At a mere $29.99 from the Mac App Store, it’s easy to argue that OS X Lion is either a great bang for your buck, or an update that doesn’t include enough features to be worth the already-inexpensive cost.We’ve had Lion for a week now, and have a good feel for what sets it apart from previous iterations of Mac OS X.
We’ll break down the most valuable features in Lion so you can decide if it’s right for you.
Everyone is criticising Mission Control for doing away with the conventional grid-based spaces paradigm from before.
Using Mission Control to create different desktops enables you to three-finger-swipe between tasks, instead of using your mouse to click the app icon in your dock every time you want to switch applications.
Each full-screen app gets its own desktop to work with, and in Mission Control settings, you can turn off 'auto-arrange' spaces so you can set things up just how you like them.
Once we started separating tasks like emailing, internet browsing, and instant messaging into separate spaces, it really felt natural swiping between them.
For whatever reason, it's always been a gigantic pain to transfer files between two computers, even if you're connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Little things would always go wrong.
Lion includes a feature called AirDrop, which auto-detects other Macs on your Wi-Fi network. It makes dragging and dropping a file to a friend ultra-simple.
We originally hated Lion's 'natural scrolling,' which reverses scrolling conventions of the past decade.
After a week, we're completely used to it. We won't say that natural scrolling is better, but if you can get used to natural scrolling vertically, it'll make horizontal swiping a lot more intuitive.
Also, three-finger-swipes between spaces has a learning curve, but is ultimately worth it. Once you set up your work spaces, you learn to reflexively switch between them.
Unfortunately, all of Lion's new gestures will likely go unused and unnoticed by the average consumer, unless they accidentally perform one and end up confused. We turned off pinch-to-zoom, three-finger-tap to look up words, and smart-zoom.
Launchpad bets that you'll use apps the same way you do on iPhone, which is straight up wrong.
We never use Launchpad to launch apps. We put our most-used apps in our dock, and Spotlight search anything random we want to use.
One of the primary reasons 'apps' were even invented for iPhones was because using the internet to find things on a 3.5 inch screen was tough.
Apps became the means to accessing information, whether it be a movie showtimes app, dictionary app, mail app, or otherwise. It was all formatted for a small screen.
On a desktop computer, many things are easier accessed through the internet. We don't need the Evernote App for Mac, because the web app is just as good. And if there is an app, like Adium or iChat that we use a lot, we just stick it in our dock.
We enjoy the new minimalist feel to Lion, even if the Exit/Minimize/maximise buttons in the top let corner of every window are smaller and harder to click.
Most bright colours have been eliminated in favour of monochrome shades, which makes the Finder sidebar harder to navigate.
We like the new grey scroll bars (instead of vibrant blue like before). It lets you focus on the web page you're reading. But, we have no idea why Apple reversed scrolling but didn't reverse the scroll bar movement directions.
Several Mac apps have been revamped to look more like their iPhone and iPad counterparts.
The Address Book and iCal get the biggest visual updates, while not much is actually changed function-wise. We're not sure we love the new look, which has a very casual affect to it.
Mail gets the biggest practical update, complete with a unified inbox, threaded messaging, much better email search, and more. If you're a big Mail user, this is an important update.
Safari also gets a pretty nice update which includes the addition of Reading List, a tool for remembering stuff you want to look at later.
If you don a ton of word processing, keynote-making, or spreadsheet work, Lion has a useful built in feature called Auto-Save to make sure you never lose changes you've made again.
Like in iOS, Auto-Save works on Mac apps (and third party apps to come), constantly saving your work so you don't have to.
Since you won't be saving much anymore, Lion has another feature called Versions that lets you go back in time to see your documents in the various stages of its life if you want to make changes.
If you have more than one Mac, purchasing Lion is a no-brainer.
Still don't think there are enough features to warrant the purchase? Click here to see Apple's full list of new features for Lion that will make your life easier.
To us, Lion is definitely worth its asking price. Bringing tons of meticulously tweaked OS adjustments, as well as a sleek new look and interface, Lion's the biggest visual change to OS X we've seen in a while.
But Lion isn't for everyone. Even though it's already very cheap, there's no rush to go out and get it. There's no one 'killer app' or feature in Lion that you'll be bragging about to your friends.
Plus, new features like Auto-Save aren't fully fleshed out yet since Microsoft Office and other third party software products don't yet make use of it.
Power users will find a ton to love in Lion, including little things like QuickTime exporting goodies, low-power-waking for remote access, and integrated iChat accounts.
But for most people, Lion is a luxury they can afford to skip if they don't have the cash.
On a final note, when iCloud debuts in a month or so, maybe it'll be a different story. If keeping files perfectly in sync between your iPad and Mac is a huge deal, that might be the killer app you need.