First Impressions on Lion


OS X has been my operating system of choice since Tiger. It represented a realisation that you can have decent portable hardware and a great-looking interface that gave me quick access to the things I used most, whilst maintaining relatively easy access to things I didn't. I have always been pleased with OS X as an operating system, which is why I continue to use it professionally and in my leisure time today.

OS X Lion (10.7) brings a number of changes, presumably inspired by the fact that Apple's touchscreen devices have been so popular. After an afternoon's use, I am under the impression that a future generation of tablet computers will run this a convergence of this and iOS. By that time, I will not be using OS X as my main operating system.

Things I don't like about OS X Lion

Spaces. The concept of multiple desktops has been a staple of my computer usage since before Apple cribbed the idea from Linux. In a previous job, I used an Ubuntu-powered computer, where I discovered spaces and how much easier they can make your computing life. Until today, I ran a 6-desktop configuration in two rows of three desktops. I did this so that I had quick access to Desktop 4 (web browsers) from Desktop 1 (text editor) and quick access from Desktop 1 to Desktop 2 (databases and terminals). If you're interested, 3 is virtual machines and image editing, 5 is IM clients, notes and RSS and 6 is iTunes and stuff I don't really touch regularly.

Apple has completely removed the ability to configure Spaces with Lion. You get one row of desktops and that's it. This completely cripples my usage of the concept. I can access web browsers and terminals from text editors, but then I have to skip through two spaces from an IM client to get to a web browser. I seriously cannot justify - further than wanting a nice, pretty, single line of desktops in the abortion that is Mission Control - this decision. It's completely ridiculous!

Spaces also had a cool little feature where you could view your whole grid from way above, then invoke Exposé and move individual windows between desktops. This, too, is totally gone. In order to view a desktop's open windows, you have to invoke Mission Control whilst said desktop is selected.

Mission Control suggests to me that Spaces and Exposé had a child and found out that they were cousins when it was already too late to terminate the poor, unfortunate bastard.

Scrolling has now been inverted. To scroll down, you sweep up; to scroll left, you sweep right. Disabled (it didn't instinctively occur to me that Apple would allow you to disable this. My past, PC-using self would be very disappointed in me).

New is nothing really to write home about. Still no ability to arbitrarily file things using only the keyboard. It's like Apple saw Sparrow and decided they would make something with a worse UI. I'll stick to GMail web UI, thanks.

iCal promised to bring a fantastic new UI. It's basically the same as old iCal, except they've made it look more like a leather journal with pages torn out of it.

Your username now appears constantly in the menu bar, with no apparent way to hide it. I am the only user of this computer and I know my name, thanks, Apple. Update: Maxim Harper tells me that you can remove this by CMD-dragging on the name. Thank Christ!

To view the desktop, you now have to "spread with thumb and three fingers", which is just about as difficult as it sounds. Rather than sweep up with four fingers, which was super easy to do on a whim.

CoreAnimation pervades your entire experience in Lion. It makes every single little thing you try to do take just that little bit longer. You do things by Apple's rhythm, now, punk. Pages turn, things zip about and flash and fade in-and-out. Why? I have no idea. I thought Windows 7 was a little over-animation-y, but this is ridiculous. Interface animation adds nothing to your ability to accomplish a task. If you want to stare at a pretty rectangle for a bit, buy some tropical fish.

Things I like about Lion

LaunchBar still works.