Apple Talk: Lion review - a roaring success or will it just make you growl?

It's an OS X upgrade with real teeth and some unpredictable habits...

Apple OS X Lion

Lion is a major evolutionary step for Mac OS XPhoto: Apple

Apple's new operating system is a magnificent beast but it might just bite you when you least expect it, says Seb Janacek.

I've been using Lion for about five days now. I installed it a couple of days after it was released. In that time I've grown to love it and be slightly infuriated by it in roughly equal measure.

Lion is a major evolutionary step for Mac OS X. The July release comes a few months after Steve Jobs' twin declaration that we are living in a post-PC world and that the Mac is no longer centre of the digital hub, merely another device. A bitter pill for millions of loyal Mac users to swallow.

The evidence of Apple's post-PC philosophy is clear. The Mac's input works with traditional input devices - keyboard and basic mouse, but the flourishes and the benefits are reaped through using devices controlled by touch.

The ideas that Jobs and other executives highlighted in Apple's Back to the Mac conference last year are here and for the large part work well. The big idea was that Apple had learned a fair bit designing and selling iOS devices, particularly the iPad, and wanted to share some of the interface elements and concepts with the Mac.

To my mind, Lion offers far more features than its predecessor, Snow Leopard, which was really just a system-wide tweak, but also more than any of the earlier big cat OS iterations. Apple regularly markets its OS releases as having 200-plus new features but you're hard pushed to name more than a few key ones per release.

For Panther it was quick user switching, Tiger got Spotlight system searching and Leopard brought the inestimably useful automatic back-up feature Time Machine - arguably the most important of OS X.

Compared with Snow Leopard - and almost four years after Leopard was launched - Lion seems packed with new tweaks and capabilities. If you're an iOS user and especially an iPad owner a lot of the new features will look very familiar.

The most obvious visual implementation of the Back to the Mac idea is in the Launchpad, which presents a layer of application logos floating above a blurred background image. The screen can be swiped left and right and the images moved around and arranged into folders - see the two folders on the bottom row of this image, far right.

Lion's Launchpad feature offers easy navigation and access to applications and echoes the iPad's operation

Lion's Launchpad feature offers easy navigation and access to applications and echoes the iPad's operationImage: silicon.com/Apple

It's a useful way of getting access to your programs and a clear nod to the way the iPad operates.

Another idea carried over from the iPad is the concept of not having to save progress on documents. This facility may well turn out to be Lion's...

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