OS X Lion Is Out Today: The Pros and Cons

Tech experts highlight the letdowns and upsides of the new operating system

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Apple's new operating system OS X Lion is available for download today at the Mac App Store. For a modest $29.99 and the amount of time it takes for your Internet connection to digest a 4 gigabyte download, you'll have all of Lion's 250 new features. But is it worth it? As we've highlighted before, the Lion update is Apple's new foray into bringing the swiping, pinching interface experience of a tablet to the PC. But as some reviews of software show, that's not always a good thing. Here's how tech experts are slicing the pros and cons of OS X Lion.


For Lion's complete list of features, see here. Here are the ones getting singled out for special praise in today's product reviews.

Multi-touch functionality The iPad's signature swiping and pinching comes to the PC and MSNBC's Rosa Golijan is a big fan. "You can swipe up with three fingers to view Mission Control and see every open window on your Mac. Swiping to the side with three fingers, on the other hand, will let you switch between full-screen apps," she writes. "Two fingers are all that's needed to scroll up and down through documents and websites or to swipe through content as if it's part of a book. A quick two-finger tap or a pinching gesture will let you zoom in and out on whatever's on your screen. All of these gestures may sound complicated, but after using Lion for a brief while, you'll find yourself not even thinking about them." TechCrunch's MG Siegler was equally impressed with the new feature. "Swiping comes into play in the latest version of Safari within Lion too. You can now seamlessly swipe back and forth between webpages to peek at other content. It’s one of those tiny attention-to-detail features that makes Apple products, Apple products."

Auto-Save and Versions The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg is a big fan of Lion in general. But the new saving features are among his favorites. "Apps running in Lion automatically save your work when you pause or every five minutes. There is no interruption during this process and you can still save manually," he writes. This isn't a new idea, but it's implemented beautifully and can work on all programs whose authors issue new versions to take advantage of it. Right now, it works on some of Apple's own programs. The best part of this is that each auto-save creates a 'version' of your document and you can view all these versions in a visual stack arranged by date, next to your current version."

It's a big time saver Jason Snell at Macworld says the overall result of Lion's many new updates is a streamlined computing process. "Mission Control sweeps several window-management initiatives into a more cohesive whole. The new search system in Finder and Mail is so good you’ll wish it was in Spotlight too. Finder’s All My Files view is a handy way to quickly get a grasp on what’s new and changed on your Mac. Mail’s upgrade is impressive, especially its expanded view of conversations and related messages."


Adjusting to the software Mossberg says "One of the biggest changes is in scrolling. Instead of moving the top of a page upward by dragging the scroll bar down, or moving your fingers downward on the touch pad, you do the opposite—you just push the page up. A scroll bar appears only while scrolling. (Older programs may still have the traditional scroll bar.)"

The download process  For even the most optimistic reviews, no one likes having to wait for the large 4GB file to download. According to reviewers, the product's download time ranges from 1 hour to 2 hours depending on connection speed.

Inconsistencies Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz, a more vocal critic of the update, says Apple has got too many concepts going on. "This mix and match of concepts brings a lot more problems. Take this example: when you are in a full screen app, there's no easy way to open a new app. You either have to swipe your way back to a Desktop space and launch your app from the Dock or the Finder or Launchpad. Or you swipe your three fingers up to access Mission Control and launch your app from the Dock or click on Launchpad in the Dock and find your app there. Or you can access the Command + Tab menu and access Launchpad from there. Or you can find your app in the Spotlight widget on the top menu of the full screen app."

Airdrop Galan Gruman at Computer World is disappointed in Lion for a number of reasons. One of them is how up-to-date many of the Mac computers need to be to utilize the features. "Lion has a nifty new feature called AirDrop that automatically detects other Lion-based Macs on your Wi-Fi network so that you can share files without the hassle of setting up network connections," Gruman writes. "It's truly zero configuration. Simply select AirDrop in a Finder window's Sidebar and all AirDrop-connected systems appear. Click a Mac to receive the files, and if the Mac's owner allows it, you can share those files. But AirDrop doesn't work on most Macs; it's essentially limited to those that shipped in 2010 and later. (If you don't see AirDrop in the Sidebar, that means your Mac doesn't support it.)."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.