Your Guide To Mountain Lion

By Lachlan Roy, http://www.lachlanroy.com
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Have you been thinking about upgrading to OS X Mountain Lion? Or have you already upgraded but not yet found the time to explore all the new features? Whichever of these positions you find yourself in today, there’s a wealth of information you’ll find invaluable in MakeUseOf’s new OS X Mountain Lion guide.

Enjoy and share this guide with friends!

§ – Introduction

§1 – OS X Mountain Lion

§2 – What’s new?

§ – Conclusion

Introduction

Apple as a company has changed dramatically over the last few years. Ever since the introduction of the iPhone (and the iPad a few years later), people have increasingly been introduced to the Apple ecosystem first by an iOS device, not a Mac.

Apple’s biggest selling point is that its products all work together and work consistently. For many first-time Mac owners (whose first Apple product was an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch), “consistent” means that when they move to a Mac it works just like the iOS device that they’re used to. Apple pointed to this trend in Lion (the previous version of OS X), but Mountain Lion takes it that much further, and brings OS X and iOS together as seamlessly as possible.

So what does OS X Mountain Lion bring to the table? What’s new? Read on to find out.

1. OS X Mountain Lion

What is Mountain Lion?

Mountain Lion is the newest version of the Mac operating system, OS X 10.8. Similar to the way that Snow Leopard (10.6) focused on speed improvements over Leopard (10.5) instead of making any major changes, Mountain Lion (10.8) is first and foremost an evolutionary update to Lion (10.7) rather than a revolutionary one. While there are a few major new features, most of the changes are behind the scenes, making Mountain Lion leaner and meaner.

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Like in Lion, the new features in OS X Mountain Lion are nearly all concepts taken from Apple’s other major platform, iOS (the operating system that runs on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch).

A Word On Compatibility

Before we get properly started, it’s important to note that not all Macs are capable of running Mountain Lion. If you bought your computer in the last few years you should be good to go, but any older than that and you should check before you rush out and spend money to purchase it. There is a website called RoaringApps that can tell you which Mac apps are compatible with OS X Mountaion Lion.

Here’s a quick list of the earliest computers that can run Mountain Lion:

Desktops:

  • Mid-2007 iMac
  • Early-2009 Mac Mini
  • Early-2008 Mac Pro
  • Early-2009 Xserve

Notebooks:

  • Late-2008 aluminium unibody MacBook
  • Early-2009 polycarbonate unibody MacBook
  • Mid-2007 MacBook Pro
  • Late-2008 MacBook Air

If your Mac is older than this, you’re out of luck; Mountain Lion won’t run on your system. Naturally, this guide assumes that your Mac is compatible.

You’ll also need to make sure that the software you plan to use is compatible with Mountain Lion. If you’re coming from Lion, you probably won’t run into any issues, but if you’re coming from Snow Leopard or earlier you may be running some software that is no longer supported.

How Do I Get It?

Like Lion, Mountain Lion is distributed as an upgrade through the Mac App Store. Even cheaper than Lion, Mountain Lion can be yours for just $19.99 (in the US, at least). There is also a way to upgrade to Mountain Lion for free. This is the first release of OS X, however, that has no physical distribution whatsoever. While Lion could be purchased on a USB flash drive for $69, no such option is available for the latest version of OS X.

Because OS X Mountain Lion is distributed via the App Store, you will need to be running Lion (OS X 10.7) or the latest version of Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.8). If you’re running Leopard (10.5) or older, you’ll need to use another Mac with a more recent version of OS X to download the required files, and then follow the instructions in “Performing a Clean Installation”.

You should have no trouble finding Mountain Lion in the Mac App Store. Just start the App Store application; Mountain Lion should be one of the options in the sidebar, or you can enter “Mountain Lion” into the search bar at the top of the window.

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Installing Mountain Lion

When it comes to actually installing Mountain Lion on your Mac, you have a two options: you can either upgrade your current OS X installation, leaving all your applications, settings and files in place, or you can take this as an opportunity for a fresh start by cleaning out your system drive and starting with a clean installation.

Each option has its benefits and caveats. Upgrading your current OS X installation is definitely more straightforward, is less likely to go wrong, and will have you up and running with a productive machine much sooner. However, there is a chance that upgrading could cause some bugs or errors, particularly if you have heavily tweaked your system.

If, on the other hand, you decide to start from scratch, you’ll end up with a much cleaner, much faster system. If you use Time Machine to backup your files, you can restore them in place without much effort. However, the process is a little more involved and will take longer – the installation itself will take a little longer, and it will take you a while to get your machine up and running the way you want it to. If you have more than one drive in your Mac (an issue more for iMacs and Mac Pros), there is also the small but present risk that you might accidentally erase the wrong drive.

So, which should you do? Your computer will run best if you do a clean install, but should you really choose that over an upgrade? It really boils down to three main questions:

  • Do you feel confident enough to follow the instructions for a clean install, knowing the potential risks?
  • Do you have a fail-safe backup plan in the unlikely event that something goes wrong?
  • Do you have the free time to spend setting up your computer again from scratch?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no”, you will probably be better off simply upgrading your existing installation.

If you are coming from an operating system before Snow Leopard, this decision has already been made for you; the upgrade process for Mountain Lion requires you to be running either Snow Leopard or Lion. There are ways to upgrade straight to Mountain Lion, but they are outside the scope of this guide.

Whatever you decide to do, it is really important that you back up your data. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you follow the instructions you should be fine, but there is always the possibility that something will go wrong and cause you to lose your files.

Also, it is important to note that the installer application is deleted during the upgrade process, so if you want to keep the file for use on multiple computers, you might want to consider creating a bootable install disk by following the instructions under Performing a Clean Installation below.

Upgrading from Snow Leopard or Lion

So you’ve backed up your data, bought OS X Mountain Lion on the App Store and downloaded it. When it’s finished downloading it should automatically run. Otherwise, you can find the installer (“Install OS X Mountain Lion.app”) in your Applications folder.

Apple has made the upgrade process as simple as possible. It’s just a matter of following the prompts in the window – clicking “Continue”, agreeing to the End User License Agreement (EULA), and choosing which drive you want to install Mountain Lion on (the default option, and the option that the vast majority of people will want to do, is to use the current system drive, usually titled “Macintosh HD”).

The installer copies all the files it needs before restarting for the actual installation, which should take around 35 minutes. When it restarts again you’ll be booting into Mountain Lion, ready to go.

Performing a Clean Installation

Even if you decide that a clean installation is the way to go, you’ll still need to download the Mountain Lion installer from the Mac App Store (or, if you’re on Leopard or earlier, have somebody else download it for you).

Again, you’ll need to make sure that all of your data is backed up somewhere else because a clean install involves deleting the entire contents of the system drive. This also means that you’ll need to create a Mountain Lion install disk that contains all the installation files. Ideally, you’ll want to use an 8GB (or larger) USB flash drive or, if you have a 13” MacBook Air, 15” MacBook Pro or an iMac, an SD card. You can also burn a DVD, but it’s not recommended as the installation will be much, much slower.

There’s a great tool called Lion DiskMaker available online which makes the process of creating an install disk unbelievably easy.

You’ll be ready to go once you’ve ticked everything off on this checklist:

  • All my files are backed up
  • I have Install OS X Mountain Lion.app downloaded and in my Applications folder
  • I have Lion DiskMaker
  • I have something to use as an Install disk (a USB flash drive, SD card or DVD)

To create a bootable disk, start up Lion DiskMaker. You’ll be given the option of creating a boot disk of Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8). Select Mountain Lion (10.8). If you have Install OS X Mountain Lion.app in your Applications folder it should be found automatically, otherwise you can manually browse to find it. (See this article if you would like to create a bootable disk for Mountain Lion on Windows PC)

You’ll then be asked what you want to build. If you plan to use a USB flash drive or SD card, select “Create a boot disk”. If you want to burn a DVD, select “Burn a DVD”.

If you’re creating a boot disk, you’ll be wiping the data that is currently on the drive, so if the drive isn’t empty make sure you have all that data backed up, too. 8GB drives will be completely erased, whereas if you have a larger drive with multiple partitions, only the partition you select as the installer will be erased. Just choose the option that closest matches what you’re using.

Lion DiskMaker handles the rest. When it’s done, you’ll have a bootable installer disk. Now it’s time to perform the clean installation. Say your final goodbye to the current installation, and make sure you’re not leaving anything behind as you turn the lights off and log out for the last time.

Now, restart your computer and hold down the alt/option key when you hear the start up sound (or as soon as you seen the screen light up with a grey background). After a small wait you’ll see a list of boot sources, such as Macintosh HD, BOOTCAMP (if you’re running Windows on a Boot Camp partition) and, if everything has gone well, an icon with the “Install Mountain Lion” symbol entitled “EFI Boot” or similar. Select it with your arrow keys and press Enter (or click the icon with your mouse) to boot into the Mountain Lion installer.

Once you reach the welcome screen and click “Continue”, you can choose the language that you would like to use to install Mountain Lion. You can then choose from a few different options; there’s the option to restore from a Time Machine backup, an option to reinstall OS X (which we’ll get to in a minute), the option to use Safari for troubleshooting, and, finally, the option to start the Disk Utility. We’ll want to use the Disk Utility first, so select that and click “Continue”.

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Because we want to do a clean install, we first need to wipe the current installation of OS X. Once the Disk Utility has opened, look in the sidebar for your hard drive. By default it will just have one partition (shown as a sublevel) called “Macintosh HD”. If you’ve installed Windows on your Mac you should see a second partition called “BOOTCAMP”.

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If you’ve only got the one partition, it’s better to select the whole drive. If you have Windows installed, just select “Macintosh HD” in the sidebar. You’ll then want to click on the “Erase” tab. Enter the name you want to give the partition (I usually just call it the default “Macintosh HD”), and make sure that the format is set to “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”. Then, when you’re absolutely sure that you’ve backed up all of your data, click on “Erase…” and verify it. You’ve now just wiped the partition and are ready to install your fresh version of OS X Mountain Lion. Once the Disk Utility has finished doing its thing, click on the red close button in the top left hand corner of the window to return to the initial menu. You’re now ready to select “Reinstall OS X”.

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Installing OS X from here is as simple as following the instructions on screen. Just make sure that you select “Macintosh HD” (or whatever you called the formatted partition) when asked where you want to install OS X. The installer will take care of the rest, and after 20 minutes or so you’ll be booting into your shiny new installation of OS X Mountain Lion!

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2. What’s new?

iCloud

iCloud is easily the biggest change in Mountain Lion. While iCloud was present in the previous version of OS X (Lion), it was fairly limited. It allowed you to sync mail, contacts, calendars, reminders (via iCal), notes (via Mail) and photos (via iPhoto’s Photo Stream), but while iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches running iOS 5 could share files, settings and save games, Lion was left in the dark. Mountain Lion brings the Mac into the file-sharing circle, allowing you to use iCloud to keep files constantly up to date on all of your devices.

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Each application looks after its own documents in iCloud – there’s no way to view all of the files you have saved to the cloud. This makes it easier to find the files you’re looking for most of the time (there’s no point in having to hunt through files that aren’t relevant to your current application), but there’s no way to save a document in iCloud in one application and open it in another.

This also means that if you want to use iCloud you’ll have to get into the habit of opening the application to open the document, rather than finding the file you want to edit in the Finder and then opening the application with the file. In fact, the only way to view iCloud files in the Finder is through the “All My Files” view or to search for them with Spotlight.

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Aside from those caveats, though, iCloud is really easy to use. When you create and save a document in an application that supports iCloud (iWork, TextEdit, Preview and any other third party applications) you will be asked to enter a file name and then asked where you want to save the document. By default it will be saved to iCloud, but you can click on the drop-down menu to reveal favourite locations like the Documents folder as well as the three most recent locations that you have saved documents. Once you have chosen a location other than iCloud you can click the arrow next to the “Save As” field to show the Finder so you can browse to your desired save location.

Then you can go to any other Mac which is set up for iCloud with your Apple ID, open up the desired application and any files you’ve saved to iCloud will be right there, ready to go. Changes you make on one computer will be updated on all other computers within seconds (though they won’t show up if you have the document open).

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Every Apple ID gets 5GB of free space on iCloud, which is split between any iDevice backups and iCloud documents on your Mac. This is usually enough, but if you really get into iCloud and find yourself needing more space you can purchase additional iCloud space (from an additional 10 to 50GB for $21 to $105 per year).

Notification Center

In previous versions of OS X notifications were a bit of a mess; each application had its own form of notifications that could conflict with each other, competing for the same space. Styles varied broadly from application to application.

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Applications like Growl provided a standard framework for other applications to use. This definitely improved the situation, as notifications from different applications could then join a queue that was presented to the user in a consistent style and location.

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OS X Mountain Lion has taken the Notification Center from iOS and integrated it right into the heart of the operating system. You can find it hiding behind the right side of the screen; to access it you can either click on the Notification Center icon, which is the icon on the far right of the menu bar, or by swiping from the right edge of your MacBook’s trackpad (or the Magic Trackpad).

If you don’t have a trackpad to perform gestures, you can also make some changes in System Preferences to create a keyboard shortcut (found in the Keyboard preference pane) or assign the Notification Center to open when you move your mouse pointer to one of the corners of the screen (Hot Corners settings are found in the Mission Control preference pane).

Any notifications sent to the system (instead of being shown separately) will be shown in the Notification Center. There are two different kinds of notifications: banner notifications and alert notifications. Banner notifications will simply show up in the top right hand corner of your screen for a few seconds before slipping away to hide in the Notification Center. Alert notifications, on the other hand, will stick around until you dismiss them or act on them (replying to a message, for example). You can set which kind of notification each application uses in the Notifications preference pane in System Preferences (or, indeed, disable notifications for a particular application altogether).

Banner notifications that you might not have seen will accumulate in the Notification Center, waiting for you to address them. You can mark them as read one by one by clicking on the individual notifications, or clear all of an app’s notifications at once by clicking on the cross next to its name.

Finally, if you’ve set up Twitter and Facebook accounts in Mountain Lion (more on this later), you can tweet or update your Facebook status right from the Notification Center. Just go into Notification Center and click on “Click to Tweet” or “Click to Post”, type out your message and click send. That’s all there is to it!

While Notification Center is pretty straightforward and is being used more and more by developers, there are still a few big applications such as Adium that don’t support the Notification Center just yet. Luckily, with a few tweaks you can get a lot more out the Notification Center. Give it a go!

There are a couple of excellent MakeUseOf articles on how to make most of the Notification Center.

AirPlay Mirroring

Another feature brought over from iOS, AirPlay Mirroring allows you to wirelessly mirror what you see and hear on your Mac to an Apple TV connected to an HDTV. Because it uses the video encoding capabilities of Intel’s latest processors, not all Macs are able to use AirPlay Mirroring. The Macs that are supported are:

  • iMac (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Early 2011 or newer)
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You’ll also need a second or third generation Apple TV. If you don’t have an Apple TV but you have a Mac hooked up to your TV, you can also use third party applications like AirServer to enable AirPlay Mirroring to it.

Once your Mac is on the same WiFi network as the Apple TV, an icon should appear in your menu bar that will allow you to choose the Apple TV as a mirror destination. You can also find the same menu in the Displays preference pane in System Preferences.

New Applications

Reminders

Yet another addition pulled over from iOS, Apple has created their own To-Do application called Reminders. While it’s no replacement for killer GTD apps like OmniFocus, Things or The Hit List, Reminders gives simpler To-Do applications like Wunderlist or Remember The Milk a run for their money.

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There’s not a whole lot to the Reminders app. You can easily create new tasks by clicking on the + button or simply typing on the next empty line. Clicking on the checkbox marks the item as complete and it is moved to a list of completed items. You can swipe left or right on a trackpad (or click on the dots at the bottom of the window) to change lists.

You can also switch between the compact mode and an expanded mode by clicking on the icon in the bottom left hand corner of the window (a box with an arrow in it). The expanded mode shows all the different lists, allows you to search for particular items and view a calendar that has marks for uncompleted items with set dates.

Reminders uses iCloud to sync between your Macs and your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, so any items you create on one device will show up on all the others.

Notes

If you’ve just wanted to jot something down in previous versions of OS X, you had a few different options: you could put them on “Stickies” (either on the Dashboard or in the separate Stickies application), you could use TextEdit, or you could use a third party application like Notational Velocity.

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Mountain Lion brings the Notes application from iOS to the Mac. As you might expect, Notes uses iCloud to sync your notes between your Macs and your iDevices. Just like the Notes app on iOS, it’s really straightforward. On the left hand side of the window you can see a list of your different notes (and a search bar to search the contents of all your notes), and on the right you have the contents of the selected note.

There are three different default fonts to choose from, or you can select your own. This can be changed from the Format menu in the menu bar.

You can double click on a note in the left hand bar to bring it up in its own window. You can choose for a separated note to float above all other windows by selecting the option from the “Window” menu in the menu bar.

As well as syncing notes from iCloud, the Notes application can also sync notes with other accounts (for example, you can manage your notes using a Google Mail account, which could come in handy if you use an Android phone).

Changes to Existing Apps

The Mac App Store

The Mac App Store hasn’t changed a whole lot. It’s still the go-to place to find new applications for your Mac that can be quickly and easily installed on to your computer with just a couple of clicks. OS X Mountain Lion does bring a few extra perks to the App Store, though.

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The first (and most major) change is that system software updates (previously managed by the aptly named Software Update application) are now handled by the App Store, too. Instead of a window popping up over whatever you’re doing at inopportune moments, an alert notification will show up in the top right hand corner of your screen letting you know that there are updates to install – clicking on the “Details” button will take you to the App Store updates tab to show you what needs updating.

This means that you can quickly and easily update both your system and your applications in one fell swoop by clicking on the “Update All” button.

There are a bevy of minor changes as well; the ability to make the App Store full screen, for example, share buttons everywhere (more on this later), and gesture support when navigating around the store.

iCal (now Calendar)

iCal hasn’t changed much since Lion other than in name – it’s now called “Calendar” to match the Calendar app from iOS.

Having said that, it does have a few new perks, mainly when it comes to searching for events (like the search tokens introduced in Mail in OS X Lion, or search suggestions).

The main Calendar window now has a ‘Calendars’ button to hide or show the sidebar, which contains a calendar overview and a list of all the calendars on your Mac, in iCloud and any other calendars that you’re syncing with (such as Google Calendar).

iChat (now Messages)

While you could install the beta for the new Messages app in OS X Lion, its true home was always intended to be Mountain Lion. iChat is no more, and Messages is here to stay. It’s first and foremost made to handle iMessage, letting you send messages to anybody else with a Mac or iDevice via their Apple ID or iPhone’s phone number.

Just like on iDevices, iMessages can handle pictures, videos and documents as well as standard text messages. Any messages you send and receive on your Mac will show up on any other Macs tied to your Apple ID as well as any of your iDevices. All you need to do to start a new conversation is click on the “Compose” button at the top of the window next to the search bar and start typing the person’s name; Messages searches your Contacts list for names and email addresses.

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However, Messages still has (most) of iChat’s functionality – going to Messages preferences (found in Message’s main menu in the menu bar) will allow you to add Google Talk, AIM, Yahoo! and other Jabber accounts to Messages. You can then open your buddy list from the Window menu in the menu bar to show all your online contacts.

While Messages no longer has its own video chat capabilities, FaceTime calls with other Mac or iOS users are just a click away in the top right hand corner of the conversation.

Safari

Mountain Lion updates Safari to version 6, which brings speed improvements and greater reliability along with a slew of new features.

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One of the biggest additions is Safari’s integration with iCloud. Safari syncs the tabs you have open so that you can see what you’re browsing on all of your devices (including iDevices like your iPhone or iPad) and open them on your current device. There’s also the Reading List, which allows you to save websites offline for you to read later, even if you leave the Internet connection behind. The reading list is also updated across all of your devices thanks to iCloud.

The share button also makes an appearance in Safari 6 (we’ll get to sharing eventually, I promise). Finally, there’s the all-new Tab view, which allows you to “zoom out” to see a visual overview of your tabs while you switch between them. While it works much better with a multitouch trackpad (which allows you to zoom out to enable the view and swipe between tabs with two fingers), you can also enable tab view by clicking on the icon on the far right of the tab bar and navigate with the arrow keys on your keyboard.

Mail

Mail is largely the same, save for one new feature. VIPs allows you to select contacts that are important to you, and places higher priority on emails from these contacts (similar in concept to Gmail’s Priority Inbox). Indeed, the new version of Mail has a “VIP smart mailboxes” reserved for emails from each your VIPs. What’s more, emails from VIPs will show up as alert notifications rather than banner notifications from the Notification Center, so the notification will stick around until you verify that you’ve seen it.

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Aside from that, there are only a few minor tweaks, like the ability to click the sort bar at the top of the message list to return to the top of the list (like tapping the status bar on an iPhone).

Address Book (now Contacts)

Like Calendars, the Address Book really hasn’t changed since Lion except for getting a new name; Address Book is now Contacts (just like in iOS). Aside from a new Groups column that, as you may have guessed, quickly allows you to view and change your different contact groups, the only real difference is the addition of one of the ubiquitous share buttons (we’ll get there eventually).

Other Features

Game Center

If you’ve used an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch in the last couple of years you’ve almost certainly seen the Game Center. It’s Apple’s take on the social side of gaming, allowing you to earn achievements, keep high scores, add friends and compare your high scores with them. You can issue challenges to try and beat your high scores, and Game Center also provides a matchmaking service for multiplayer games, providing a protocol for players to play against their friends or against total strangers.

Now Game Center has come to the Mac as well, allowing you to track your high scores for all the Mac games you buy through the Mac App Store. It provides all the same core functionality as the iOS version, with the addition of a few perks like in-game voice chat.

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The great thing about Game Center enabled multiplayer games is that they are often cross-platform. Because you’re using the same Game Center whether you’re on Mac or iOS, many of these games will let a Mac player compete against an iOS player.

Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper is a new feature that is used to keep your computer safe. It controls which applications are allowed to be installed to your computer. By default it allows any applications to be installed that are made by “identified developers”; those that have received a unique Developers ID from Apple to sign their applications, which includes all applications coming from the Mac App Store.

The reasoning is that if Apple knows who the developer is and they have to digitally sign all of their applications, Apple is able to quickly invalidate the software if it is found to contain any form of malware.

If you’re feeling really paranoid about what you want to end up on your computer, it is possible to lock it down further so that you can only install applications from the App Store. If, on the other hand, you feel that Gatekeeper is choking you and preventing you from installing different applications that haven’t been digitally signed, you can opt to turn it off completely.

Dictation

Dictation brings the voice recognition abilities of iOS’s Siri to the Mac. After enabling it in the Dictation and Speech preference pane in System Preferences, you can simply press the shortcut key (by default, pressing the function key twice) and begin talking. When you finish, the final recording is sent off to Apple’s servers where it is interpreted before the text is sent back to you.

The only major downside of Apple’s built in dictation service is that it requires an active Internet connection to work. If you have a spotty Internet connection you may struggle to use the built in dictation.

Power Nap

Power Nap is an interesting feature which takes advantage of the low power usage of solid state drives and the latest Intel processors to update your mail, notes, reminders and messages even when the computer is asleep. It does this without turning on the screen or fans.

Power Nap also has the ability to backup with Time Machine if the backup volume is available, and it can also download new software updates from the App Store.

Unfortunately, not all Macs support Power Nap; the basic rule of thumb is that it requires a MacBook that comes from Apple with a solid-state drive. A complete list can be found below:

  • 13” MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
  • 11” MacBook Air (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • 13” MacBook Pro with Retina Display
  • 15” MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Facebook and Twitter

Both of the giant social networks have been incorporated into the operating system itself. Now, instead of having to sign into Facebook and Twitter with every new application you download, you just need to enter your username and password once for each service and any new applications can be automatically automated.

Signing in with Facebook and Twitter also allows you to post to these services directly from the Notification Center. What’s more, you can also receive notifications about mentions and comments on your own updates.

Finally, once you’ve logged into Facebook and Twitter, you’ll be able to use the myriad share buttons found throughout Mountain Lion to quickly share content to the social networking sites.

Sharing

OS X Mountain Lion has integrated sharing right into the operating system and into many of its applications. There are many different protocols available, ranging from posting a video to Vimeo or YouTube from iMovie, sending photos to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr in iPhoto, or sending documents via Messages or AirDrop from the Finder (by selecting Share when right clicking on a file). You can use the share button in Safari to send a link to a web page via Facebook, Twitter or Messages.

Pretty much everything is shareable in one way or another, and it’s not just system applications that have sharing functionality. Any third party application can add a sharing button and add their own custom sharing options (to use in their own application, anyway) as well as using the basics like Facebook, Twitter or Messages.

All you need to do is click a share button and see what options it gives you!

Working with Files

Finder

Finder is still inherently the Finder. There are only two real additions to the Finder feature set. First, a sharing button has been added to easily send your files via Messages, AirDrop or Mail.

The other nice perk is the addition of progress bars for individual files when copying files to or from an external drive or server (as well as the traditional progress bar for the entire transfer). This lets you keep an eye on the progress of shifting particularly large files, and allows you to see which files have been successfully copied and those which are yet to be transferred.

Auto Save

The auto save functionality present in applications like iWork has also had a minor overhaul. You can now rename a file right from the menu bar by clicking on the file name and then clicking “Rename…”. You can also use this menu to shift the document to the application’s iCloud library, making it quickly accessible to all of your other Macs (and iDevices, if supported).

In OS X Lion, you could quit an application like TextEdit and any unsaved documents would be maintained and restored when you reopened the application. Mountain Lion takes this one step further by copying the unsaved document to iCloud, so even if you haven’t gotten around to saving the document yet you can still access it from all of your devices.

When it comes to closing a document (rather than the application), you will be asked if you wish to keep or discard any changes made since the last version (the last time you manually saved the document).

Finally, there are a couple of new shortcuts for when it comes to saving your documents. You can now quickly create a duplicate of the current document by pressing ⌘+Shift+S. In case you’ve missed it, Save As functionality is also back with the shortcut ⌘+Shift+Option+S.

Other Tweaks

Full Screen Apps

While it’s still far from perfect, Full Screen mode in Mountain Lion has taken a significant step in the right direction when it comes to dealing with multiple displays. Whereas before full-screen apps could only occupy your primary monitor, you can now go full screen in any display by dragging the window into the display that you wish it to occupy.

Unfortunately, going full screen still blanks out any other displays, limiting functionality, but hopefully in upcoming versions we’ll be able to control what we see on other screens.

Launchpad

Launchpad hasn’t changed much; it’s still the go-to place to find all of your installed applications laid out in a grid just like on iOS. However, Launchpad now has a search feature that allows you to quickly find the applications you’re after. Just start typing as soon as you open Launchpad.

Conclusion

OS X Mountain Lion took over where Lion left off to blur the lines between OS X an iOS. With iCloud and the Notification Center making their appearance in OS X, the two different platforms are not only beginning to look like each other, but behave like each other too.

iCloud’s document syncing means that your files are with you wherever you go, no matter which device you’re using. Messages means that an iMessage conversation you start on your iPhone doesn’t have to stay there; you can easily shift to your Mac and carry on right where you left off.

Your Mac just got smarter, yet easier to use. That’s what Mountain Lion is all about.

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Guide Published: December 2012

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