Mac OS X ‘Lion’ Fails To Roar: Review

Mac OS X “Lion” is technically Apple’s best ever, but disappoints nonetheless

The new release of Apple’s desktop operating system is certainly a leap ahead for the Mac platform in many ways. Mac OS X “Lion”–release 10.7–provides a better security architecture, new data encryption options and introduces user interface paradigms that foreshadow a time when gesture-based touch computing will be taken for granted.

There’s no question that, technically, Lion is the best release of the Mac operating system ever. But, being a person who dislikes change for the mere sake of change, I’m left underwhelmed at best by many of the latest tweaks to the supporting applications and user interface. Apparently, the goal was to make the Mac UI look more like that of an iPhone or iPad, and Apple has succeeded, for better or worse.


The new operating system apes the iOS user interface paradigms most blatantly in two ways: First, in the Launchpad feature, which assembles a screen with application icons that can be grouped in the same way as iPad and iPhone apps, and second, in the decision to hide one of three Library folders that are critical to the functioning of the OS.

I would almost applaud the latter decision–since it’s easy to uncloak the /~user/Library directory from the command line–were it not for the fact that Apple’s engineers inexplicably chose to let the /System/Library and the /Library folders remain viewable. I would also argue that the uncloaking feature should be a checkbox option somewhere in the Finder’s preferences or view options, but that’s almost beside the point.

Shaky Launchpad

Perhaps the first thing I looked at after upgrading a MacBook Pro in eWEEK’s San Francisco lab to Lion was Launchpad, because it’s one of the most obvious additions to the operating system. Although it’s quite true that I need another way to access the applications on my computer–and another one to explain to the Mac users whom I support–like I need another hole in my head, I understand what Apple’s trying to do with Launchpad, I really do. The company’s spokespeople are quite clear that they see the future of the Mac as looking a lot like the way an iPad or iPhone does; Launchpad is a way to introduce the iOS user interface to Apple’s desktop users.

My beef with Launchpad has to do with the way that it throws all of one’s installed applications onto the screen, as if all applications are somehow equal. Little effort is made to segregate them by publisher or, as I found with installations of Microsoft Office for Mac, by version, even when a folder exists to differentiate one release of a suite from another. Clearly marked uninstaller tools clutter the Launchpad, despite their obvious run-once purpose. In short, Launchpad could have been executed in a much better way, one that doesn’t give users another thing to clean up after the upgrade.

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