So I finally upgraded to Mountain Lion. I completely skipped over Lion because I didn’t like how Apple was iOS-ifying everything and had just stayed on Snow Leopard until a few days ago. Personally, I think Snow Leopard was the best operating system ever released. It was super stable and had everything you could ask of an operating system. I never really liked Leopard because it never worked 100% stable for me (though it did bring Time Machine and QuickLook, both of which are features I use every day). Tiger was great too back in the days, but if you look at it now, the GUI looks totally inconsistent.
Now that Apple is discontinuing security updates for Snow Leopard and an increasing number of apps requires Lion or newer, I had not much of a choice but upgrade.
This isn’t a full review of Mountain Lion. If you want to read one, check out John Siracusa’s epic review at Ars Technica. So far my impressions are:
Stability and speed: Mountain Lion is just as stable as Snow Leopard. It is also noticeably more responsive than Snow Leopard. I don’t think this has anything to do with actual speed, but more of a psychological thing: Safari now renders progressively, and many apps already let you interact with them while they’re still starting up (previously they would have been frozen for another second or two while they finished their startup prcedure).
iOS-ification: Launchpad is completely useless, but luckily Spotlight and the Dock still work exactly as they always have and will continue to be my preferred way of launching applications.
Auto Save however is outright obnoxious. You can no longer Command-D to hit the “Don’t Save” button when you want to close a window discarding changes. [UPDATE: Can’t believe it took me half a year to figure out that Command-Backspace can be used instead as an alternative to the old Command-D.] That window doesn’t even respect NSNavPanelExpandedStateForSaveMode (i.e. clicking the disclosure triangle is not persistent). “Save as” is now a secondary menu option behind “Duplicate”. iWork and TextEdit now show a file browser upon launch instead of opening a blank document. Save as defaults to iCloud instead of the local hard drive. And there are probably dozens of other things.
Here are some useful defaults commands to make it slightly less painful, but you still can’t completely disable Auto Save. Luckily I spend most of my time in apps that don’t use Auto Save (e.g. Microsoft Office, TextWrangler, TextMate, TeXShop).
defaults write -g NSNavPanelExpandedStateForSaveMode -bool TRUE # always expand open/save dialog
defaults write -g NSDocumentSaveNewDocumentsToCloud -bool FALSE # save locally instead of to iCloud by default
Also, check “Ask to keep changes when closing document” in the General pane in System Preferences.
Hold-to-umlaut is annoying on a full-size keyboard. Luckily you can re-enable key repeat:
defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false # enable key-repeat
FileVault 2 is simple to enable, as secure as software-based full-disk encryption can be (according to several researchers) and has no noticeable performance hit. If you’re using it, you should enable deep sleep, otherwise the disk remains unlocked during sleep:
sudo pmset -a destroyfvkeyonstandby 1 hibernatemode 25
One thing that Apple could improve: after waking from deep sleep and entering your password at the EFI screen, that password should also be passed to the screensaver unlock screen (similar to how it’s passed to the loginwindow when booting). (this might be worth filing a bug report)
All of my favorite hidden Dock settings still work:
defaults write com.apple.Dock showhidden -bool YES # make hidden apps transparent
defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES # disable 3D dock
The one thing that doesn’t really work anymore is dragging widgets out of Dashboard after enabling developer mode:
defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode -bool YES # enable dashboard dev mode
If you uncheck “Show Dashboard as a space” in the Mission Control pane in System Preferences, you can actually drag out the widget, but more often than not, it will just vanish along the way and won’t reappear until you kill the Dock.
Messages: I find it slightly annoying that Messages lists every single phone number and email address in the Show Info screen for every buddy, even if they don’t have iMessage activated. In fact, it even shows them after you disable iMessage in Messages’ preferences. Also, I miss the new message popup in the top right corner of my screen. Now, the only indication of a message received while you were away from your computer is a small number badge on the messages icon and a notification in Notification Center (which you don’t see until you open Notification Center). In fact, it doesn’t even show the message window until you click the icon (which may actually be a bug).
Notification Center is a very nice Growl replacement. I mainly need it for Mail and iChat, so I didn’t even bother installing something like Bark to forward Growl messages to Notification Center.
Full Screen is useless on a multi-screen setup, but running apps in full screen is pointless anyway on all but the smallest screens. Spaces used to be a pretty neat feature to switch between multiple sets of apps. Unfortunately, the old spaces (which you could access using Ctrl plus a number key or Ctrl plus the arrow keys) are gone and the new spaces can only be used to switch between multiple full-screen apps.
Most of my complaints are a matter of getting used to. When upgrading to a new OS, you always gain some things and you lose some things The only major issue I have is Auto Save. As long as my everyday apps don’t support it, I’ll be happy. Once they do (in Microsoft Office 2015 perhaps), I’ll need to find some way to get around it or get used to it.
Everything else is a reasonable tradeoff for being on the most recent OS version again.
I do remember how much my Windows friends complained six years ago when Vista changed everything they were used to after a decade of Windows 95 thru Windows XP. Or how some of my Linux friends complain about how Gnome 3 is so much worse than Gnome 2.