Some thoughts on Mac OS X Lion Developer Preview #1

UPDATE (07-23-2011): Now that Mac OS X Lion is out, I've written an up-to-date article with my thoughts on the final version of Spaces/Mission Control.

Last week, I downloaded the first Mac OS X Lion Developer Preview. In this post, I've shared some things I liked, some things I disliked, and some things I just thought were interesting. This is by no means a complete list of everything that's changed in Mac OS X Lion. It's merely a summary of what I have to say about it after having used it for a week.

I apologize in advance for not including any screenshots, but I'm sure if you Google it, you'll find plenty of examples of what I'm talking about.

Likes

The Dashboard is now a Space. Instead of the Dashboard being it's own app, it's now integrated into Spaces. They made it it's own Space right before Space #1 (more on Spaces below). Sometimes, when you combine two apps into one, it can turn out not so good, but I think this is a good change. I don't use the Dashboard very much right now, but I could see myself using it more now that it's integrated into Spaces, which is a tool that I use quite a bit.

You can apply Finder view options to sub-folders. When you open up the "Show View Options" window in the Finder (either by right-clicking or by using the "gear" menu), there's a new option called "Apply to sub-folders." Previously, you could only apply view options to one folder or set default options for all folders.

Version control is built-in to seemingly every document-based application. This is a feature that I probably won't use very much, because I use things like Dropbox and Git for all my version control needs. However, I could see it being very useful especially because it's built-in to the apps and not a separate system.

The new iCal UI is very nice. I used iCal as my primary calendar program at work, and I already really like it. So saying that I like the new interface better is really saying something.

The new Mail UI is much easier to use. It's about time someone came up with a different type of layout for a mail client. I really like the two column layout without the mailbox list, but that doesn't let me browse through various sub-folders I might have. However, this can be remedied by dragging your folders to the favorites bar. The threaded messages are also nice.

Spotlight has live previews! If you don't use Spotlight, you're missing out on one of the best features of Mac OS X (command+tab is the most useful keyboard shortcut you'll ever learn). If you do use Spotlight, get excited, because it's about to get a lot more awesome. In the new Spotlight, when you arrow up and down through the results, it shows live previews for documents, images, dictionary definitions, and who knows what else.

Dislikes

Two finger scrolling on the trackpad is backwards. Right now, when you move two fingers in a downward motion on your trackpad, it scrolls down, and when you move them in an upward motion, it scrolls up. Well, now it's the other way around. And guess what? There's no setting to revert back to the old way. Just the fact that they changed this with no way to revert back is annoying, but honestly, after using it like that for a few hours, I started to get used to it and it kind of made more sense to have it that way, especially if you've ever used an iPad, iPhone, or pretty much any multitouch device. But it's still annoying that they changed it.

Spaces lost a dimension. Currently, Spaces are arranged in a two-dimensional grid. You can move up, down, left, and right through your Spaces and you can have as many rows and columns as you want. Well, in Mac OS X Lion, Spaces are one-dimensional. They're arranged in a single row, and you can only move left and right through them. It's really annoying if you're used to switching between Spaces rather than switching between apps. Also, there's no way to tell what Space you're currently in like you can do with the menu bar icon. I'd have to say that this is my least favorite change in Mac OS X Lion. I feel like going from a two-dimensional layout to a one-dimensional layout is kind of a step backwards.

The new animations are sometimes annoying and almost always unnecessary. This kind of reminds me of the desktop effects in Gnome. Some are nice. Some are annoying. The big difference is that, in Gnome, you can enable/disable individual animations.

You can't remove the Launchpad icon from the Dock. Yet another icon you can't remove from your Dock. They never forced the Dashboard (similar) icon on us so why this one? Also, I was unable to find any keyboard shortcut for the Launchpad.

The new Address Book UI is atrocious. It doesn't even seem to try to follow Apple's own Human Interface Guidelines. It's ugly, inconsistent with the rest of OS, and never really needed to be completely redesigned. It's a good thing that people usually access their address book data from other apps, rather than using the Address Book app directly.

Other thoughts

Most apps have a full-screen view. This is another feature that I probably won't use, but it might be nice for training, demonstrations, presentations, etc.

In conclusion

Apple is constantly making changes that I dislike at first, but it usually doesn't take me long to get over it. I'd say that for now, the things I like outweigh the things I dislike, but just barely. Interestingly, I don't remember disliking any changes made in Leopard or Snow Leopard. But it's still very early in the game. This is just the first of many developer previews to come.

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