Sarah Parmenter, web designer and director of design studio You Know Who, gives us the low down on the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion upgrade. Is it worth it?
The anticipated OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion has now hit the app store and is eagerly being downloaded by many. I noticed on my Twitter feed however, that many people were choosing to hold off on the upgrade, for at least a few weeks, until they could confirm there were no glitches with existing software crucial to our workflow. Call me stupid, irresponsible or just throwing caution to the wind because I had a backup Macbook air should things go really wrong, but I excitedly installed Mountain Lion the moment it was available. Despite having a developer licence enabling me to get hold of the beta version months ago, this was one of the few releases that I chose to wait for.
After the 30 minute installation time for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, I was initially worried about how my go-to suite of apps would perform on the upgraded software. Immediately though, I noticed a performance difference. It's worth bearing in mind that I'm on a beefed-up 27in iMac with an SSD for the OS and all my other files are on a regular hard drive - so it's possible this was partially why I saw significant rise in performance and speediness of apps opening, however I've noticed other users praising performance enhancements too.
As a designer, you'll be pleased to hear that over the last 24 hours of having Mountain Lion installed, the only casualty I've had is my favourite Fliqlo Screensaver. I'm running Adobe CS6 from the Creative Cloud by Adobe and I can happily report no issues with Photoshop CS6, Illustrator CS6, Fireworks or InDesign CS6. The other enhancements to the operating system have gone reasonably unnoticed in my everyday workflow, which I'm not sure is a good thing or not.
Making the desktop more iOS-like is an interesting one for me. Many people know I sit firmly in the iOS camp when it comes to specialising in what I do, however the main issue I have is interruptions.
We all have enough interruptions during our workday and one of the things I like most about iOS6 "Do not Disturb" feature, allowing you to silence notifications quickly and at night. Mountain Lion seems full of ways to distract you rather than focus. The default is to ping you notifications about everything: Mail, changes to Calendar, @replies on Twitter, app updates and we can later look forward to notifications about friends 'sneezing' on Facebook, when that integration comes later this year. This is the feature I'll use the least and customise the most, I fear.
Not all app upgrades are relevant
The other apps that have been ported across from iOS, Reminders and Notes, aren't apps that I've used on either iOS or OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion - but mainly because I already had my own third-party apps that I'm more than happy with. I rarely use Notes for anything useful anyway (unless noting down what friends want from the local takeaway on a Friday night counts, and I don't need that sync'd across all my devices), and I already use Flow for any reminders or work-related to-do lists, so both of these, for me personally, are redundant. It's worth mentioning, though, that Address book has now been renamed to "Contacts" in line with iOS.
This is part of OS X that I always use with trepidation, after MobileMe's equivalent tainting my view on how good the storage facility is, and with Mountain Lion it's unfortunately no different.
The basic principle is that it saves your documents into the Cloud without you really having to do an awful lot, but the thing that frustrates me in its usage is, especially for those of us who have been used to Dropbox for years and having a central control point, there is no central 'folder' that you can use to remove and add files to your 'Cloud', making the word 'Cloud' even more ambiguous than it already sounds. The only thing I'll be using it for is a backup for documents I forget to save - I'll be sticking with Dropbox.
I did download the beta of this prior to the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion upgrade. I hated it, but then it was very buggy for me. I'm still not a fan.
I love the ease of being able to ping my friends quickly and use a keyboard for texting but the security and privacy of it worries me. I tried a few experiments to see the behaviour of Messages. If you delete a message on your phone and then receive a reply, it pings to Messages app if you have it open, and also pings the message you thought you had deleted. The foundations of this one still seem a little shaky, and I'm not sure about blurring the line between instant messaging and SMS, SMS is now iMessage but only if the other user is on an iPhone, iMessage is now Messages and AIM is now Messages too.
I've actually found myself using What's App over iMessage/Messages recently anyway, I prefer the UX of being able to see if someone has been online and seen my message and when they are active on their phone.
Safari and integration with other services
Noticeable speed improvements in Safari were welcomed, had I not switched to Chrome months ago. The ability to post to other sites in one click is quite nice though, however many of the additional improvements that rely on external services for Mountain Lion are hidden away in the not-so obvious 'Mail, Contacts & Calendars' in Settings.
Here you can configure the likes of Flickr, Twitter and, later in the year, Facebook - in order to share content seamlessly across these services. iCloud also comes into play here, allowing open tabs to be pushed to other devices - again, I'm not sure how much I will use this, as I tend to browse different things on different devices.
When opening files with quick look (pressing spacebar on any file) there's a nice new feature in the top right that allows you to share the document across any of the services already set up for integration from 'Mail, Contacts & Calendars'.
There have been some nice upgrades to AirPlay, especially if you own an Apple TV or the likes of SONOS - if you ALT+Click on the Sound icon in the top menu bar of the OS, you get additional options available to push what you're listening to, to your Apple TV or speaker system. You can also push what's being seen on your screen to an HDTV using Apple TV - I can imagine this could be quite cool for schools and conference/workshop situations.
I can't really comment on the changes here as I've been using Sparrow however, noticeable differences include VIPs for indication on important messages from contacts, similar to Gmail labels, better organisational tools such as searching and smart mailbox improvements, but overall, it's the Mail.app many of you all know and love.
As a designer, I've been more excited by improvements to the Adobe Suite than to Mountain Lion. There are some really nice performance improvements, but most noticeably the enhancements mainly appear to be around integration of popular third-party services and making the line between iOS and Desktop OS a little more blurry.
After using it for a day, and on a day with particularly stressful deadlines where I was switching between HTML editors and heavy Photoshop work, there's been nothing wrong but equally nothing that has specifically aided me with my day-to-day work either, aside from the performance enhancements.
Mountain Lion isn't going to blow your socks off; it's a nice upgrade and, for the snip of £13.99, certainly reasonably priced - but don't expect too much, especially if you're a fan of some of the popular third-party apps, it will feel like not a lot has changed.
Written by Sarah Parmenter
Have you gone for the upgrade? What's your verdict? Let us know in the comments box below!