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10 Reasons to upgrade to OS X Lion: The ultimate guide

Find out why you should upgrade to Apple's new operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, today. Find out more about features like Launchpad, Mission Control, Resume, Versions, Autosave and so much more.

Mission Control in OS X Lion

Mac OS X Lion, Apple’s latest operating system, is available to buy and download from the Mac App Store now. Released today, the latest operating system for Mac includes a staggering 250 new features, including easy file sharing with AirDrop, improved security with FileVault, and quick app launching with Launchpad, to name but a few. On top of this, Apple have also given a whole new lease of life to essential OS X programmes like iCal and Mail. If you’re thinking of upgrading to Lion, and the amazing £20.99 price tag isn’t quite swaying you, read on for our guide to the top 10 reasons to upgrade to OS X Lion.

Mission Control in OS X Lion
Mission Control in OS X Lion bringing - together the best of Space and Exposé

1. Control your desktop with Mission Control
Mission Control amalgamates the Spaces and Expose elements of Snow Leopard. There is a much greater fluidity about this system as not only can you view all of your open windows and spaces but you can customise on the fly.

In Snow Leopard you had to enable spaces and then use System Preferences to add, remove and assign spaces. In Lion, you can add and remove a space any time you like. What’s more, your full-screen apps remain in a whole space and an extra space is added for the one you’ve lost. A drawback to this system is that it’s completely linear. You can only move side to side. There is no up or down as there was in the old Spaces system, and this does mean that if you’re not a fan of the keyboard shortcuts you could spend a lot of time swiping through screens. Having said that, as a complete solution it’s much better as a combined system.

To access Mission Control, a simple upward swipe using four fingers will do the trick (or assign another gesture… but more on that later).

Launchpad in OS X Lion
2. Find, organise, and launch apps with Launchpad
In Lion, Apple has taken a leaf out of the iPhone and iPad book and created a system based on the familiar home screen from iOS. Using the Launchpad app, which is reachable using a dock icon or an assignable gesture, you can group apps in folders just as you can on iOS. You can also create and swipe through home screens like you can on iOS and of course a single click will launch the app in question.

There’s the option to have the folder arrangements translate to the Finder so that when you use a Finder window to locate an app, you still get the benefit of the logic you’ve used in Launchpad. If this was a standalone system, we’d find it a little irksome, but as part of a system that still lets you launch apps from the dock, Finder and Spotlight, it can be useful.

3. Using Resume to power up to the perfect desktop setup
At first we considered the ability to have OS X remember open windows a little odd. We’ve always had login items and those people who want apps to open on power up simply added them to a list. The Resume function admittedly negates the need for this but we’ve always been accustomed to closing all apps before shutting down. So, that’s where the difference now lies.

Apple doesn’t expect you to shut down an awful lot any more, the new MacBook Air is designed to operate a lot more like an iPad, where the shut down is actually more like sleeping – given that it boots so fast. So rather than seeing powering down as this long, arduous process that we all consider carefully, we are supposed to be free with it just shutting down and powering up without even closing windows or apps. The Resume function can be disabled by unchecking a tickbox on the shut down screen. If you have a steady workflow and like to be uber-organised the Resume function can be really handy, especially when upgrading apps that require a restart.

4. Never lose a file again with Autosave
Loads of apps have autosave, it’s a system that has been around for ages to prevent loss of data from system crashes. As part of the unification of iOS and OS X, Apple believes that the same simplicity when it comes to document creation should apply to the home computer. We don’t have file directories on the iPad so why bother people with them in OS X? If all documents are autosaved you simple resume editing a previously opened document or create a new one – who cares where it exists?

Okay, we don’t believe in that. File systems, folders, structure and searchability are the bedrock of a proper operating system for us, but we can see how those migrating from iPad to Mac will find the system useful. The difference for the experienced user is that the ‘Save As’ function has now been replaced by a ‘Duplicate’ function that works in the same way. There may come a day when pressing Apple+S won’t be second nature.

Versions in OS X Lion5. Rescue documents with Versions
This system ties into the AutoSave feature and provides a very cool Time Machine-like backup of all your changes to a document. We thought it would be a little poor, but it really does work and can be incredibly useful.

To access the system you simply click on the ‘revert to saved’ option in the File menu and then the familiar Time Machine-style window appears. You can then flick through past versions as you would past backups in Time Machine. The system, like Time Machine, only saves the changes you make, which in theory means it doesn’t take a lot of hard drive space. Unfortunately we can’t say for sure that this is true but no doubt in good time we’ll find out. As a system it’s excellent; the graphical elements make it understandable and accessable for all.

Yet another great addition to Lion, Versions takes the fear out of document creation for those worried about files and backups. Most users will no doubt find that it’s a feature they pay no attention to for a couple of months but will suddenly be in its debt when they need to go back to an older version of a file.

Click through to page two for five more great reasons to upgrade to OS X Lion today!