Lion is a Mixed Bag

I’ve been a Mac user since 1986 and have used a Mac consistently ever since despite many years as an electrical engineer (where DOS and Windows was the norm).  I think I’ve used every Mac operating system since System 5.  I’m also a developer.  I straddle the world of user and power user.  I’m not a newbie but yet I don’t consider myself a Unix power user either.

I’ve had Lion installed for about 3 weeks now.  There are some things I like about Lion and more that I don’t like.

Things That I Like About Lion

Versions:  Being able to see edits in time has already saved me some grief when it comes to editing documents in Pages.  I accidentally opened the wrong document (similar but not the same) for a course outline and started typing away.  I realized after about 30 minutes of editing that this was the wrong one and looked at the old versions and quickly reverted.  See below why I don’t like Auto Save though.

Airdrop:  It’s simple and to the point.  This is how file transfers between occasional machines should work.  It’s not quite as convenient for computers that are already on the network though as it you have to be running AirDrop and approve all transfers.  I did have a problem with two Lion computers transferring zero length files but I don’t know if it’s been fixed in the update that came out this week.

Mail:  The 3 pane interface works for me.  It also keeps track of my conversations and organizes them effectively and reduces the redundant information.  This should have been done a long time ago.

The Price:  At $29 a computer it’s cheap.  The fact that all your computers on your network (using the same Apple ID of course) can get it too is just icing on the cake.

iChat:  Conversations are now unified into a tabbed window rather than each conversation being in a separate window.  For video chats it’s using FaceTime whether you realize it or not.

Preview:  Being able to add a signature to a PDF document has caused me no end of grief in the past several years even though I have a utility to do it.  Now, I don’t have to worry about it.

Auto Correct:  I know some people are bagging on it, but for the most part it works for me.  It’s not perfect but it warns you, visually, when it makes a correction.

Things That Don’t Bug Me But I Don’t Care About Either:

Natural Scrolling:  It took me maybe two days to get used to it.  Sure, I still go the opposite direction at times – get over it – it’s just the flick of a finger.

Full Screen Apps:  Meh.  For the few times that I want the app to take over my entire screen it’s okay but this feature seems to be aimed at 13″ laptop users.

Things I Hate About Lion

The UI elements:  Disabled controls are gray.  Enabled controls are gray.  Sure, they’re different shades of gray, but really?  Is black such a bad thing?  I think this is my number one pet peeve in Lion.

Mail Enabled Buttons:

 

 

Mail Disabled Buttons:

 

 

Overlay Scrollbars:  Again, another UI element that I think should visible all the time on my big assed 27″ monitor.  There is a preferences setting for it, by the way, but it seems out of place and not like the rest of Mac OS X.

Resume (i.e. Auto Open):  I’ve tried this a few times but I hate it more than I like it.  What I really want is to set this PER application – not system wide.  I don’t want this on Text Edit but I DO want it on Pages.  I don’t want it on my database editor, but I do want it on my development software.

Auto Save:  The apps that are actively using it (Text Edit, Pages, Numbers, etc) I find that I really don’t like it.  Why?  Because I create temporary documents all the time and when I quit the app I want them gone.  Isn’t that what the Save Prompt is for?  This is in direct contrast to Versions above.

iCal:  Really, Apple?  Faux Leather?  Otherwise it’s functional.  The changes to how to create an event on your calendar uses natural language (like Lunch with Carol at 12 PM automatically adds it to the calendar with the appropriate time).

Hiding of Library Directories:  I understand why they did this – most people really shouldn’t be mucking around in Library folders – but it’s more hassle than it’s worth, in my opinion.  Getting into the preferences folder is pretty common (and that happens to be in the Libraries directory).  It’s relatively easy to work around, but now I have to figure out if my users are smart enough to figure it out for themselves or if I have to handhold them through that process too.

Things That I Find Useless:

Launchpad:  Played with it and found that I already have the apps organized in the way I want either in the doc or in Stacks on the right side of my dock.  I suspect that people coming from iOS love this feature.

Things That Are in Snow Leopard and Lion that I Love:

Mac App Store:  If you’re not using it yet you should.  This is the most convenient way to find and purchase apps for your Mac.  The fact that you can then install it on all machines in your house (using the same Apple ID) is VERY convenient.  No more hassling with serial numbers or if, for whatever reason, you need to install old apps again, the Mac App Store can install them all at one time.

Conclusion:

There’s a lot of other changes in Lion too.  I recommend taking a look at the 250+ features page at Apple at http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/features.html.

I find myself torn between the past and the future.  I’m a long-time Mac user so I’m no newbie and perhaps that’s why I’m not thrilled with Lion.  Despite some big improvements I find most of the major changes to be a dumbing down of the OS for people that are coming from iOS.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I’m not sure it’s a good thing either.

What’s most disturbing is the horrible User Interface changes in Lion.  For a company that prides itself in making great UI I think most of it fails on multiple levels.  Visual cues are the first thing that need to be clear and obvious and for that they’ve failed in my book.

Should you upgrade?  If you find Leopard or Snow Leopard useful then keep using it – you’ll get Lion when you purchase a new computer.

What do you like or dislike in Lion?

EDIT:  Updated with images from Mail to show difference between enabled and disabled toolbar buttons.

3 thoughts on “Lion is a Mixed Bag

  1. I’ve put Lion on my MacBook Air, but I’m holding off putting it on my Mac Pro.

    Lion is really great on the Air with it’s small 11″ screen.

    But on my desktop with two large 23″ screens, I don’t find much that is appealing.

    I guess I’d like the Mail app, but I don’t think there is anything else that I am dying to get in Lion.

  2. Autosave: don’t want it.
    Autocorrect: makes dog out of dmg. Disabled.
    Versions: after I edited an icon I noticed that the file was suddenly 25kb instead of 1. Less than useless without possibility to set preferences. Need to disable it.
    No scroll arrows: I use a graphic tablet. Without scroll arrows precise scrolling is a bother.
    Resume: Less than useless. Only needed for Realbasic.
    Launchpad: may work on Laptop where I have less apps. But really useless without alphabetic sorting.
    Interface colors: someone said that it looks like former USSR. It’s just drab. What’s wrong with color?
    Library folder: this is so annoying. Most troubleshooting starts with the Library folder.

  3. I hate in iChat Lion that all my accounts (the one for work, the one for my wife, the one for relatives, etc) are the same status – all available (when all I want to be is available to my wife)

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