At its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, Apple has unveiled the latest version of its desktop operating system, Mac OSX Lion. It packs in a host of new features and a tweaked look, yet is set to cost just £20.99 and will only be available as a download from the App Store. Here, then is the full low down on what you can expect to get for your money.
New Multi-touch Gestures
With all Macbooks now shipping with multi-touch touchpads and desktop Macs having access to the Magic TrackPad, all Macs are now multi-touch ready, so Apple has bolstered these abilities. Now animations are smoother and slicker while some new gestures have also been added. The new gestures include momentum scrolling, pinching or tapping to zoom into webpages and images, and swiping left or right to turn a page or switch between fullscreen apps.
Though it seems crazy to laud such a basic feature, easier access for developers to create fullscreen apps is an important part of OSX Lion, especially as it's integrated into other new features that make it even easier to navigate your Mac.
One such new feature is mission control. This combines Expose, full screen, Dashboard and Spaces to create a sort of super bird's-eye view of the apps you're running. A single gesture opens the mission control view to give you instant access to your open windows - grouped together according to app - thumbnails of fullscreen apps and widgets, and across the top, your Spaces (different desktops). With all the fancy gestures, it's supposed to be very easy to organise and navigate even the busiest desktops.
Built-in App Store
Since launching, the Mac App Store has, according to Apple, become the number one channel for buying Mac software. So, keen to leverage this, Apple has fully integrated the store into Lion. It's also adding in-app purchases, delta updates (you only download changes not full versions of updated apps) push notifications, and a built-in sandboxing mode to aid security. It may be galling to know that you're paying Apple directly simply for the privilege of downloading apps through its app store but at least it will now be even easier to do so.
To make it easy to keep track of all these apps, Launchpad provides a very iOS-like interface for keeping things organised. You can have multiple pages of apps arranged in any order you like, and put them into themed folders as well. It's nothing ground breaking but adds further to the slick and easy-to-use appeal of the App Store concept.
Taking a leaf out of mobile phone OS design, Resume automatically stores everything that you were doing in an app prior to shutting it down. So when you open it back up, everything's exactly as you left it, right down to the text you had highlighted. It works system-wide and completely automatically.
Yes, it does what it says on the tin but there's more too. As well as providing a system-wide auto-save feature, you'll be able to call up old versions of files through a very slick looking interface, easily duplicate them, or even turn off auto-save if you so desire. You can copy and paste between different versions and generally just have a ball going back and forth through (virtual) time. What's more, only the deltas are save, so you don't end up with hundreds of the same file.
Air drop automatically detects any nearby Macs and allows you to instnatly setup an ad-hoc peer-to-peer wireless network so that you can exchange files. Again, it's no revelation but it saves you having to grab a USB stick or having to signup to an alternative cloud-based sharing service just to swap a few files.
The default Mail app has been given a complete overhaul with it taking on a more iOs style interface. You can arrange emails into conversations, with repeated text automatically hidden and pictures and other attachments shown as they were orignially sent, making it much easier to keep track of a conversation and all the key information exchanged within it. Microsoft Exchange 2010 support is also buit in, while there's also a new search that will suggest results by person, subject or label as you type - again like iOS.
All told, there's nothing wildly revolutionary here but Apple has certainly demonstrated it is staying ahead of the curve, plus there are apparently another 240 tweaks and additions that make up the full update. So while we were enthused by what Microsoft revealed about Windows 8 a few days ago, Apple has shown it'll take more than a few live tiles for Windows to fully catch up to the slick user experience Macs offer. Moreover, with Apple charging just £20.99 for this update, Microsoft may even have to rethink its entire business model.
What are your thoughts on the updates? Excited? Non plussed? Let us know in the comments.
Also, stay tuned for more news on the latest iOS and iCloud updates.