OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion [Review]

iCloud & Documents In The Cloud

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion [Review]

You probably won’t see this preferences pane much, but pretty much everything in Mountain Lion ties into the iCloud.

If the goal of Lion was to bring iOS’s best features to OS X, the goal of Mountain Lion is to let your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch talk with each other seamlessly, without manual syncing or file management.

iCloud is now injected into the very DNA of OS X. It just works.

Apple has tried this before in the past, most notably with their recently shuttered, subscription-only MobileMe service. While mimicking much of the same functionality as MobileMe, though, iCloud is now injected into the very DNA of OS X. iCloud just works, and everyone with an Apple ID has one, no subscription required (although you can pay for more space).

Using iCloud, all of your photos, your contacts, your calendar items, your reminders, your emails, your notes, your browser history and your (iCloud-only) documents and data are automatically synced with Apple’s servers. It’s that simple.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion [Review]

If you take a lot of pictures across multiple devices, Photo Stream is one of the best features of iCloud.

There are privacy concerns with allowing a company to have access to all of your data, but for most customers, the benefits of iCloud will far outweigh the drawbacks. Even on a single Mac, having your data synced means that if your machine goes belly up without a recent back-up, you can restore most of your most important data to a new machine without a fuss. As long as you have iCloud turned on, those photos of your newborn son, or your business calendar for the next year, or your address book are safe.

There are privacy concerns with allowing Apple to have access to all of your dfata, but for most customers, iCloud’s benefits will outweigh the drawbacks.

It’s when you have multiple Macs or iOS devices, though, that the iCloud really shines. Under Mountain Lion, the iCloud will remember if you’ve, say, read an email on your iPhone, or added a new contact on your iPad, and automatically sync your devices accordingly. Likewise, if you load photos from your SLR on your Mac, they’ll be available through Photo Stream on your iPad for some Snapseed or PhotoShop Touch action. And you can set yourself Reminders on your Mac to, say, buy milk when you arrive at your local grocery store, and have your iPhone automatically alert you when you do the shopping.

From a practical perspective, it all works without a hitch, although it can sometimes be frustrating having to wait for your system to sync with the latest iCloud data: for example, if it’s been a while since your Mac has synced your Photo Stream.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion [Review]

Documents stored in the Cloud, as viewed using the excellent text editing app, iA Writer.

For most users, the most confusing aspect of iCloud is probably going to be Documents in the Cloud, which only works in apps that have been specifically updated to support it, like Apple’s iWork suite or third-party apps like iA Writer. Unfortunately, once you save a document to the iCloud, there’s no easy way to browse through your files outside of the app you saved it in, nor is there an easy way to, say, drag documents you’d like to keep synced into the iCloud from your desktop into a Dropbox or iDisk-style “syncing” folder.

It’s easy to see why Apple is doing it this way — Apple has been trying to get rid of the traditional desktop file system for years now, and Documents in the Cloud is the way they eventually plan to do it — but right now, Documents in the Cloud feels a little ephemeral. Even in Apple’s core apps, not enough software supports Documents in the Cloud, and for most users, it’s going to feel a lot more limited than signing up for a free Dropbox account, even across multiple Macs and iOS devices.

iCloud is what MobileMe should have been from the beginning, and it’s an integral part of Mountain Lion weaving seamlessly through the vast majority of apps. Documents in the Cloud isn’t quite there yet, and we could wish that Apple’s interpretation was more friendly to Dropbox-style power users, but we imagine this part of the service will become more useful over time as apps (including Apple’s own) update themselves to support the feature.

iCloud is what Mobile Me should have been from the beginning, and it’s an integral part of Mountain Lion weaving seamlessly through the vast majority of apps.

Next Page: AirPlay Mirroring

  • Clem_E

    We can’t read it later!!!!! :p
    Any link for the full article in one page?

  • brownlee

    We can’t read it later!!!!! :p
    Any link for the full article in one page?

    We have this functionality, but it isn’t working for some reason. We’ve got our tech team coming. Soon!

  • FatSquirrel

    None of the pages seem to be working at all.

  • joewaylo

    I can see GateKeeper being the most annoying feature introduced to Mountain Lion. This reminds me of Windows Vista. “Permission to run blahblahblah” of a third party program. Vista kept freezing my computer every time I ran a non-microsoft product.

  • Kalvin Chan Loc

    Multiple monitor support still sucks. Fullscreen mode support wasn’t what I expected, as the other monitor still turns into a useless grey screen when going into fullscreen mode on the other.

  • John Owen

    WHY would Apple take our RSS reader support our of Safari????? I try to load the Cult of Mac feed and it takes me to Mail…I HATE that!!!!!

  • Edwin Torres

    Glad to see that the dictionary has been updated… :)

  • Edwin Torres

    Since safari got an update, has the lag that has been reported for the retina MBP while scrolling been fixed?

  • ddevito

    *yawn*

    Let the countdown begin to when iOS swallows Os X completely.

  • MC Pearl

    Good thing I’m sticking with Lion for a while. waiting until all the short-term bugs are fixed with 10.8.1

  • RadTech5000

    I can’t wait to upgrade my new Retina MacBook Pro tonight, super excited! :)

  • extra_medium

    I’d much rather be able to use my TV as a wireless second display than to duplicate my desktop. Using two of my screens to show the same thing simultaneously seems like a waste of a screen to me. It would be nice to be able to get some work done (play games) on the thunderbolt display while content streams on the TV, unrelated to what I’m doing.

    Also, if all it does is mirror your desktop why does the article mention that it only works for “certain types of streaming” content. What doesn’t work? What does work?

  • trexuphigh

    As a customer I love it. As a support tech, I’m scared. This was the easiest OS upgrades I’ve ever done. I started the download, went for coffee, after coffee started the installer, went out, returned in the evening, logged in. Done. Wow. The USB installer is much easier to make than a Windows PE environment, works better, and his more feature rich. So far so good. One disappointment is waiting for facebook integration, why wait for iOS6? Oh Apple, you so eccentric.

  • Soundcloud Forwardslash GenthenaZero

    Gatekeeper is DRM under the guise of an antivirus. It will soon be impossible to release an App without it being Apple signed. Mark my words.

    It’s a great feature until it is though :)

  • Ed_Kel

    Good thing I’m sticking with Lion for a while. waiting until all the short-term bugs are fixed with 10.8.1

    Could you elaborate on the “bugs” you’re waiting to be cleaned up? This is the smoothest upgrade I’ve ever done on my Mac – Period. I would highly suggest upgrading; it’s everything that Lion wasn’t…

  • Ed_Kel

    *yawn*

    Let the countdown begin to when iOS swallows Os X completely.

    *yawn*

    Quit looking like an idiot and get back to your Chromebook.

  • Greg

    Good stuff John, it must have taken a while to put this article together. Thanks!

  • Tallest_Skil

    Gatekeeper is DRM under the guise of an antivirus. It will soon be impossible to release an App without it being Apple signed. Mark my words.

    Consider them completely ignored.

  • ddevito
    *yawn*

    Let the countdown begin to when iOS swallows Os X completely.

    *yawn*

    Quit looking like an idiot and get back to your Chromebook.

    On the contrary, I own an iMac running Lion (although Lion was a waste of money, Snow leopard was my all time desktop OS fav).

  • ddevito
    *yawn*

    Let the countdown begin to when iOS swallows Os X completely.

    Fuck off and die you stupid fat asshole troll.

    I own more Apple products than you.

  • johnboyhanna

    Why is it a 3rd party app like Air Parrot can get Airplay to work on pre 2011 Macs but Apple won’t? One feature I was really looking forward to with this OS

  • johnboyhanna

    Also really missing the battery time option on the top bar, only % is an option to toggle on and off, not as useful as time, hope this gets fixed in an update.

  • Tallest_Skil

    I own more Apple products than you.

    So zero, then.

  • Ossiann

    Safari in iOS 6 doesn’t have a unified location field! You got that wrong.

  • site7000

    “Unfortunately, once you save a document to the iCloud, there’s no easy way to browse through your files outside of the app you saved it in, nor is there an easy way to, say, drag documents you’d like to keep synced into the iCloud from your desktop into a Dropbox or iDisk-style “syncing” folder.”

    This is bizarre. Isn’t the goal of a user interface design to make content more easily accessible and applications invisible? I don’t get this.

  • Alfred2612

    From the article: “AirPlay Mirroring will help Macs to make an even bigger dent in business environments than they currently have: instead of an expensive projector, all a board meeting needs is a TV, a Mac and a $99 box.”

    Cool feature, but I’ve been doing this for years giving presentations in boardrooms. All I need is a VGA/HDMI out cable and a TV with a VGA/HDMI in socket (which is most TVs nowadays). No $99 box needed. Done it many many times. :)

    And OSX looks GORGEOUS on a big screen TV!

  • Soundcloud Forwardslash GenthenaZero
    *yawn*

    Let the countdown begin to when iOS swallows Os X completely.

    *yawn*

    Quit looking like an idiot and get back to your Chromebook.

    Quit trolling and realise he’s right. Everything introduced to OS X in the last two instalments was stolen from existing tech on iOS. Its downright lazy.

    Furthermore, I’m irritated by Apple’s decision to start rolling out OS upgrades yearly. If the cheangelog is going to look like this then they are really just charging you more for the same amount of changes but in smaller chunks. I like it when I’m excited by new OSX releases, but I feel like one every year is going to make the change log much less exciting.

    If I hadn’t worked so hard to get Lion working on my iMac right now, I might update…. but I did, and I can’t afford to have Airport, Safe Mode and Finder crashing problems again… I’d probably rip my hair out.

  • Stoffe_C

    Another nice Airplay feature incase youve missed it (should work on every mac model).
    If you press the “alt” key and leftklick the volume control icon you can choose to output the sound to Airplay enabled devices. No need for airfoil anymore :)

  • Tallest_Skil

    Quit trolling and realise he’s right. Everything introduced to OS X in the last two instalments was stolen from existing tech on iOS. Its downright lazy.

    And you’re downright stupid. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • RadTech5000

    I’ve had a chance to play around with Mountain Lion for about a week now on my new Retina MacBook Pro and find I’m loving it! Power Nap is awesome and I feel so sorry for those of you who don’t have it. I use Messages a lot and I find the new Notifications to be a very nice as well. I think many of the small things they added of fixed really make you fell like this is a very polished OS and I couldn’t be happier. Way to go Apple you should be very proud. =)

  • coolman1081

    No mention of Game Center?

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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