Numbers 1 – 5:
Auto Save + Versions
Auto-saving a document in a program is nothing new. Microsoft’s Word program has been doing it for years. Free alternatives do it, and so do online competitors such as Google Docs. So why is Apple touting it like they’ve gone and reinvented the wheel? Because this version of auto save goes deeper than ever before.
Unlike other implementations, Mac OS X Lion’s auto save feature is systemwide. As you edit a file in any of the operating system’s native applications (and no doubt several 3rd party apps as developers explore the new OS’ API), Lion saves your progress. There is no ‘Save’ functionality anymore, since everything is saved as you go. Any changes to the document are kept in the same file – there’s no need to make alternate copies. You can, however, hit the Lock button to prevent further changes from being made to the file, at least until it’s unlocked. Moreover, Lion will auto lock every document after two weeks have passed since it was last modified.
Versions is technically a separate feature, but it’s so closely related to auto save that we’ll cover it here. Versions builds upon the versioning system found in Snow Leopard, and seems to be superior to both it and the Shadow Copy functionality found in Windows (though the upcoming Windows 8 promises to bring with it similarly improved tool renamed History Vault). OS X Lion will create a new copy (though still stored within the same single file) of a document every time you open it, and while it’s open, a new copy for every hour you work on it.
Since it’s an operating system-level feature, Versions functionality can be partnered with Auto Save to maintain endless variants of all the files you might be working on. When you want to open an older copy, you can browse through a cascade of files (à la Time Machine) and open the one you want – or just copy a paragraph or picture from it to your current version.
Mac App Store
The Mac App Store has been available for a few months, now; Apple realized it was missing out on an opportunity by waiting for Lion to launch, so they opened Snow Leopard up to the action. During the company’s presentation this week, CEO Steve Jobs made a point of claiming that the Mac App Store has already sold more PC software than markets such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Amazon. It wasn’t made clear, however, whether that included competitors such as Steam, and whether it fully included physical copies of software or just digital downloads.
What is it? It’s an application marketplace, just like the ones you’ll find in iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Users can buy software and install it on all of their “authorized” systems, which generally means a limit of five Mac computers per title per account. So it’s an app store, that’s not so new. What makes it worth mentioning, however, is the fact that it will be the exclusive distributor of Mac OS X Lion. Apple is very clearly putting a line in the sand with regards to physical media and giving control of software to external partners. Lion will be a roughly 4GB download, and Jobs claims that users will be able to install the update without even rebooting their computers. Try to do that with Windows.
Launchpad is perhaps the most obvious influence of Apple’s mobile operating system encroaching upon the traditional computer space. You know the iconic (ha!) layout of programs shown on the iPhone and iPad? That’s now a permanent feature of OS X. To be fair, getting a complete list of applications installed on your Mac can be a bit of a pain as it currently sits. Windows users have long had the Start menu, and both have had run dialogs activated with a couple of keystrokes.
In OS X, however, you have to open up an Applications folder and scroll through the list of programs. Launchpad throws everything up into a neatly spaced grid that you can swipe through using your gesture tracking system of choice. The new system even supports the iOS method of stacking like-minded software into a folder. If you buy an a title from the Mac App Store, it’ll be shoveled into the grid automatically. Launchpad can be activated by clicking an icon in the dock, but there’s a very good chance that Apple will implement some sort of multitouch gesture to bring it up. Which brings us to…
Improved Gesture Recognition
OS X Lion takes the multitouch gestures that were available in Snow Leopard as well as previous OS X iterations and makes them first-class citizens of the OS. Current Mac owners won’t notice too much of a difference, though Apple claims that the gesture recognition and support is smoother than ever, thanks to more responsive software hooks.
Some effects and gestures have come up from iOS, with two-finger swipes now giving rubber-band scrolling, double-tap as well as pinch to zoom in, swipe to navigate, swipe three fingers up to see Mission Control and to the left or right to switch between full-screen applications. Scrollbars are now gone from the system, and appear only when actively scrolling, just like on Apple’s mobile devices.
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