Apple OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) Review

Article Index

What's Improved Over Lion?

Not everything in Mountain Lion is "new," per se. But sometimes, revised can be just as valuable. Here, we'll discuss what's improved or tweaked in OS X 10.8 compared to prior editions.

Find and Share -

When looking at the Finder -- not something you typically spend a lot of time thinking about -- there are some minor improvements that suggest that Apple is looking at the minute details. There's an inline progress bar for downloads and file copies, and security junkies will appreciate that you can now encrypt a drive from the Finder. You'll be able to customize the sidebar by dragging categories to the desired location, and instantly preview files with a three-finger tap on the trackpad. Heck, even the Finder in Mountain Lion includes a Share button, so you can share files using Messages, AirDrop, or Mail. However, this speaks to the limitations of the Share button; if you want to use some other mail application, you can't program Share to play nice with it.

Productivity -

Calendar is still a pretty basic app. You can't just have it in the top menu bar and click to add a new event, but it's getting a bit of a facelift with Mountain Lion. You're now able to keep a list of all your calendars accessible in a sidebar, and when you’re searching for an event, Calendar offers suggestions. We'll touch on Notifications on the next page, but for now, just know that the new Calendar notifies you with an alert when an event is about to occur. Also, you'll notice that it's called Calendar, not iCal, to align with the name in iOS.

While we're on the subject of productivity, Contacts is also refreshed. The new build of Contacts brings information about your contacts together and displays it on one card — even across multiple services. So if you have a friend’s phone number in Yahoo! and his email address in iCloud, Contacts creates one entry.

We don't use Dashboard very frequently, but those that do will find a couple of new things here. There's a new widget browser that makes it even easier to find a widget, and you're now able to organize your widgets into folders in the widget browser.

Tools and Utilities -

With China becoming an increasingly important market for Apple, it's no surprise to see a huge amount of focus placed on Chinese language tools in Mountain Lion. You can now type English words in a Pinyin sentence without switching keyboards, and Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging service, is built into the Share menu. Baidu, the leading Chinese search provider, is a built-in option for searching in Safari, and Mountain Lion makes it easy to set up Mail with the popular services QQ Mail, 126, and 163. Suffice it to say, this is the most Chinese-friendly version of OS X yet, and it's proof that Apple is paying attention to buying trends and reacting accordingly to new market opportunities.

Preview. Know what that is? It's the program that shows PDFs and all of your photos from last year's vacation. And in Mountain Lion, it's getting an update. Preview in Mountain Lion supports Documents in the Cloud so you can access your PDF documents and images from anywhere, and using image analysis, Preview detects areas that are intended for text entry, such as underlining and boxes. You can even add inline notes in a PDF document -- no longer will you need Acrobat Pro. Spiffy!

Surfing Safari -

Safari is going to get even tougher to overlook in Mountain Lion. The new version is just as fast as Chrome in many cases, and it works seamlessly with all of the OS' bells and whistles. Dictation works best in Safari, there's a Share button, it supports an Offline Reading List, and support for swiping between tabs. Moreover, any tabs you have open will automatically be there on your iOS devices thanks to iCloud syncing. It works exactly as you'd expect, and honestly, the add-on list for Safari is making it easier and easier to consider over Firefox or Chrome.

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