Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Review

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After its release date was announced one month earlier at Apple’s annual 2012 Worldwide Developer Conference, Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is finally here. Released July 25, 2012 with 200 new features, Mountain Lion brings many native iOS features found on Apple iOS devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, to the Mac.

How to Upgrade

Since the new 2012 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and MacBook Pro with Retina Display models were released a month earlier than Mountain Lion, you will have to upgrade from a previous Mac OS X operating system. Also, customers who purchase a qualifying new Mac computer from the Apple Online Store, an Apple Retail Store or an Apple Authorized Reseller on or after July 26, 2012 can upgrade to Mac OS X Mountain Lion for free. If you don’t fall under the circumstances above, you can purchase Mac OS X Mountain Lion for $19.99 from the Mac App Store.

The first thing you want to do before you upgrade is to make sure your Mac computer is supported. Your Mac must be one of the following models:

  • iMac (mid-2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (late 2008 Aluminum or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (mid/late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (early 2009)

If you’re running Mac OS X Lion, you can find out if your current Mac meets the system requirements for Mountain Lion by clicking the Apple icon at the top left of your screen, choosing “About This Mac” and then clicking “More Info.”

The next step after confirming that your Mac computer is supported is to make sure your Mac is running the latest version of Mac OS X 10.7.x Lion or Mac OS 10.6.8 Snow Leopard. If you’re not, you will need to click on the Apple icon at the top left of your screen and choose “Software Update” in order to install the latest version.

After you’ve confirmed that your Mac is a supported model and has the latest version of Lion or Snow Leopard installed, it’s time to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. To do so, open the Mac App Store to purchase and download Mountain Lion. After it has been downloaded, just follow the onscreen instructions to install it.

If you don’t have a broadband Internet connection (the download is about 4GB) or don't feel comfortable installing the OS yourself, you can visit any Apple Retail Store for assistance.

What’s New

iCloud

Once you’ve installed Mountain Lion, your Mac will restart and then ask you to sign into iCloud with your Apple ID. After you do, you’ll be able to keep track of Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Messages, FaceTime, Game Center, Safari, Reminders, iTunes, Notes and the Mac App Store. You can also customize which apps you want to use iCloud with. For more information on how to set up iCloud, please click here.

You can also access the iCloud Document Library, which is a convenient and consistent way of accessing your iCloud documents across all your Mac computers and iOS devices. For example, if you’re using Pages, you can see all your iCloud Pages documents with the most recent one on top. The iCloud Document Library also includes Share sheets for Messages, AirDrop and Mail so you can share documents stored in iCloud.

In the iCloud Document Library, you can view your iCloud documents as icons or as an ordered list. In list view, you can sort documents by name, file size or date modified. In icon view, you can scroll down to reveal options for sorting by date or name. You can also organize documents into folders by dragging one document onto another, just like you would on an iPhone or iPad. Folders you create on one device automatically appear in the iCloud Document Library. When you open an app on any device, you’ll see your iCloud document folders for that particular app.

Reminders

One of many iOS apps to make their way to the Mac, Reminders organizes your life by allowing you to make lists and set due dates, priority levels and alerts as deadlines approach. If you need to find a certain reminder, you can use the search field to quickly access it. You can even set a location from your Mac and your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch will remind you when you get there. Checking off items on your lists as you complete them will help keep track of your progress. If you have iCloud set up, it will push all your reminders to your Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod touch so you don’t forget anything.

Notes

Another iOS app to make the jump to the Mac is Notes. It does exactly as its name suggests, allowing you to jot down anything that comes to mind. You can even make notes with photos, URLs and attachments, and you can add, delete and flip through your notes or just do a quick search if you know what you’re looking for. You can also pin important notes to your desktop so you don’t forget about them and take them with you on your other Apple devices via iCloud. A new Share button allows you to send your notes via the Mail or Messages app.

Messages

While it’s a bit saddening that iChat has been phased out a month before its tenth year, it’s been replaced with a more user-friendly app, Messages. Now supporting Apple’s messaging system, iMessage, the app enables you to chat with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users running iOS 5 or later, as well as other Mac users running Mountain Lion. iMessage can send messages to a phone number connected to an iPhone or an email address associated with an Apple ID.

The Messages app has an intuitive design that makes it easy to follow conversations. Current conversations are listed on the right while ongoing chats are on the left, with the most recent on top. The Messages app stores your message history so that you can pick up a conversation right where you left off, even if you accidentally close the chat window. To start a conversation, just start typing a friend’s name in the “To” field and Messages will work with Contacts to auto complete it. Make sure you’ve connected Contacts to iCloud to ensure all your friends’ contact information is available on all your Apple devices. You can use the search field to quickly find certain messages and go full-screen to take advantage of your Mac computer’s display.

After you’ve sent an iMessage, Messages will tell you when it has been delivered using delivery receipts. You can also let friends know that you’ve read their messages by turning on read receipts in the preferences of Messages. If your friends also have read receipts turned on, you can see when they’ve read your messages as well. There is also a typing indicator, which is displayed in the form of ellipses, so you know when your friend is about to send you a message. You can also send messages to a group. Just type each name in the “To” field to send a group message. When someone sends a message, everyone in the group can see it. You can also switch from a conversation to a video call from the Messages app. Just click the FaceTime button to open the FaceTime app and initiate a video call with a friend.

iMessages appear on your Mac and any other iOS device that you use, which means you can start a conversation on your Mac and continue it on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch without skipping a beat. If you’re worried about security, iMessage uses end-to-end encryption so all your conversations are safe and secure. The Messages app allows you to send high quality photos, full HD video and documents. iMessage supports attachments of up to 100MB. While the Messages app is primarily used for iMessage, it also supports third-party instant messaging services, such as AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo and Jabber. This way, you’ll be able to chat with friends who do not own an Apple device.

Notification Center

One thing sorely missed on the Mac that was available on Apple iOS devices was the Notification Center. Now available through Mountain Lion, it enables you to stay on top of every email, message, calendar alert and software update as they come through. Notification Center is located at the top right of the screen, taking over Spotlight’s original spot. Don’t worry. Spotlight is still there, too.

There are two different types of notifications that pop up while you’re on your Mac. Banner notifications appear in the upper-right corner of the screen and slide away into the Notification Center after 5 seconds. You can click on the banner to go directly to the app. Alert notifications also appear in the upper-right corner of the screen, but remain there until you click Close. To go to the app, click Show.

You can customize your notifications in System Preferences to meet your needs. You can select which apps send you notifications, the order in which you see them, how many recent items appear and whether you receive a banner or an alert. Also, notifications won’t interrupt you when you’re doing something important. For example, they're automatically disabled while you’re in Keynote. They also won’t appear if your display is mirrored on an external monitor.

If you have an Apple trackpad, you can access the Notification Center, even if you’re in a full-screen app. Use a two-finger swipe from the right edge of the trackpad and the Notification Center slides in from the right; just swipe back to hide it when you’re done. If you just have a mouse, you can click on the Notification Center icon on the upper-right corner of your screen to access the app, and click the icon again to close it. You can also send tweets to Twitter or update your status on Facebook (Facebook integration coming this fall) from Notification Center.

Power Nap

If your Mac has built-in flash storage (i.e., MacBook Pro with Retina Display models), it will be able to take advantage of Power Nap, which allows your Mac to get things done while in sleep mode. With Power Nap, your Mac will periodically update Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Notes, Photo Stream, Find My Mac and Documents in the Cloud, all while in a power-saving sleep mode. Power Nap can also download software updates and make backups with Time Machine. When updating in sleep mode, the system sounds are muted and no lights or fans are on to disturb you. After your Mac wakes up, it’ll be updated and ready to go.

Dictation

While it’s not quite Siri, Dictation allows you to talk anywhere you can type. It converts your words into text using the built-in microphone of your Mac. There are several options for using Dictation. The first way is to open a text field and turn Dictation on. Another way is to use the keyboard shortcut (press the Function key twice). The last way is to choose Dictation from the Edit menu of any app. Dictation works with any OS X app.

When you say words like “comma” or “exclamation point,” Dictation applies the appropriate punctuation for you. Also, the more you use Dictation, the smarter it gets. It learns voice characteristics and also recognizes people in your Contacts, so it enters names accurately. Dictation supports English (U.S., UK and Australia), French, German and Japanese.

The Share Button

With Mac OS X Mountain Lion, you’ll find the addition of the new Share button. Available on most native Apple apps, it lets you share photos, videos, documents and links via Mail, Messages and AirDrop. Also, you’ll be able to post straight to Twitter, Flickr and Vimeo after you’ve signed in once and set up your accounts (Facebook integration coming this fall). Share sheets appear in the app you’re using so you can share quickly and easily without having to switch to another app or drag in a file.

Twitter

Twitter is now integrated into your favorite Apple apps in Mac OS X Mountain Lion. Just sign in once in Settings and you’ll be able to tweet from directly from the app you’re in. You can be signed into multiple Twitter accounts—just make sure you’re tweeting from the right account. When you sign in, the Contacts app will display your friends’ Twitter profile pictures and user names in their contact cards so you know who you’re tweeting. You can tweet links and photos directly from Safari, iPhoto, Photo Booth or Quick Look with the new Tweet sheet. The Tweet sheet is a handy card that contains the content you’re tweeting, which makes it easy for you to add a comment and even see how many characters you have left. You can also add comments and locations. Also, when someone mentions you in a tweet or sends you a direct message, you’ll get a notification.

AirPlay

It’s no secret that you can wirelessly mirror your iPad’s display to your HDTV using AppleTV (sold separately). With Mountain Lion, you’ll now be able to do it with your Mac. When a Mac with Mountain Lion detects an AppleTV on the same Wi-Fi network, the AirPlay Mirroring menu automatically appears in the menu bar. To wirelessly mirror your Mac to your HDTV, click the AirPlay Mirroring menu item and choose your AppleTV. You can also set resolution matching, which scales the contents of your Mac desktop to fit onto your HDTV, for optimal image quality.

When you play movies or TV shows with iTunes on your Mac, AirPlay Mirroring will automatically switch to a full-screen AirPlay experience on your HDTV. Video is supported in Full HD (1080p only supported by the 2nd generation AppleTV). Audio is also supported wirelessly with AirPlay Mirroring. You can also use just audio by selecting your AppleTV in the Sound pane within System Preferences. AirPlay Mirroring takes advantage of advanced hardware video encoding to deliver high-definition mirroring with efficiency and optimized processor use.

Game Center

With the Game Center app on your Mac via Mountain Lion, you can play a game with anyone on a Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Just use your Game Center account from iOS or create a new one with your Apple ID. After you’re set up, sign in to view all the games you’ve played and get one going as well. You can check out leaderboards to see how your high score ranks against your friends' or even the top scores in the world.

Game Center can show everyone in your gaming network and lets you browse the friends of your friends. If you see someone you want to play with, just send a friend request. Game Center can even recommend new friends to expand your gaming network. Game Center also shows which games your friends play and lets you browse recommendations for new games you might like. You can open the Mac App Store from Game Center to purchase and download new games. During live multiplayer games, you can chat with your opponents or teammates with the in-game voice chat function. Also, you can set Parental Controls in System Preferences for children.

Gatekeeper

Mountain Lion adds Gatekeeper to your Mac, which helps protect you from downloading and installing malicious software, no matter where your apps come from. Gatekeeper gives you three security options for downloading and installing apps for your Mac. The first option lets you download and install apps from anywhere. The second option offers maximum security by only allowing apps to be installed through the Mac App Store. The third option lets you download and install apps from the Mac App Store plus those that have been signed with a Developer ID. Gatekeeper also alerts you when you download and try to install an app from a developer who does not have a Developer ID. You can manually override this alert, but it is not recommended unless you are sure it is a safe move.

Safari

While Safari itself is not new, it does receive several new features in Mountain Lion to make browsing the web more convenient. First, there’s now only one search field for both search terms and web addresses. As you search, Safari suggests a likely web page match as a Top Hit. Top Hit suggestions improve over time as you select the results. Of course, the new Share button is built into Safari so you can easily share web pages using Mail, Messages, Facebook and Twitter. There is also a Tab View that supports Multi-Touch gestures with the Apple trackpad, such as two-finger swipe and pinch.

Safari now saves entire web pages into your Reading List so you can catch up even when you don’t have an Internet connection. If an article in your Reading List contains multiple pages, Safari fetches the pages and stores them so you can read the article in its entirety while offline. Also, Safari supports iCloud Tabs, which allows you to pick up browsing right where you left off on your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or Mac. iCloud makes your open Safari tabs available on all your Apple devices so you can access the last websites you looked at. With improved hardware acceleration, Safari renders text and graphics faster and lets you scroll through web pages smoothly—even when new web page content is loading.

Facebook (Integration Coming This Fall)

While you won’t be able to take advantage of Facebook yet, Apple promises that Facebook integration with Mountain Lion will be available this fall, possibly with the release of iOS 6. When it does become available, you’ll only have to sign in once to have your Facebook account linked to your Mac. After you’ve signed in, you’ll get notifications in Notification Center, have your Facebook friends added to your Contacts app, and be able to add profile photos in Mail, Contacts and Calendar. You will also be able to select Facebook from the Share menu, a handy menu that includes the content you’ve posted, including photos that you can add to your photo albums.

Other Improvements

Accessibility

Mountain Lion features a redesigned Accessibility pane in System Preferences, which makes it easier to customize settings. Also, Mountain Lion now supports 14 new Braille displays for the visually impaired.

Auto Save

Instantly move iCloud-supported documents to iCloud from the document menu—even untitled iCloud-supported documents. Also, there’s a new option to have your Mac “Ask to keep changes when closing a document,” in the form of a popup prompting you to keep or discard changes when closing a file.

Calendar

The new date picker in the inspector displays a mini calendar so you can easily change the date of an event. The Calendar app can alert you of upcoming events while a list of upcoming events can be viewed in the Notification Center.

Contacts

The Contacts app now includes a new groups column, which always gives you quick access to your contact groups. The Contacts app also consolidates all of a contact's information into one entry, even across multiple services, such as iCloud and Yahoo! So your friend’s phone number, email address and Twitter account name are all displayed on one card. The Share button is integrated into the Contacts app so you can easily share contact information through Mail, Messages or AirDrop.

Dashboard

Dashboard now includes a new widget browser that makes it easier to search for widgets. Just type in the widget’s name in the search field and the widget browser will display the results. You can also add the widget to your Dashboard by clicking on it. If you have too many widgets on your Dashboard, you can organize them into folders to save space.

Finder

When downloading or copying a file, you’ll see the progress in the file’s icon in the Finder, which is very reminiscent of how iOS handles app downloads. You can now encrypt a drive from the Finder by simply selecting the drive and choosing Encrypt from the contextual menu. The Share button is also available in the Finder, which allows you to share files through Messages, AirDrop and Mail. You can also instantly preview files with a three-finger tap on an Apple trackpad.

iPhoto

The photo picker now includes Faces, which displays all the photos of you contained in your iPhoto library. This makes it easier to choose an image of yourself for your account picture, Contacts card or Messages account.

Launchpad

With Mountain Lion, Launchpad now has a search field that makes finding apps much simpler. When you enter Launchpad, start typing the name of the app you’re looking for and Launchpad displays matching results. Simply click on the app you want to open.

Mac App Store

The Mac App Store is the central location for OS X Mountain Lion software and app updates and can automatically download them so they’re ready to be installed. The Mac App Store can also automatically download apps purchased from another Mac when using the same Apple ID that was used to purchase the apps. The Share button also makes an appearance on the Mac App Store so you can share a link to your favorite apps using Messages, Twitter or Facebook.

Mail

Select important contacts as VIPs by clicking the star next to their names at the top of a message. There is even a dedicated VIP smart mailbox for mail sent from all your VIP contacts. New mail arrivals are specified in the Notification Center and you can even set custom notifications for messages from VIPs or a particular person in Contacts. Mail also supports iCloud, which pushes all your VIPs and recent senders to all your Apple devices.

Photo Booth

Photo Booth now includes Share sheets for AirDrop, Messages, Mail, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Vimeo so you can instantly share your favorite Photo Booth pictures. You can also take a picture in Photo Booth and use the Share button to instantly make it your Twitter profile picture.

Preview

Preview in Mountain Lion supports Documents in the Cloud so you can access your PDF documents and images from anywhere. Also, the built-in Share button lets you share documents to Messages, AirDrop or Mail while images are shared using Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

QuickTime X

In Mountain Lion, the QuickTime Player makes it easy to work with AVCHD video, thanks to its built-in clip browser that shows all the clips in your video. Choose the clip you want to play back, trim or even share via the integrated Share button. When you select a standard HD export setting, the QuickTime Player takes advantage of hardware video H.264 encoding for optimal performance (2011 or newer Mac models only).

Security

FileVault in Mountain Lion provides new management options using the fdesetup command-line tool. With fdesetup, third-party management tools can enable FileVault, determine encryption status, capture and manage recovery keys and add users.

Text Edit

Text Edit supports Documents in the Cloud so you can access your Text Edit documents from anywhere.

Time Machine

Mountain Lion includes the option to create encrypted backups on Time Capsule. Time Machine enables you to choose multiple backup locations and seamlessly switch between them. Now you can have a backup of your data at work and at home.

Closing Thoughts

For 20 dollars, Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion offers 200 new features to improve and simplify your computing experience on your Mac. It also provides better integration with other Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and AppleTV. If Apple’s push for cross-device support wasn’t obvious before, Mac OS X Mountain Lion makes it official. Most of the new features seem to blend the best of iOS and Mac OS X into one unique package. If you’re looking to take full advantage of your Mac, especially if it’s one of the newer 2012 models, Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion may be just what you’re looking for.

Your Feedback

Have you installed Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on your Mac yet? If so, leave a comment below about your impressions of the new operating system. Have some gripes about it? Let us know about that in the comments section as well!

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Since upgrading to ML my MacBook Pro gets very hot within a minute or two causing the fan to run continuously, quickly draining the battery. Don't upgrade until Apple acknowledges and fixes.

Same here, driving me nuts, do not upgrade till apple sorts a fix!!

Thanks for the warning. Will watch for it before upgrading.

I like mac because is very good

Many of my email recipients report they can't open my file attachments. I believe that most have Microsoft computers. I use OS X 10.8.5 and Pages 09 version 4.3. I am also unable to open attachments from the newest Pages program.

Can someone help?

John d. smith

To send files to Windows users from Pages you have two main options. You can export the file as a Microsoft Word document, or as an Adobe PDF file. Both can be used on a system with free software (Word Reader / Adobe Acrobat reader) on a Windows computer, or (Preview) on a Mac.

Pages 09 cannot open Pages 13 documents. You would first need to upgrade from 10.8.5 to 10.9. This is a free update from Apple. Then you can update to the current version of Pages, also a free upgrade (For Pages 09 users) from Apple. Both updates can be found in the Mac App store.