Apple OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) Review

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Meshing With iOS

Apple's forging ahead with plans to make OS X look a lot like iOS in as many ways as possible. That's something that can be looked at a couple of ways. One person might say that integrating the two as closely as possible will make life easier for those sucked up in the ecosystems; others may ask why OS X is catering more to average users instead of loyal power users that have supported the brand through less appealing years. We'll break down some of the most notable iOS / OS X meeting points below.

Socially Acceptable -

Touching back on social networking, there's innate Facebook integration coming this fall. Much like Twitter in iOS 5, Facebook is getting ultra-tight integration in iOS 6. So, too, is the integration in OS X 10.8. Once it's live, you'll sign in once and your Mac is all set up to share even easier to Facebook, right from your apps.It sets up Notification Center and Contacts to work with Facebook, and you can post to Facebook without signing in again. When you are signed in to Facebook, you can see your Facebook notifications in Notification Center, which is admittedly super convenient and it works great in practice. We'll once again yearn for even more services to be integrated like this, but perhaps that'll be the case in OS X 10.9.

Game on!

It's hard to believe that people now take Apple and gaming seriously. Back in the PowerPC years, practically no PC title was ported to Mac. The hardware was too weak, and the software just wasn't optimized for high frame rates. Look at where things stand today. Apple is crushing the likes of Sony and Nintendo on the handheld gaming market, with the iPod touch, iPad and iPhone all acting as fantastic gaming devices with an App Store teeming with brilliant (and affordable) gaming titles. Even AAA titles from legendary app producers are there. And interestingly enough, that trend is making its way to the Mac, too.

Game Center is now front and center on the Mac after making a name for itself on iOS. It's really the same UI, the same look and feel, and you can use the same Apple ID to bring a lot of the same iOS vibes to the Mac. If you've been looking for a great way to game on your laptop or desktop Mac, this is it. You'll be able to browser the Mac App Store's gaming section for loads of fantastic options -- and it's growing by the day. The fit and finish of using Game Center as a gaming hub is great, but again, some may object to the fact that Apple's pulling things together into a tight, neat little bundle as it has in iOS. We appreciate the neatness, but worry that OS X may be becoming a bit too much like iOS in some regards. A tablet isn't a desktop, as Apple would agree to, but the software cues sometimes paint a different picture.

Wait A Minute Mr. Postman -

As for Mail, Apple's built-in e-mailing tool, there are some pretty great updates here as well. Wondering why we're talking about them here? Because the lion's share of the changes come from iOS. The same VIPs that will impact iOS 6 are here now in OS X 10.8 -- you can sort your messages by importance based on who you deem a VIP. When new mail arrives, you receive notifications by default. You can also choose to be notified when VIPs send you messages, when messages arrive in a certain mailbox, or when you get a message from a particular person in Contacts. Better still, whatever VIPs you setup in Mountain Lion, they'll be pushed to the cloud and will impact your iOS 6 devices without any extra configuration. Again, we'll praise these changes, but bemoan the fact that the VIPs and such won't work with third-party mail apps. Not necessarily Apple's fault, by any means, but still.

Instant Messaging, Instant Gratification -

Speaking of iOS-related changes, there's Messages. While available for a short while as a beta for OS X 10.7, this app is now finely polished and ready to rock in Mountain Lion. Put simply, it's replacing iChat, and it allows you to send messages to anyone who has an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 5 or later, or a Mac with Mountain Lion. Aside from just words (with no character limit), you can send high-quality photos, full HD video, or documents up to 100MB. Messages supports the traditional instant messaging services supported by iChat, including AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber, too. If you're used to iMessage, one neat feature is the ability to iMessage an iPhone user even while on an Internet-equipped airplane. It's as if they're texting you, and you can receive the message since it'll come through via data on Messages. Pretty handy.

Make a Note of It -

Avid iOS users probably know Notes quite well. Now, it's on your Mac, and even better, Notes are transferred seamlessly between iOS and Mac devices courtesy of iCloud. Start a note on your Mac, and finish it on your iPad. You can also arrange Notes in folders, add URLs, add photos / attachments, change the font and formatting, and even pin notes to your desktop for easy access. In use, we found this incredibly handy as a to-do list, particularly for users of iPad and iPhone. Having things synced all around was incredible. Think of something while on your Mac? Just jot it on a Note, and it'll be there on your phone when you leave the office.

Perhaps the best iOS feature brought onto the Mac is Notification Center. Folks who have used Growl, an excellent third-party notifier app, will find a ton of similarities. But Notification Center has tons of customization options, much like the edition found in iOS currently. Notification Center consolidates notifications from Messages, Calendar, Mail, Reminders, and third-party apps in one convenient place. Basically, it acts as a hub where real-time streams of information hit you. Thankfully, it's easy to disable, and it's easy to customize so the streams of notifications aren't entirely overwhelming. We're also guessing that having this so nearby will encourage people to update their Facebook statuses and tweet more. It's just so easy to get to, it'll make real-time sharing of brain waves that much easier.

Whereas Notification Center alerts you to things in the here and now, Reminders is there to keep you on the ball when it comes to appointments. Yes, this is the same Reminders you've come to know in iOS, and yes, you can bet Reminders sync between platforms via iCloud. You can create a reminder on your phone, and it'll alert you on your Mac (or vice-versa). You can also create Reminder lists, add due dates, arrange priorities, search Reminders, mark tasks as complete and even view your reminder alerts in Notification Center. In practice, it works just as it does on iOS, which is to say: "it works great." After a bit of use, we found ourselves using Dictation to verbally add Reminders to our Mac, just because we knew they'd be synced with our iPhone.

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