September 24, 2020

State of the Art: Upgrading to Lion Means Embracing the iPad

In Mac OS X 10.7, known as Lion, Apple went with the “shake things up” philosophy. It follows an old Apple pattern of embracing what’s cool and progressive, and ruthlessly jettisoning what it considers antiquated. That’s great if you love stuff that’s cool and progressive, and not so great if you hate people moving your cheese.

Even the way you install Lion is radical; starting immediately, you can download it from the Mac App store for $30. You can’t buy it on disc or in a box. It’s a 4-gigabyte download. If your Internet connection is too slow, or your monthly Internet plan data caps too restrictive, you can download it at an Apple store, or buy it on a USB flash drive in late August. (I’m writing a handbook to Mac OS X Lion.)

There are some very attractive elements to the download-only system. No serial numbers to type in. No family plans to buy; your $30 covers as many Macs as you own. No discs to store and hunt down later; if you ever need to reinstall, you just re-download the latest version. (Lion requires a post-2006 Mac with Mac OS X Snow Leopard installed.)

If the Lion upgrade is about any one thing, it’s about the iPad.

What made the iPad a mega-hit? Two factors, really. Factor 1: simplicity. No overlapping windows; every app runs full screen. No Save command; everything’s autosaved. No files or folders. No menus. All your apps are in one place, the Home screen.

Factor 2: the multitouch screen. You cycle through screens by swiping the glass, zoom out by pinching and rotate something by twisting two fingers.

In Lion, Apple has gone as far as it can go to bring those factors to the Mac.

Full-screen mode makes a program fill the screen, edge to edge, without any scroll bars, menus or other window-edge clutter. It’s refreshing and useful, especially on laptops, because your screen feels so much bigger.

Autosave spares your having to remember to hit Save as you work. New commands in the title bar can rewind your document to an earlier state, lock it in one version or spin off a copy that you want to take in a different direction.

There’s even a new program, Launchpad, a clone of the iPad’s Home screen, with evenly spaced app icons, on swipeable pages, that open with one click.

And what about Factor 2, the touch screen?

Touch-screen computers don’t work. There, I said it. Spending the day with your arm outstretched, manipulating tiny controls on a vertical surface is awkward and exhausting. The ache you feel later is not-so-affectionately known as Gorilla Arm.

Apple has built what it considers a better solution, a horizontal multitouch surface. That’s the trackpad of its laptops, and the top surface of its current mouse.

In Lion, there are iPad-like multitouch gestures. Pinch four fingers to open Launchpad. Twist two to rotate. Swipe up with three fingers to open Mission Control, a clickable constellation of thumbnails that show all open programs and windows. And so on.

Warning: you scroll a page up by dragging two fingers up, as on the iPad. It makes sense; after all, you scroll the screen left by dragging left, and right to go right. But it takes a couple days to stop scrolling the wrong direction, as we’ve been doing for decades.

Does the iPadization of the Mac succeed? There’s good news, bad news and then good news.

The good news is that once you learn all of this stuff, it does work. Swiping sideways with three fingers takes you from one full-screen app to the next, animated as though someone’s dealing full-screen cards. Launchpad would be a better fit for technophobes if it were always there waiting, and not a program you have to open manually every time; but otherwise, the Lion makeover is fluid and satisfying.

E-mail: pogue@nytimes.com

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=9cc947119801784f57c47a558c564372

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