iOS, so you’re not confronted with hundreds of confusing app icons to manage. You’ll also be able to use a swipe on a trackpad, or Magic Mouse, to switch from one screen to the next.

It’s not clear at this point whether you’ll have to manually add apps to the Launchpad — and they will be there automatically if you get them from the Mac App Store — or the system will scan your hard drives and put them there automatically. Without knowing much about the implementation, I’d prefer to just pick and choose the ones I want, perhaps by dragging them onto the Launchpad icon.

Lion’s full-screen capability simply extends a feature already available in some apps, including QuickTime, and makes it system wide. Click the Green “maximize” button on document window and you should, in theory, be able to view any open document in this fashion, free of menu bars and, I suppose, toolbars. I’m not at all certain how this feature is supposed to work with floating palettes, which may be necessary for you to do anything more than look in some apps.

The Mission Control feature evidently takes Expose, Spaces, the Dashboard, and full-screen app windows, and lets you see everything neatly organized on a single screen, with various and sundry tricks to get to the apps and documents you want.

In passing, I wonder if Mission Control wasn’t designed, in part, to make Microsoft look foolish for touting the ability to pin document windows at the ends of the screen as a compelling feature of Windows 7. I mean, you have to wonder how lame an operating system must be if the best they can say about it is how you manage document windows. With Mac OS X Lion, Apple is clearly using Mission Control simply as an introduction to what’s forthcoming.

Among the “lesser” features of Lion include:

  • Improved Multitouch Gestures: These appear to be confined to recent MacBook and MacBook Pro trackpads (plus the new MacBook Air), along with the Magic Mouse. So if you’re using another input device on your Mac desktop, you may want to get with the program.
  • Auto Save: This is actually a feature that should have been on the Mac OS from Day One. Inspired by the iOS, your documents are automatically saved as you work on them. With your Apple mobile device, an app is simply suspended when you switch to another, at which point data is also saved. The biggest bugaboo on any personal computer is forgetting to save your stuff. Your system crashes, and you lose all your unsaved data. You shouldn’t have to remember to press Command-S every so often to protect yourself, or keep lots of recent backups.
  • Auto-Resume Apps: Also reminiscent of the iOS, apps will be suspended and reopen immediately once you launch them again. As with Auto-Save, it is likely that developers will have to update their software to support these new features.

All in all, it’s clear you’re only seeing a small part of the picture here. Apple is going to have to deliver a full palette of changes and improvements to justify a full upgrade price with Lion. Adding a handful of features from the iOS, however useful, won’t cut it.

I’m expecting a lot more, and, in the months ahead of Lion’s promised Summer 2011 release, there will be plenty of meat and potatoes to talk about.

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13 Responses to “The Mac OS X Lion Report: So Where’s the New Finder!”

  1. dfs says:

    So far, anyway, the Big New Thing is Launchpad. This is a no-brainer for users who don’t already use one of the gazillions of third-party launch apps. out there. Whether Launchpad is better than a lot of the stuff we are using already remains to be seen. My principal worry is that apps. might be included automatically, including a lot of background stuff which will only add visual cruft and clutter, just as in the Dock . But presumably somebody would develop a third-party utility similar to Dock Dodger to prune them out.

    I’m surprised that Apple did’t announce the immediate availability of e-book reading software that would run on Snow Leopard. What’s holding this up? You can read a book on a laptop just as well as on an iPad, Apple’s missing out on a huge potential revenue stream by failing to push this. I was pretty sure this would be on today’s menu. And what happened to a new version of iWork? It’s interesting, incidentally, that the App. Store mockup currently on Apple’s website shows Pages available as an independent purchase. Does Apple plan on marketing its iLife and iWork components differently?

    The App. Store will doubtless be a boon for shareware developers. I have doubts whether the biggies like Adobe and MS will go for it, but for a different reason than Gene does: I suspect they will think it might compromise the elaborate verification routines they use for their serial numbers. Also, will the App. Store likewise ban apps. that use Flash and other non-approved technologies? There’s already plenty of hoohah about this, and applying the same standards to Mac apps. (which some developers and people in the press will no doubt decry as “censorship”) will only make things worse.

  2. Andrew says:

    For all the grief you give that particular feature, pinning documents to each side of a widescreen display is a function I use daily in both OS X (manually) and Windows (automatically). For anyone who needs to work with two documents, or in my case adapting an old document to a new client, that perfect side-by-side view is a great way to work. I like the feature so much in Windows that I am evaluating a 3rd party add-on, something I usually avoid, for OS X.

  3. Dave Barnes says:

    Where is resolution independence?
    I want a 27-inch iMac with a retina display.

  4. Craig Simmons says:

    For anyone not a novice, Auto-Saving is a horrible idea. It makes it very difficult to open a document, try out some ideas, and then close without making those changes permanent. I’m getting really tired of the race to the bottom to dumb down the computer to make it easier for the uneducated to use. GarageBand is an example of this trend. Why bother developing musical skills to play in time and in pitch when the computer will do the work for you? Sad and pathetic. Apple is catering to the masses, not the professionals. One more thing, why do you need LaunchPad when typing the first couple of letters in the Spotlight search field will launch any app quickly? Stupid.

    • @Craig Simmons, I suppose there could be options in individual programs to undo the save. I expect this will require some sort of participation by developers.


    • Brian M says:

      @Craig Simmons,

      The professionals either don’t have to use these features, or are already using the Professional Software instead of the software built for the consumer.

      The Consumer has been partially ignored for the last few OS upgrades, with the exception of iLife pretty much.
      Most major features have been around productivity (Spaces even to some extent Expose), and around performance (64-bit, Grand Central Dispatch, Core Video, OpenCL, etc…)

      it is nice to finally see some features geared to making the lives of the majority of Mac users easier. (I do sales, support & training for Mac users, several of these announced features have been mentioned by many of the average users I do deal with. There are many professional Mac users, but most users are just regular users, who use their Macs for web, email, digital pictures, and word processing.

      Also, this was just a first “teaser” of Lion, there will be more keynotes before Lion ships, and based on past history, more features & details will be revealed as the system gets closer to launch.

    • jsk says:

      @Craig Simmons,
      That’s what I thought the first time I heard it. Autosave. Ick. Been around for a VERY long time (a much touted feature of Word v3 or 4 if I remember right). Always turn it off as soon as I start using an app that has it. Just one example off the top of my head. I balance my checkbook with a Numbers spreadsheet. Every month when I get the statement, I open last months file, change the statement date in “header,” update the opening balance, and THEN save a new file before going on to update the outstanding withdrawals and deposits. So what happens now? Do I lose last month’s statement file as soon as I starting changing the file (aka two identical files with different names)?

      As for the iOS launcher: Put Applications folder on Dock, set to display as grid. Done. (and you could do that in 10.5) (and this is just a rehash of OS 8/9’s Launcher and tabbed folders.) Personally, I’ve had the Applications folder open in the Finder as a launcher since 10.1 (well, OS 7, really – I’d say 5, but my dual-floppy SE could only handle one app disk at a time, before I got 20MB external hard disk – yes, MB). Too bad they didn’t move the control panel stuff off of the overcrowded menu bar and put them on a little pop-up pallet like OS 8/9; OS 10.8 maybe.

      Full screen apps? Been around forever. Pages does this in now in Mac OS 10.5. Adobe’s Creative Suite, since, well, forever.

      Multi-touch gestures? Hardly new. Didn’t they start with the G4 PowerBook’s trackpads and OS 10.3? Definitely there in 10.4 and way before the iPhone.

      App Store? There is a danger here. Uneducated users are going to think: “Huh. MS Office and Adobe’s Creative Suite aren’t in the App Store. They must not be available for the Mac.” Could lead to the very mistaken belief that the Mac has very few real software titles available for it. Believe me. I’ve seen it in my (unrelated) professional life over and over. (and Yes, it’s a jaw dropper there too)

      Keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more There there, when Lion ships.

  5. Brian M says:

    oh yeah… “So Where’s The New Finder”?

    that is the title of the article, and nothing is mentioned about the finder?

    Personally I’ve been enjoying the new cocoa finder from Snow Leopard, some things that had always been slow in the 10.5 and earlier Finders is fast now. Sure there are some bugs, but the Finder is a complex beast, and there has always been bugs 😉

  6. Peter says:

    Wow. Full screen apps.

    Does anyone else out there remember Switcher in System 4.1? The only difference is rather than having funny buttons to move you around, you can swipe your trackpad.

    I suppose it’s like all fashionable things. And certainly Apple knows something about being fashionable…

  7. Hydseek says:

    This is the most disappointing release of OS X to date – where the hell are the new features? Snow leopard which is a tweaking of an older OS has ten times more features than this shameful release of an OS. Apple has lost its way completely and is struggling to do its job. Shameful release which no one should buy!

  8. BrianM says:

    yeah, they haven’t even announced a ship date, I believe “Summer 2011” was mentioned.

    There’ll be at least one more keynote to show more features before then.

    as for jsk. Better to have more apps plainly visible, because right now other than Adobe & Microsoft software, most people think there is nothing else 😉
    I also wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft makes office available, it would increase their profit from Office sales.

    many people don’t seem to realize that most of these features are optional. Much like in Leopard & Snow Leopard if you don’t like a feature, don’t use it.

    If you open a previous file, save as to the new name, then make your changes and autosave won’t get in your way.

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