Cats On The Prowl: The Evolution of Mac OS X From Cheetah To Mountain Lion [Gallery]

Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” (2011)

10 7 4 Lion Screen Shot 2

Lion represented a major step forward, installing via download rather than DVDs, dropping all support for PowerPC software, and implementing interface elements popularized on iPads and iPhones. With Lion Apple brought the lessions of iOS “Back to the Mac”.

The primacy of Search taking precedence over browsing the filesystem is complete, as the default Finder window opens to a new “All My Files” view. The home folder in the Sidebar has disappeared. Auto-Save and Versioning for documents were introduced as a supplement to Time Machine capabilities, though Save As… was sacrificed for the cause. Exposé and Spaces merged into Mission Control, and both became more useful in the process.

In a controversial move, Lion changed the default scrolling behavior to match how iOS devices work – the reverse of how Macs traditionally worked. On iOS devices content is pushed up in a window, whereas on a traditional computers a scroll bar is pulled down to move the window over content. Apple calls the new behavoir “Natural Scrolling”. Also matching iOS behavior, scrollbars are now hidden by default and only appear when need.

Among the masses outside Cupertino, these changes in behavior were largely met with one of two reactions: either viewed as slight improvements, or the Most Annoying Things Apple Has Ever Done.

New user interface themes appear again in Lion, though this time it wasn’t iTunes leading the charge. iCal and Address Book both adopted a skeuomorphic approach, mimicking the (faux) paper desktop calendar and leather bound address book first seen on the iPad. iCloud also made its debut during Lion’s reign, and quickly became a cornerstone of Apple OS efforts across both Macs and iOS devices.

OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion” (2012)

10 8 Mountain Lion Screen Shot

As Felidae Mountain Lion leaps onto the scene in 2012, Apple has switched back to an annual release schedule. It’s notable, given recent changes in Apple’s ecosystem, that the “Mac” moniker has been dropped from the operating system’s name and this release is branded as just “OS X”.

The Finder is largely unchanged although the Dock now has become a frosted glass shelf, more opaque with less mirroring. In another nod towards iOS philosophy, the glowing “running app” indicators are barely visible in Mountain Lion, they’re just small smudges at the very bottom of the screen. These are easy to miss, I suspect they’ll be gone entirely in 10.9.

Notifcation Center makes it’s debut in OS X at the top right hand side of the menubar, a click expands the list. The Dock sports new icons for Reminders and Notes, two apps brought over from iOS. iChat has been renamed and expanded as Messages, Address Book has been renamed Contacts, and iCal is now Calendars. iCloud is heavily integrated into the OS, and many Apple apps offer options save files either locally or online.

In a quiet change, the default system preference in Mountain Lion has switched back to Close Windows when quitting an application, rather than Restore windows when quitting and re-opening apps. Apple’s intent with Lion was to mimic the way iOS apps pickup work where you leave off, but the reversal suggests many Mac users preferred pre-Lion behavior.

One thing which hasn’t changed in many years is the selection of system alert sounds, many of which have been the same since Mac OS X debuted in 2001. Did Apple’s lone sound designer resign with the demise of Mac OS 9? Are we really going to have to choose between “Sosumi” and “Submarine” for our system beeps forever?

As you can see, here at Cult of Mac we focus on the Important Things. Ahem. Carry on…

Pages: 1 2 3

  • Stefen Hernandez

    I was just thinking about that the other day, how in all these years not much has changed in the alert sounds. You would think with the whole “Back to the mac” they would bring alert sounds from the iPhone over to the mac.

  • Nikolai Baker

    It certainly is time for a (subtle) modernisation of the system sounds.

    And I’ll giggle if the most discussion on this article is system sounds!

  • Solowalker

    As an aside, while iTunes is bundled with the OS it isn’t really considered part of OS X and is updated separately (similar to iLife). Consequently, the iTunes icon changes had nothing to do with the OS version but were tied to iTunes versions. For a while, the icon changed color every version as a way to easily tell which version you were running, but that slowed with versions 4-6 (which were released in quick succession) and pretty much stopped with 7 until 10 was released. Check it out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITunes_version_history

    It’s also worth noting that very frequently iTunes hinted at new OS UI changes long before the new OS version was released, such as moving away from brushed metal to the solid grey and ditching colored sidebar icons.

  • Johnny Allain-Labon

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Snow Leopard Intel only, with Lion as 64 bit. Leopard was the last universal OS

  • Solowalker

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Snow Leopard Intel only, with Lion as 64 bit. Leopard was the last universal OS

    The article mentions Snow Leopard’s Intel-only status, but doesn’t mention 64-bit anywhere other than Leopard. Apple’s road to 64-bit has been long and slow, making it largely transparent to the end user (vs. Microsoft’s all-or-nothing approach starting with XP that broke all kinds of stuff and was mostly nothing but headaches).

    OS X has gradually added 64-bit support in rather clever ways, including being able to run 64-bit apps on a 32-bit OS (if your processor could handle 64-bit instructions). 64-bit support started with Tiger, where command line apps could be 64-bit. Leopard added 64-bit GUI apps. Snow Leopard introduced a(n optional) 64-bit kernel. If I recall correctly, Lion was just about all 64-bit but still ran some 32-bit kernel extensions–required a 64-bit processor but could run on 32-bit chipsets/EFI. Mountain Lion is 100% 64-bit kernel and will not support any 32-bit kernel extensions and even requires 64-bit EFI.

    I hope that answers your question. This would be good info to have in the article, too (with any gaps or errors I may have corrected).

  • BradMacPro

    The author has a minor mistake. Lion is also called OS X, not Mac OS X. He writes that change of dropping Mac from the name comes with Mountain Lion. And for Johnny Allain-Labon: Yes, Mac OS X 10.6.x Snow Leopard is Intel only. See http://support.apple.com/kb/SP575

  • BradMacPro

    The author has a minor mistake. Lion is also called OS X, not Mac OS X. He writes that change of dropping Mac from the name comes with Mountain Lion. And for Johnny Allain-Labon: Yes, Mac OS X 10.6.x Snow Leopard is Intel only. See http://support.apple.com/kb/SP575

  • Adam Rosen

    The article mentions Snow Leopard’s Intel-only status, but doesn’t mention 64-bit anywhere other than Leopard. Apple’s road to 64-bit has been long and slow, making it largely transparent to the end user

    You’re right, the move from 32-bit to 64-bit has been an ongoing transition for Mac OS X since Leopard, and indeed largely transparent to end users. Lion is now fully 64-bit. Thanks for pointing out that attribute.

  • Adam Rosen

    The author has a minor mistake. Lion is also called OS X, not Mac OS X. He writes that change of dropping Mac from the name comes with Mountain Lion.

    Actually Apple has referred to Lion both ways. If you look at the offering in the Mac App Store, it’s called “OS X Lion”, though if you look at the About This Mac… box on a system running Lion, it says “Mac OS X”. I’ve been using the descriptors in the About… box for this article.

  • joewaylo

    I’m betting OS X 10.9 will be called Lynx. The most dangerous ferocious cat.

  • Christian Moesgaard

    I think the most remarkable thing about this history is just how little it’s changed, and that is praise in every way you can regard it. OS 9 to OS 10 was a huge leap forward, to the point where OS 10.1 was arguably the equivalent to Windows 7 in terms of design. Ever since then it’s gotten incrementally better and continues to surpass Windows.

    If only the performance had been more solid… Well, it looks like Mountain Lion is finally getting it dead right.

  • Andrew Newsome

    I think the most remarkable thing about this history is just how little it’s changed, and that is praise in every way you can regard it. OS 9 to OS 10 was a huge leap forward, to the point where OS 10.1 was arguably the equivalent to Windows 7 in terms of design. Ever since then it’s gotten incrementally better and continues to surpass Windows.

    If only the performance had been more solid… Well, it looks like Mountain Lion is finally getting it dead right.

    Each operating system has their own pros and cons. I do not believe OS X “continues to surpass Windows”. I have a Windows custom build, and a 2012 macbook air. Really, there is hardly any difference, apart from the fact that it syncs seamlessly with my ipad and iphone.

  • Christian Moesgaard
    I think the most remarkable thing about this history is just how little it’s changed, and that is praise in every way you can regard it. OS 9 to OS 10 was a huge leap forward, to the point where OS 10.1 was arguably the equivalent to Windows 7 in terms of design. Ever since then it’s gotten incrementally better and continues to surpass Windows.

    If only the performance had been more solid… Well, it looks like Mountain Lion is finally getting it dead right.

    Each operating system has their own pros and cons. I do not believe OS X “continues to surpass Windows”. I have a Windows custom build, and a 2012 macbook air. Really, there is hardly any difference, apart from the fact that it syncs seamlessly with my ipad and iphone.

    The only redeeming qualities of Windows is that it isn’t tied to a specific piece of hardware and runs Office. Take any of these advantages away and Windows has no market except for games and legacy applications in business.

    This is why, by the way, there isn’t a Linux version of Office.

About the author

Adam RosenAdam Rosen is an Apple certified IT consultant specializing in Macintosh systems new and old. He lives in Boston with two cats and too many possessions. In addition to membership in the Cult of Mac, Adam has written for Low End Mac and is curator of the Vintage Mac Museum. He also enjoys a good libation.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in Featured stories, News, Software, Top stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , |