A simple-to-use operating system with loads of features
The iOS operating system Apple uses on its iPad and iPhone is highly successful on mobile devices, but Apple's decision to imitate it on full-size computers is rather curious.
The latest release of the Mac OS X operating system used on iMac and Macbook computers, OS X Lion, does just that. Both iOS and OS X are easy to use, with excellent features. With Lion, Apple is trying to make its desktops and laptops feel more like tablet computers.
It relies heavily on the large glass touchpads on the latest Macbooks and the Apple Magic Mouse for desktop iMacs and Mac Minis. These recognise gestures involving one, two or three fingers going up-down or left-right, behaving very similarly to the touchscreen on a smartphone or a tablet. So, in a lot of ways, using Lion on a Macbook or desktop Mac really is like using a tablet.
Scrolling has been reversed. On a normal computer, if you drag the scrollbar down, the page moves down, so the text or images on the page move up. In Lion there are no scroll bars and placing two fingers on the mouse or touchpad and moving them downwards moves the page upwards and text downwards, vice-versa, just as on a tablet computer. It was confusing at first but we were soon accustomed to it.
Applications such as iTunes and the Safari web browser are now full-screen with no menu bars, again similarly to tablet apps. Swiping four fingers makes it move between full-screen apps while swiping four fingers up organises applications using a simple display called Mission Control. The number of gestures was a bit baffling – there were at least 10, which many people will find hard to remember.
On the Macbook Air it worked well (see Also Consider), but the gestures felt strange on a desktop Mac. To get the most out of OS X Lion requires an Apple Magic Mouse – other mice don't support gestures.
Some of the most impressive improvements are subtle. The Mail program is better designed, cleverly linking email conversations. A new program called Versions automatically saves versions of documents as you work. The Mac App Store is an important part of Lion: Apple encourages users to download all their software from here, again as with iOS.
While the touch controls and the tablet feel isn't for everyone, OS X Lion makes a lot of sense. It's easy to use and felt like a genuine step forward from the previous version.
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It takes a bit of getting used to, but this is an excellent operating system if used on the right hardware
Simple to use; excellent creative software
Gestures can be confusing
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