OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion [Review]

Safari

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion [Review]

In Mountain Lion, Safari’s finally stealing Google’s best browser idea and comining the search and location bars.

Way back in 2008, when Google first unveiled the Chrome browser, the search giant made what at the time seemed like a curious decision: they merged the location bar and the search bar into a single intelligent omnibar. Four and a half years later, Apple’s finally following suit with Safari in both Moutain Lion and the forthcoming iOS 6 update. It’s about time.

Safari’s new combined search and location bar is going to be a controversial move for some die-hards, but there are a lot of good reasons for it. Google had the right idea when they combined these two separate fields in Chrome. The fact of the matter is that when you look at the way most people use web browsers, they tend not to understand the distinction between searching for a site and typing in the URL to that site directly. Why make an arbitrary distinction between a URL and a search term if you can treat the location bar as both, directing users to where they need to be accordingly?

Safari’s new combined search and location bar is going to be a controversial change for some die-hards.

In iOS 6, Safari’s new unified location field will be a welcome change, specifically because it will free up some valuable screen real estate, particularly on the iPhone. On Mountain Lion, though, it results in a cleaner user-interface and a more user-friendly experience. Type a URL in the location bar and you will go directly to a website; type a search term in the location bar will send you off to Google instead, dynamically suggesting popular related search terms (or results from your bookmarks and history) as you type.

It all works well. Sadly, it’s a bare bones interpretation compared to Chrome’s, which allows you to set up all manner of site- and engine-specific search keywords in the omnibar, so that you can easily search, say, YouTube’s video results by just typing a keyword before your search term. Still, in regards to freeing Safari of one of its vestigial and unnecessary appendages, the new unified location bar is much appreciated, and we can only marvel at the fact that it took Apple this long to borrow one of Chrome’s best features.

Since Lion, Reading List has been improved to function less like a to-read list of bookmarks and more like a viable alternative to services like Instapaper and Readability. In Mountain Lion, web site URLs cannot only be saved to Reading List, but all of the page’s assets are cached and stored in the iCloud, allowing them to be loaded up instantly even without a web connection. In combination with the fantastic Reader functionality, Safari 6.0 does a better job than ever of making web content — particularly long-form journalism — pleasant to read, both on the Mac and on the iPhone and iPad.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion [Review]

iCloud Tabs is pretty great.

iCloud Tabs is another cool new feature of Safari 6.0 (although regrettably one limited to devices running the iOS 6 beta, at least for now). Using iCloud Tabs, you can easily access any tabs that are open on your iPhone, iPad or Mac from any other device, simply by clicking the Cloud icon to the left of the location bar. Started reading a great article on your iPhone on the subway, and want to continue it on your MacBook Air at home? You used to have to email it to yourself: now, the link is just a couple clicks away.

Also new is an improved Tab view. Using a multitouch mouse or trackpad, you can pinch out in Safari to see all of your open tabs and swipe between them. It works fine, but it feels like another of the small but ultimately fairly pointless flourishes Apple has been adding to OS X since Lion to make the operating system “feel” more like iOS, not a feature that actually improves usability.

Otherwise, Safari under Mountain Lion isn’t looking to rock the boat too much. Over the last few years, Apple has mostly focused Safari development on refining what is still the cleanest, fastest and easiest-to-use default system browser shipping with any desktop or mobile operating system, and Safari 6 continues this tradition. There aren’t a lot of new features, but in conjuction with iCloud synchronization and Mountain Lion’s new sharing features, Safari feels more polished than ever.

Apple continues to focus on refining what is the cleanest, fastest and easiest-to-use default system browser shopping on OS, and in Mountain Lion, Safari feels more polished than ever.

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  • 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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