GADGET WATCH: OS X Mountain Lion

Apple users have been used to seeing an updated version of OS X every year now, and Mountain Lion is the tech giant’s latest effort.

There’s no doubt it brings a suite of new features, but some commentators suggest some of these additions aren’t helping usability. OS X has been Apple’s flagship for years now – how does the latest version stack up?

Hardware and Features

Mountain Lion is the ninth major release of OS X, and includes some features taken from iOS including Notes, Reminders, and Messages, which replaces the previous iChat program.

Other features include the Game Center, a Notification Center similar to that used in iOS, a new version of Safari 6, and changes to Time Machine which allow rotating backups on more than one medium.

Other updates include AirPlay Mirroring, integration with Twitter, and full iCloud library integration. Some minor changes include a new look for the Dock, and a Spotlight functionality for Launchpad.

What’s the consensus?

One of the biggest changes in this version of OS X is the Notification Center. Just like in iOS, notifications will now pop on the screen for various apps, along with a drop-down try on the right side of the screen.

MG Siegler over at TechCrunch says while there aren’t too many third-party apps that are using the notifications just yet, the ones that do are working well – especially Twitter.

“If you sign in (from the settings) with your Twitter account, you can now get notifications every time someone @replies you or DMs you. It’s fantastic,” he said.

Facebook is also set to be built in, although that feature won’t be included until later this year.

Over at Engadget, the reception was similar, noting the different notifications can be changed depending on your preferences.

“Notifications are a truly handy addition that should fit quite comfortably into most people’s workflows. They never felt particularly intrusive to us (especially since they disappear after a few seconds), but again, on days when you can’t handle Twitter screaming for your attention, tuning out is as simple as rejiggering the settings.”

The next major change is Messages, which replaces iChat and includes the ability for users to send iMessages to everyone using an iOS device – or a Mac.

There isn’t much to this one, with Engadget noting that compared to the other inclusions from iOS, “Messages is arguably the most comfortable fit”.

At TechRadar, the new version of Safari also received some praise – with more than 200 new features. It welcomed an addition to Reading List that actually allows people to read pages while offline, after downloading a copy of the page.

It also praised the iCloud button, but said the Tab View was a “mystifyingly impractical addition”.

“The basic idea is sound: show a graphical preview of the tabs that are open, so you can more quickly find the one you want. It just doesn’t work very well, purely because the previews are arranged in a row, and you can only see the current tab and part of the two adjacent to it at any time.”

One major change, the share button, received some praise, with TechRadar noting it allows you to post links to Twitter or iMessage. It also noted that you can include a rich-text rendering of a page based on how the Reader feature will display it.

“The latter is very useful, because only the dominant – and presumably important – content from the page is shared. The text is formatted so that it will wrap better on the recipient’s device. It’s trivial to remove pictures to keep the size of the email down. The text automatically reflows to fit.”

Eager Mac users should also check the review over at ArsTechnica – which comes in at over 20,000 words. The site regularly hosts expansive reviews of the OS X updates, and this is no exception. IT covers every single feature of the OS.

Who’s it for?

The short answer – everyone. While Mountain Lion has its little quirks, there’s really no reason any OS X user shouldn’t upgrade if their computer is eligible.

And if you’ve bought one of the new Mac computers that doesn’t come with Mountain Lion, then you even get a free upgrade. But the offer ends during August, so you’ll have to be quick.

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