T3 is the only UK magazine to have time with Apple’s new big cat, OS X Mountain Lion, before it went on sale...
Apple OS X Mountain Lion is the ninth operating system since OS X was launched, following on from 2011's OS X Lion. While Microsoft is readying its Windows 8 software, Apple seems to be switching to annual upgrades – at low prices. You can get your paws on Mountain Lion for £13.99 and put it on all the Macs in your household.
OS X Mountain Lion: Updates
Buying and installing Apple Mountain Lion is quick and painless. It’s available as a digital download only through the Mac App Store. Once you’ve bought it, it downloads and installs in well under an hour and with minimal involvement.
Once you’ve downloaded it, you can go back to the Mac App Store on another Mac, log in with the same Apple ID and there is Mountain Lion, ready to be downloaded again from the Purchases section of the store.
OS X Mountain Lion: Features
There are 200 new features in Mountain Lion, including some big changes. Like Power Nap, available for selected Macs which use flash rather than hard drive storage. It’s a very clever thing indeed, allowing you to make the Mac work while you sleep.
When the MacBook Air, say, is powered off, it will turn on periodically during the night, in silence, and check for emails, messages and more. If it’s plugged in, it’ll even download software updates, so you can install them in the morning.
OS X Mountain Lion: Vs iOS
This update also sees a greater affinity between iOS and OS X. So Notes, Game Center, Notification Center and Reminders all arrive on the computer in Mountain Lion. Microsoft seems to be bringing its mobile and PC software together in a similar way, incidentally.
And while there’s no Siri in this computer OS, there is Dictation. Tap the Function key twice and speak to dictate wherever you can use the keyboard, so in documents, emails, text boxes and more. Including Messages. Messages is the Mac version of iMessage, the iOS function (See what we mean, it’s like they’re becoming the same thing. What next? Will they get married?).
This is the feature which lets iPhone and iPad users send free messages to each other. Messages has been available for a few months as a downloadable beta but this is the finished product and dictating these messages is particularly satisfying.
Unlike some dictation apps on mobile phones, you can pause while you compose your immortal prose without the microphone cutting out quickly. Note that to dictate you have to have an internet connection, so it doesn’t entirely replace built-in options like Dragon Dictation.
There’s also a very cool feature called Sharing so that by clicking on the sharing icon you can easily send web pages by email, or photos to Twitter. We’ve only occasionally felt the need for something like this, but because it’s so integrated and snazzily done, it is likely to become a regularly used feature.
OS X Mountain Lion: Performance
The Safari browser, which also includes the Sharing button, is one of the clearest signs of Mountain Lion’s improved performance. This was never a slow browser especially, but it seems to fly now.
There’s also added functionality from the fact that browser tabs are now saved to iCloud, so the site you were surfing on the iPhone while commuting appears on your home computer when you fire it up. And now iCloud ensures your Notes, Reminders and more are all kept up to date across multiple devices. You can also type a search term into the URL box – something Firefox has had for a long time…
Overall, there seems to be a speed boost with Mountain Lion, though it’s really the extra features that make the software gleam.
OS X Mountain Lion: Verdict
If OS X Mountain Lion was a cuddly but unexceptional beast, at this price it would still be worth having. But the truth is it’s a powerful and worthwhile upgrade with lots of nifty features and improvements. Sure, it would be great if neat functions like Power Nap were available on all Macs, not just Flash Drive storage models.
But there’s still lots to enjoy on every compatible machine. The ongoing sewing together of iOS and OS X is to be welcomed, and the integration of iCloud to keep all your Apple products up to speed is particularly good.
OS X Mountain Lion availability: Available now
OS X Mountain Lion price: £13.99