The Lion as Vista Report

September 22nd, 2011

Some Mac users have spread the idea that OS X Lion is Apple’s equivalent of Windows Vista? Why? Well, because some of the new iOS-inspired features are ill-thought, poorly implemented, and destined to make your user experience less empowering, to put it mildly. And did I tell you that Lion may be crashing a little too much?

While I understand change may often be hard to take, what Lion offers shouldn’t rise to the level of unbearable. And it’s certainly not a situation that’s comparable to Windows Vista.

As you recall, Vista was years late, critical features were dropped during the development process, it was bloated, slow, and there was a serious lack of peripheral drivers for the initial release. While many consumers tolerated Vista when they bought new PCs with the OS preloaded, businesses simply downgraded to XP. Indeed, there are still many millions of PCs out there that haven’t even been upgraded to Windows 7.

To be fair to Microsoft, Vista got better over time. Windows 7 basically takes the guts of Vista and fixes the worst ills. For Windows, it’s pretty good, and it’s been successful. Windows 8 is another matter entirely, but it won’t be out until 2012 at the earliest, although you can play with the public beta now if you want.

Lion has serious changes, all right, but the key visual alterations are easy to undo. You don’t like reverse scrolling, no problem. In the Mouse preference panel, there’s an option, labeled “Move content in the direction of finger movement when scrolling or navigating” that can be unchecked. Scrolling behavior is now back to normal, or what was regarded as normal before the first iPhone arrived.

If you don’t like scroll bars that only show themselves when you want to scroll, and there’s additional content to be seen in a document window, you can turn that feature off in the General preference panel. The default setting, to show the scroll bars “Automatically based on input device,” will hide them when scrolling on a Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, or portable Mac’s trackpad. With third party mice, the scroll bars will generally remain visible. Or just use “Always,” which restores traditional Mac OS functionality.

But that didn’t stop someone, quoted in a blog, from dumping Lion because the new behaviors were intolerable. Rather than check System Preferences to see what could be altered, the person in question simply gave up. I suspect some other Lion users were equally quick to revert to Snow Leopard, though it’s not a casual process, since you basically have to rebuild your hard drive or restore from a backup.

Other Lion features that are getting ragged on include the new look for Mail, which, with its side by side panes, and message previews, more or less mirrors the way it’s done on the iPad. While I’m not enamored of another feature, Conversation, which lets you conveniently examine all your email exchanges with someone in a single window, I’ve left the others intact. Besides, most of the changes can be quickly undone in Mail’s preferences.

Granted, some of the other notable Lion features, such as Auto Save, are application dependent and cannot be turned off if an app supports them, but it’s not as if most of you will find the new setup that much less convenient. Yes, there will be no Save As feature, forcing you to engage in a two-step process, beginning with Duplicate and ending with Save to make another copy of a document with a new name. But it’s not as if this should be a potential deal breaker.

Indeed, once most Mac apps support Lion’s new features, you shouldn’t have to fret over losing key content because you forgot to save and your Mac crashed, or you had a power outage or other catastrophe. Indeed, Apple should have added an Auto Save capability years ago. My real concern is why they couldn’t devise a workable method to make it work automatically across all or most apps (Lion savvy or not), in the fashion of third-party utilities. We can debate the logic behind Auto Save till the end of time. In the end, if it proves less successful with Mac users, Apple will probably consider changes for a Lion revision, or perhaps Mac OS 10.8.

There are also some features that need work, such as how a second or third display is supported when you engage full screen mode in a document. Right now, you just get an empty linen background on your other screens, but this seems to be something that Apple could address. Why can’t you have, say, three monitors with separate full screen documents?

Another raging complaint about Lion is stability. Some have encountered crashes from time to time. Indeed, the recent 10.7.1 update was, in part, meant to improve stability. But having a Mac OS release that’s a tad shaky around the edges is nothing new for Apple. As always, within a few weeks, the first maintenance update arrives to repair the worst problems. It may take one or more additional updates before things settle down for the hyper-critical, and Lion is no different.

Unlike Windows Vista, OS X Lion seems no slower, for the most part, when compared to its predecessor. It’s not as if Apple piled on the features without regard for performance. In the end, however, for those who haven’t upgraded to Lion, read the reviews, read the complaints, and decide for yourself which way to go. But a backup is essential whether you decide to keep Lion or not.

| Print This Article Print This Article

25 Responses to “The Lion as Vista Report”

  1. dfs says:

    Gene, you can add to your list the huge volume of people putting postings on various Mac help sites asking if there is any way to disable AutoSave. Not exactly a vote of confidence.

    One other way Lion might be like Vista, and a very important one. A couple or three weeks ago I read that about one out of six Mac users have adopted it so far. To me, that doesn’t exactly sound like a runaway commercial success. I seem to remember much more impressive adoption statistics for previous OS versions. Maybe consumers are “voting with their feet” and registering their unhappiness with Lion itself? Or is it a consumer rejection of the new policy of distributing an OS exclusively via the Apple Store?

    One of the more reputable rumor sites has reported that Apple might put out a final version of Snow Leopard incorporating iCloud. If Apple wants iCloud to be successful, and if I’m right that 1/6 Mac market share = commercial flop, then they might have to do this to prevent iCloud from flopping too.

    • @dfs, Not a commercial flop. 6% of PC users have Macs. 1% of PC users have Lion. That’s a tremendous success.


    • John Doe says:

      @dfs, I too want the option to disable Autosave. It’s nothing but a nightmare for me. I make presentations for a living so I use Keynote daily as my main tool. Most of my Keynote files are 500 slides and weigh in at 4-6 gig because of embedded videos. Usually, I will open one of my standard files, rearrange a few slides for that particular audience, and maybe add 3 or 4 text only slides before I make the presentation. In Snow Leopard that was a 5 minute process. With Lion it takes me OVER AN HOUR BECAUSE OF AUTOSAVE!!!!!!!! Now, when I open my file and rearrange the position of just one slide, Keynote gives me the spinning beachball for anywhere from 1.5-4 minutes and the whole computer freezes. After the spinning beachball the Save dialog comes up and I get to watch the progress bar for another minute or so. Then I rearrange another slide and repeat the whole waiting process as Autosave freezes my computer for almost 5 minutes. To add insult to injury, even if I don;t rearrange a slide, about every five minutes the spinning beachball comes back onto the screen and locks me up for another 4 minutes or so. That means I only get 1 minute of productivity out of every 5. This is insanity!!!!!!!!!

      • Richard says:

        @John Doe,

        This may be one of those instances where you need to purchase some “old” hardware with Snow Leopard and keep using it until such time as the situation is resolved as this obviously is impairing your work flow.

        Alternatively, you could see if your particular machine will run on Snow Leopard. That is a rather difficult proposition though as there are reports of driver issues on any number of new Macs which shipped with Lion. Apple says that it is a violation of the terms of use of the new machines to run anything other than the shipping OS on it (sounds sort of like M$ doesn’t it) and they have no plans to do anything to make these machines Snow Leopard compatible.

        Your experiences are one of the reasons many organizations are very reluctant to make changes to new operating systems/software until it is thoroughly proven. Being an early adopter sometimes is not a smooth experience.

        I don’t know what the root cause of your problem may be, but you may want to look into disabling Spotlight. It is possible that whenever these files are opened or changed Spotlight goes to work on them.

        Good Luck

    • Brian M says:


      Within a few months to have one in six go to a pay-for upgrade to a new OS (program, whatever) is pretty good in most books.

  2. rwahrens says:

    Gene, I would add, that, to all indications, Apple’s Mac sales are slated to be even higher this quarter than ever, indicating that users’ acceptance of Lion isn’t slacking at all, indeed, if as in the past, 50% of buyers at Apple stores are switchers, then these new folks don’t have a former experience with OS X to compare it to anyway.

    Some folks just don’t like change. Personally, even being an old fart, and a Mac user since 1987, I love the new features in Lion. I just got a new 27″ iMac, and those new features seem tailor made to speed up navigation on that big screen using full screen apps. I love it.

    I used to get a few kernel panics, but I haven’t experienced any since that last security update.

  3. John Davis says:

    As a MacOS upgrade it’s par for the course.

    There are a few things left to fix.

    But, hell, there are some nice new features, it’s very stable and it’s been a smooth update. Haven’t had one crash, freeze or KP.

    I don’t like all of it, Launchpad, for example. But then I’ve never used the dock either.

    I’m really pleased that Quicksilver still works.

    Scrolling and autosave are the way they should be IMHO.

    With Rosetta gone, there are a couple – literally two applications – that I miss. But I have an old PowerBook for those few times when I need to run them.

    And you can’t grumble about the price!

  4. jay bedient says:

    I am just a regular user, who has been using Macs since my mac SE.
    I have never been an early adopter of any software upgrades, but I did upgrade to Lion after it was out for 1 wk..
    It has been the most trouble free upgrade I have ever had. Yeah it took awhile to get used to some of the changes,
    but on my MBP it works flawlessly.
    The only thing I could complain about is the latest version of Safari.

    • ViewRoyal says:

      @jay bedient,

      @jay bedient,

      You hint the point exactly!

      Whenever a new version of Mac OS X comes out, there are bugs and features that “early adopters” must content with. If you decide to be an early adopter (remember, no one forces you to jump into a 10.x.0 version as soon as it comes out) then you should expect to put up with some rough edges which are usually smoothed out by the 10.x.2 or 10.x.3 version updates.

      Yet knowing this, every time a new version of Mac OS X comes out, some early adopters will complain about this or that, and call it the worst version of Mac OS X ever. The same happened with Tiger, Leopard, and Snow Leopard.

      The problem is that when an early adopter complains about a new version of Mac OS X having problems, the Windows fanbois feel justified in calling it “Apple’s Vista”, even though they have never used a Mac themselves.

      So here’s a hint for Mac users… if you know that you can’t handle going from a polished older version of Mac OS X to a brand new version that will be problematic until later updates… Don’t be an early adopter!


  5. Smackerel says:

    The thrust of the design of Lion – to make the desktop and the user experience more like the iOS – is fundamentally misguided. The iOS is a stripped and crippled down version of a desktop OS designed to be suitable to its unique environment, whose fundamental constraints are screen size, processor power, storage, i/o, battery life, and finger-only input. Taking such design features, uniquely adapted to that environment, and pasting them into the highly distinct desktop environment where none of those constraints are present, and in the process taking away from the desktop environment input, interface and usage conventions that have been continuously refined to a sharp and useful edge over a 30 year period, is just completely nuts. It’s dumber than Gil Amelio. The original advantage of a windowed environment over the old-timely full screen only apps was that you could have multiple overlapping windows and go back and forth so easily! You could cut and paste or drag and drop between windows! Neato! Now, in 2011 we are going back to full screen apps and are being told this is an improvement? Ay, caramba!

    • @Smackerel, you don’t need to have full screen apps if you don’t want them. Some content creators prefer working that way for certain projects. The key is that the visual features are easily left unused or changed.

      That can’t be said for Auto Save with supported apps, which is getting a mixed response I see.


      • Smackerel says:

        @Gene Steinberg, Yes, I realize that, but the direction is obvious and these things are implemented in steps, so there is more to come. Hide others and enlarge your window to full screen was also previously available. Autosave is a step toward isolating the user from the icky file system in the desktop environment, just as users are totally isolated from the file system in the iOS environment. You can’t do as much in the iOS as you can in OS X – because it’s a freaking hand-held device OS – so what in the world is the point of making OS X more like the iOS, especially when doing so necessarily diminishes the utility of the desktop OS? This is what’s wrong with the direction of the design, and it’s very fundamental point.


    • Die Fledermaus says:


      Smackerel is right on the money. The iOS design influence in Lion is foolishly applied to a full-blown computer. Lion artificially imposes some of the shortcomings of severely restricted devices onto much more flexible and capable machines, and that’s just stupid. Apple seems to have embraced a “nanny” philosophy, in which its users are viewed as incapable of acting responsibly and looking out for themselves, so Apple tries to step-in and take care of them, whether they like it or not. Well, most of us don’t need another mother. And even when my real mother tries to step-in, I usually resent it.

      Some of Lion’s default settings are annoyances, and easily reversible. I don’t care a whit about those. AutoSave, OTOH, is a malignant manifestation of the nanny philosophy. That’s just a bad idea, and implemented unreliably and poorly enough that it’s unpredictable in practice. Another gem is Lion’s hidden “DocumentRevisions” file, which contains copies of documents that have been manually deleted, which copies are retained even after the trash is emptied. Apple has determined that it knows better than its Lion users when they should delete a file, so it retains that 4 GB video file you foolishly tried to delete in order to let you recover from your short-sightedness in throwing it away. Not to mention Apple’s determination that its users shouldn’t have easy access to the Library folder while running Lion. After all, there’s nothing in there they need to see, and messing around with it will only lead to trouble, so best just prevent them doing that. Apple’s new way of doing things is different from its old way of doing things, and we should just get used to the new way, and then do so whenever Apple decides to change it again. “Arrogant, overbearing BS” fails to convey my visceral repulsion to that whole head-space.

      On top of the clusterflub that was Final Cut Pro X, Lion makes me wonder if there are any adults in Apple’s management. I’ve been a pro-apps user for over a decade. If someone had told me last year that Apple would update a pro-video suite with software that was incapable of being used in a pro environment, or that Apple would release such an ill-conceived and poorly received OS as Lion, I’d have said he was crazy and bet the farm against it.

      And I’d have lost the farm.

      I bought a 128K Mac to replace my Apple II Plus, have purchased a new Mac every four or five years since, and own seven Apple mobile devices. Until FCPX and Lion, I was hot to snag a 32-core Mac Pro as soon as they became available. No longer. A new Mac Pro is on indefinite hold until Lion, FCPX, and the next upgrade to Logic Pro are sorted out, and I can see where things are headed. Now, due solely to Apple’s actions, I have to weigh the likelihood of there ever being Lion-compatible updates for my large library of third-party software plug-ins and add-ons, the cost differential between Apple hardware and comparable Wintel hardware, and whether that differential offsets the cost of getting Windows versions of my third-party software. Not to mention Apple’s apparent movement toward a “we know best” design philosophy that is utterly repugnant to me.

      For the first time since 1985 Apple is not the clear, obvious choice for me, and the fault is entirely, completely Apple’s. And up until last year I’d have bet the proverbial farm that I’d NEVER have said any of the above, and would have ended my days as a die-hard Mac-head. And I’d have lost the farm on that bet, too.

      • @Die Fledermaus, I think you might be going overboard. With Final Cut Pro X, I think Apple released it prematurely, without properly explaining the changes. They seem to have made a huge move towards addressing many of the biggest criticisms with the 10.0.1 update, plus they offer a 30-day demo so you can try before you buy.


        • Die Fledermaus says:

          @Gene Steinberg,
          I think you might be wearing blinders. Not jumping in before I know what’s what is hardly going overboard. It’s merely prudent, and completely reasonable given Apple’s recent history.

          I plan to download the FCPX trial to see if it runs on my 2007 Mac Pro. I could never get a definitive determination of whether or not it would run on my hardware, and I wasn’t willing to buy it on the chance that it MIGHT. The only way to know for sure is to try it, and being able to do that without buying it is a definite plus.

          If it does run well enough to be usable, however, FCPX will still not open my existing projects, nor will it permit me to do many things that I’ve become used to doing in FCP Studio. Those are deal-breakers, regardless of whether FCPX runs on my setup or not. I’ll still appreciate being able to experience the reality of FCPX rather than just reading about it, but won’t even consider buying it until its capabilities approach those of FCP7. That’s a long way off according to Apple and FCPX developers.

          Based on its gross mishandling of FCPX I have serious apprehension about what Apple is likely to do to Logic Pro when it releases the next update, too. FCP7 had over 50% market penetration, and Apple still released a product that couldn’t come close to replacing it. Logic Pro doesn’t have anywhere near that level of acceptance, so Apple is subject to even fewer constraints in how it modifies it. If Apple degrades the next update to Logic Pro a la FCPX, it’ll take far fewer alienated customers to render that market unsalvageable. I wish I thought Apple cared about either market, but I harbor profound doubts about it.

          I’ve got as much money, or more, invested in third-party software for Apple’s pro apps than I have in hardware. In my three ventures into Lion-land I have determined that NONE of them work in that OS. They’re not even recognized by the apps’ validation subroutines. New Apple hardware limits me to Lion, which means waiting for Lion-compatible upgrades, which may never come, and paying for them if they do. This is against buying Windows versions of that software, for use with competing pro apps, on comparable Wintel hardware. For the first time since 1985 moving to Windows has become a rational option. If Apple hadn’t had its head stuck up its collective rump this last year, none of this would even be an issue. And if Apple keeps its head stuck up there, there’ll eventually be an exodus of pro-users from Apple’s ranks. And, again, I’m not at all sure that Apple would notice, or would care if it did notice.

          I had to use Windows in my former career, and I grew to loathe it. That was before XP, and things have changed a lot, or so I’m told. At any rate, Apple has driven me to this circumstance where Windows might be the better choice. I don’t care what calculus you use to evaluate it, that’s simply pathetic.

    • Henry Bowman says:


      Amen! You can’t dumb down the OS interface to be more attractive and accessible to the tweener who has barely enough technical savvy to mail her daily photos of cute kittehs to her BFFs, and at the same time rank on the user community for being too lazy to know how to look for and change Finder preferences.

      Of course nobody is talking about the elephant in the room, the REAL reason people are being so slow to upgrade to Lion: the death of Rosetta. If Apple thought this was no big thing, they grievously miscalculated. Do you use Quicken? You’re screwed. Freehand? Screwed. An old version of Photoshop because it does all you need and you can’t afford the current arm-and-leg price? Screwed.

      Why should I ante up for a $29 upgrade when it will actually cost me over $1,500 in new software plus a stunning learning curve during which my productivity stalls like a Yamaha? Just so I can get some cool new Jedi swipe tricks?

      The Type-A achievers with money and smarts are preparing by buying and learning their new packages one by one PRIOR to upgrading to Lion — meaning Lion will be the LAST thing they will buy.

  6. Charles Jenkins says:

    I’m surprised at the “don’t worry, be happy” attitude toward Auto Save. It’s a good idea only if Versions is all it’s cracked up to be — and it isn’t. There are reports of prior versions of documents being lost if saved on or copied to the wrong storage medium, or emailed.

    Many creative types open files and experiment with them, making many changes for a while before deciding whether to keep the new result. I’m appalled at the idea of a program continually overwriting the last-known-good copy with work-in-progress BEFORE I’ve decided whether I want to keep it. Especially when there’s the slightest chance of being unable to revert.

    Losing the visual information provided by scroll bars just made me a little queasy, but Auto Save is actually scary. I *am* worried, and sticking with Snow Leopard as long as I can.

    Lion may be a possibility later on, if app vendors take the same approach as Acorn and make the use of Auto Save a program option I can turn off forever.

    I swear, it’s like Microsoft’s Vista engineers infiltrated the OS X development team…

  7. TZX4 says:

    I can only name only two things I like about 10.7 better than 10.6.
    If I do need to restart after a software update, I can, and everything comes back right where I left off. Before, all apps and works in progress needed to be shutdown & reopened.
    I also appreciate the reported under the hood security enhancements.

    I am finally feeling comfortable and fluent with mission control after two months, but still consider expose and spaces in 10.6 to be the simpler and logically more sensible approach, and would revert to that given the chance.

    Lack of Rosetta has caused the four mac users closest to me rule out 10.7, they need their older apps and don’t want to pay money for, and to learn new software.

    The overall feeling I get is that Apple endeavored to make iOS and Windows newcomers more comfortable with OSX, and truth be told, more of them are arriving each day compared to OSX people like myself with ten years of OSX experience.

    It is interesting how many different new “features” Apple has reversals baked right in. They knew exactly what they were doing.

    • David says:


      The autolaunch concept is completely backwards. UNIX shouldn’t need to be restarted more than a couple of times a year, if that. Restart should be exactly what it says: a fresh start. Nothing other than the OS and daemons should start up automatically. It should be as clean as possible.

      Autolaunch seeks to combat two behaviours that should have been corrected rather than encouraged: users who shut down instead of putting their Mac to sleep, and Apple’s own software updates that require a restart far more often than they need to.

      Autosave/versions is going to require a lot of workflow changes. Too many of us are lazy and open “Letter to Sally”, edit a few things and then send it to Mary instead of making a copy first or, better yet, working with templates. Users will adapt to that sort of thing eventually.

      However, there is an aspect of autosave/versions that is scary. When a file is deleted, the information remains in a separate file somewhere else in the file system that can be recalled simply by opening a new document with the same application. That has security and NDA implications that boggle the mind.

      I’ve lost data. I’ve hit cut instead of copy, save instead of save as…, I’ve accidentally overwritten files in Finder, I’ve overwritten folders full of files with nearly empty ones with the same name, I’ve erased drives before copying all the important files off them, and I’ve been bitten by bad hardware like external USB drives that get corrupted if you put your Mac to sleep. I’ve learned to avoid cheap hardware and to be more careful when operating complicated machines, two things all computer users should learn.

  8. TZX4 says:

    And as long as I am in the dissent mode . . eliminating “Save As” and replacing it with “export”? ? ? ?

    I still carrying on with 10.7 in the trust that Apple is indeed5DND moving the ball forward and I just don’t quite yet grok the overall big picture.

  9. Colstan says:

    There are a handful of Lion features that I’m not particularly fond of. I wish I could revert back to the old method of using Spaces/Expose, instead of Mission Control, but I’ve gotten used to it. Most everything else I have issues with I can turn off or alter. I consider the upgrades to security to be a big bonus, even if you never see them.

    However, the idea that Lion is Apple’s Vista simply doesn’t square with the facts. Lion has had the fastest adoption rate of any release of Mac OS X in history. Apple is expected to sell approximately 4.5 million Macs this quarter, a record for the company.

    The “Lion is Vista” comparison may make for great blog fodder, but it isn’t impacting sales of Lion or the Mac. Apple is benefiting from the release of Lion, while Microsoft took a serious hit with Vista.


  10. I loved the upgrade initially and installed it on all four of my Macs. Then I noticed that the MacBook Pro would not drag and drop on the system HD, but copied everything. For various reasons I performed a low-level erase of the drive both from within Lion and from the original install disc (Snow Leopard), then reinstalled everything up to Snow Leopard. Everything was working fine. I then installed Lion and the annoying behavior of copying rather than dragging and dropping returned. Aaarrrggghh!

    I also think getting rid of “Save As” has to be one of the most short-sighted changes I’ve ever seen on Macs, and I go back to a Mac Plus. Don’t these people ever work with documents? Who starts anything from scratch? You do a “save as” and alter the original. Now I have to dupe it from outside the program, rename enter, and then reenter the program. Sometimes simpler is not better.

    I’m certain Apple will fix the bugs to the system such as my copy problem, but I fear they are too hard headed to return “save as” to the tool kit.

  11. Ian G says:

    Just a couple of observations on AutoSave and Save As:

    * From my experience, you don’t “lose” anything with AutoSave, it keeps a record of all major changes and saves to a document and allows you to browse this record whenever you want and “recover” anything you’ve previously done to the document. This is incredibly useful.

    * You can “Save As…” another copy of your current document from within the program (e.g. Pages) by clicking on the document’s title and choosing “Duplicate” from the drop-down list. Couldn’t be simpler. The main thing that’s changed is just the name, instead of “Save As” it’s now called “Duplicate”, which makes sense, as you are “duplicating” the current document somewhere.

    Change is disconcerting, for sure, but AutoSave and Duplicate have certainly made this Lion user more productive. Mission Control instead of the old Expose? Less so.

  12. Brian M says:

    Some people don’t see why iOS type features are being added…

    some of them are useful to the majority of users (auto-save/versions & resume are really for most users, although I do think it should be possible to disable these on a “per-app” basis)
    along with things like full-screen – more useful on a MacBook than big iMac or multi-screen MacPro for example.

    But if you look at the changes as preparation for an eventual Touch-screen iMac, it starts to make more sense – although this probably won’t happen until the ability to do Resolution Independent UI is complete so the various elements can be increased in size for better touch input.

Leave Your Comment