Lion Review / by Goondaba

On July 20th, 2011 OS X and iOS gave birth to Lion, the latest and… latest from the überminds in Cupertino.  There's some cool stuff in the newest update to OS X, but my initial reactions were of the less-than-amused variety.  I thought I'd jot down some of my impressions while using Lion for the first few days; the laughter, the sorrow.

First of all, I installed Lion on the Core 2 Duo aluminum unibody I had lying around.  I thought I'd test Lion out on the lappy before throwing the cat some big, beefy iMac. Alright then, let's get to it.

Day 1

I'm in between like… and rage.  


First of all, the very first thing that happens when you boot into Lion, is this giant dialog shows up telling you, "Hey, we reversed the way scrolling goes. Why? 'Cuz screw you that's why." And of course you can turn off this behavior to go back to the way things were, but you have to un-tick the box that says "natural scrolling" in the trackpad preferences. Meaning the way you like to scroll is unnatural.  Which means they probably ran tests with iPod touch users who had never seen a computer before... users who were dumbfounded by the über tech that is, the TRACKPAD.  So that's just your welcome into the new hotness.


I had to flick a few settings just to get my Finder window functional again.  By default, it throws an item into the side bar called "All My Files" and makes it the default view for new open windows.  "All My Files" is literally… all your files; regardless of where they are on your filesystem.  Who the heck would find that useful? That's why I put crap in folders.  Folders = crap holders.

So I fix that in the preferences.

After getting rid of that, I notice Lion has gracefully removed the bottom of the Finder window showing me the number of items in the current directory and free disk space.   That's useful information; I want to know how much space I have free to load up with lolcats. So to get that back, I have to go up to the View menu and select "Show Status Bar".

So I fix that in the preferences.

And to top it off, my friggin library folder isn't visible, because apparently I shouldn't be messing with that witchcraft.  So to see your library folder, which is totally there, you have to go up to the "Go" menu, (which, what self-respecting user ever goes to ?) hold the option key, and THEN you'll be graciously shown the option to see your own Library folder.  It's like XP where you went to your settings folder and it asked you, "These files are hidden. are you sure you want to see them?"

So I fix that in the… no wait, what? There's no preference for that?! $@#%#*&!


I use spaces all the time on my Snow Leopard iMac.  I like seeing at the top on the menu bar, the number of the screen I'm on.  I also like being able to organize my screens in grids.  I also like being able to go to the spaces preferences and choosing how many spaces there are.  

But apparently I like all the wrong things, because those all went away.  There's no option to show the screen number you're on anywhere; you have to go to the Mission Control app to see that.  And now, you can't organize spaces in grids; you get one long, linear streak of spaces.  I really liked being able to pop around the grid; up, down, diagonally, and in linked-list back-forth. Sigh…


Full-screen Safari is pretty cool.  It feels very snappy and oh man why did they have to mess with my Spaces?!?!

Day 2

Snap to Grid

So this is something relatively minor, but Lion decided to kill my snap-to-grid preference for items on the Desktop.  A simple change in the Desktop view options under the "Arrange By" menu, which Lion now calls the "Sort By" menu.  Because apparently the word "arrange" was too cryptic.


While the Dock doesn't look any different at first, I heard buzz about something having to do with the indicator dots… you know, the little blue dots that show up in the Dock under applications that are running.  Well there's this tick box in the Dock preferences called, "Show indicator lights for open applications".  Why would that option even exist? Well, apparently the default behavior is to NOT show the indicator dots.

As was explained in the very thorough ArsTechnica review (which I strongly suggest you read), when you quit an application, Lion reserves the right to show the application quitting, but keep the application's process alive in the background.  Lion also reserves the right to quit applications it determines you're not using.  So, in a very real sense, those blue dots don't mean as much in Lion.

Individually, these all seem like minor changes.  But all together, Apple seems to be messing with some things that haven't changed in computer-age eons; stuff that hasn't changed since System 1.0.  Things like the concept of a "running" application.  Ah! And messing with the fundamentals brings me to the scrollbars…

Scroll Bars

I don't want to say too much about this, because it seems to have been mentioned in every review I've read thus far, but… the scrollbars.  By default, Lion only shows you the scrollbars when you're scrolling.  This works great on an iPhone, but on a laptop/desktop those scrollbars are indicators of where you are in a document, and the relative size of the document.  If the scrollbars are hidden, then that information is no longer readily available to you. And that's not cool Lion. Not cool.

You can change this by going to the "General" pane (renamed from the "Appearance" pane) in the preferences. By this point, there are quite a few toggles to switch to get the system back to just useable.


Alright, so most of this has been griping so far, but there are changes in Lion that I think have changed for the better.

Lion has some MUCH improved voices to choose from, and I do mean choose.  In Snow Leopard, if you went to the "Speech" pane in preferences to pick a synthesized voice, most of the choices would look familiar to someone who hadn't used a Mac since System 7. But now when you go to pick out some new voices, you're presented with an array of high-quality voices, in different languages and locales.

About this Mac

Selecting "About this Mac" under the Apple menu shows you the same dialog you'd see in Snow Leopard, but the "More info…" button now takes you to "System Information".  It has much of the information that you would have found in "System Profiler" (though if you still want to see the classic profiler with all the additional information, you can click the "System Report" button in this window).

This should prove more useful to people who just want to grab some quick information on their system, but what I like most about this is the added view for Storage.  Now you can view the usage of your storage space by content type, à la iTunes iPhone usage view.

Day 3

Print Dialog

The default print dialog has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.  Actually, I don't have much of a problem with this change.  All the dirty printing details can be gotten to by the "Show Details" button. Making things easier up front, and putting the details another click away; a common theme in Lion.


Okay, now this is a big deal for me. Traditionally, you've been able to hold down the Command (or Apple) key and Tab to cycle through open applications.  If you try that in Lion however, it won't work.

Oh, you'll get the list of open applications alright. But when you then select an application to go to, nothing happens; it doesn't take you to the application you've chosen. Which makes command-tabbing through your applications pointless.  So this is the first thing in Lion I've encountered that actually feels broken.


Front Row

It's not a bother to me really; I knew it was coming.  But just in case you were really fond of Front Row, or "Fronty", as I call him... I regret to inform you that Uncle Steve drove him out to a farm with lots of open space where he could run around forever.


By default, Lion now puts Dashboard into a separate screen within Mission Control, putting it two gestures away from the desktop.  You can restore Dashboard's pre-Lion behavior of fading over the current screen in the preferences for Mission Control.

I don't get the usefulness of burying Dashboard within Mission Control... when I want to use a widget in Dashboard I just want to see some information, and get out in a couple of seconds... kind of like a rest-stop map in a shady state.