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  • 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.

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