OS X Lion Reviewed By A Windows User

I’ve been using Microsoft Windows since version 3.1, which came out in 1992.  I’ve seen it triumph:  2000, XP & 7 were all very strong releases.  I’ve seen it struggle:  ME & Vista were lackluster.  Nineteen years of mastering every single quirk and intricacy which has driven many users away from the platform.

About a month ago I began using Mac OS X Lion as my primary Desktop OS.  I’ll have to say that overall, Lion is fantastic.  There are few aspects that windows can say it does better, but they definitely exist.  This review talks more about what Lion doesn’t do as well as windows.

I may have been mostly a Windows desktop user, but when it comes down to it: I’m a console junkie. I use a mix of Linux and FreeBSD servers, and I even use CYGWIN on windows so that it makes it function as if it was POSIX compliant.

The Multitouch Trackpad is my favorite feature of the Lion by a long shot.  Back in college, I started avoiding using mice so that using a trackpad would never be an inconvenience.  Not needing a mouse means one less peripheral to impair your mobility.

Mac OS X Lion’s two-fingered secondary click (aka right mouse button),  its two-axis scrolling, its three fingered dragging, and four fingered desktop switching (x) & expose (y) are fantastic features which make me overlook any other inadequacies OS X might have. Somebody who chooses to rely on a mouse may not love the OS X Trackpad as much as I do.

Time Machine is another killer feature that secures my love of the operating system.

Samba File Sharing integration in OS X Lion works, but could be much much better.  On windows, I can use these sort of paths to access file on the network:


The great thing about typing these paths in windows is that they work with auto-complete, so I can see the possible directory matches as I type them out and use tab completion to minimize the amount of typing I have to do to enter a file name.

Mac OS X Lion’s Finder supports these kinds of paths in the “connect to server” dialog


After these connections are made, they’re mounted to  /Volumes/[share_name]/ whichcreates an issue.

If you have two shares named foo on two different computers, depending on which you connect to first, the first one will be mounted to /Volumes/foo/ and the second one you connect to will be mounted on /Volumes/foo-1/.

If you only ever use the finder & native file selection interfaces, you’ll never see /Volumes/.  However if you live on the console like I do, this becomes an annoying inconsistency.  A very simple solution would be to add a [server_name] sub-directory within /Volumes in order to make these network paths consistent and unambiguous from the console.

Mac OS X Lion’s File Selection Dialog lacks any filename input field that you can type or paste a file name into.  The only text input is the “search” box.  You can’t start to type a file name into the search box and get the “auto-complete” behavior that you get in windows.  As a windows user, I’m accustomed to copying and pasting full file names, however Mac OS has no way to enter a file name.  Finder’s “Go To”   I’m chained to clicking around the interface to select a file.

I discovered that the Finder’s   Command-Shift-G does reveal a “Go to the folder:” input which you can paste a file name into.  However, this input lacks the ability to access a smb:// path.  But for some reason the Finder’s Command-K “Connect To Server” keyboard shortcut is not available.  Simple solutions:  Add a file path input that has auto complete.  Add the Finder’s “Go” menu to the file selection dialog.

Multiple Desktops and Full Screen Mode are great reasons to use Mac instead of Windows.  Windows can have multiple desktops through add-ons, but they don’t work anywhere near as good as what as what is built in to Lion.

I’ve always been a huge fan of multi-monitor setups. At one point, I had quad monitor on my old SLI windows desktop.  In Lion, when you go to full screen mode, it takes over whatever is on your second monitor as well.  Most applications don’t seem to take advantage of the full screen mode with the second monitor, so they end up showing a grey pattern.

I’d rather be able to assign and swap my different desktops and full screen apps between monitors than be locked into seeing only one desktop or one full screen application displayed on both monitors.  Some ways this might work is to make desktops into a strip (one monitor per desktop) so that you could cycle desktops between monitors.

Example use case:  A three monitor setup, assigning the Dashboard or Lauchpad to be locked on to one one monitor, and using your other monitors for desktops & full screen apps.

I’m sure this kind of capability will make it in to one of Apple’s future kitties.

Always On Top doesn’t seem to exist as a feature in any apps.  In Windows you can check an option that makes the window stay in the foreground.

Although this is not part of the core OS, it’s worth mentioning that the Adobe Flash Plugin is as bad on Mac as I’ve heard.  The problem seems related to the rescaling of video.  If you have your browser set to anything other than 100%, or if an embedded video scales the flash object to a non-standard.  Somehow the frame rate of videos gets cut to as bad as 1FPS,  and your CPU utilization goes way up.  Somehow, slow software is doing this re-scaling instead of fast GPU hardware, and that absolutely kills performance.

Also, the Flash objects in browser tabs seem to have a cumulative effect on your CPU utilization, even if these tabs are in the background or beyond the view of scrolling page.  This makes Google Reader particularly bad, because the more articles you scroll through, the more flash objects pollute your page.  Before long, you are playing embedded videos at 1FPS, and the fan kicks on loudly to cool your roasting CPU.

I just received an auto-update of the Flash Plugin… is this plugin going to improve performance closer to what is available with the Flash plugin for Windows?  I sure hope so.

Overall: OS X Lion is great, but not perfect.  No OS I’ve ever used has been yet.  I’m still going to use Windows, but probably less than half as much as I used to.


  • Aaron H

    I have a few things to add to the review. I’ve been using Lion on a 15″ Macbook Pro that I inherited. I’ve found a few things very frustrating.

    1) Key bindings. I’ve found that switching between a Linux/Windows machine and Lion to be very annoying. Everything that I use the ctrl key for on the Win machines has to be replaced by the Apple/Alt key on Lion. I know that can be changed, but it is annoying by default. Futhermore, using the terminal causes me a lot of grief. The lack of continuity between home/end functions finds myself unable to quickly alter commands at the prompt.

    2) Spaces. I use Linux, a lot. Multiple work spaces are great, but I find myself getting both dizzy and annoyed at Lion. It takes a second for the spaces animation to complete, and I can’t find any way of turning the animations off. If I switch desktops 60 times per day, that’s a minute of my life I’ve lost to some silly animations.

    3) Locking. There is NO hot key to lock the screen in Lion. I’ve managed to add an icon to lock it when I walk away from the desk, but I am so used to hitting Win+L, or Ctrl+Alt+L (Gnome), I find it frustrating to have to use the mouse all the time to lock it.

    4) Automator. I recorded a macro of me locking the screen, and I attempted to bind a hot key to it; however, no matter what hot key associations I made with the macro, automator failed to engage. It didn’t “just work”.

    5) Installing apps. Why do I need to mount an image, then install the app, then unmount an image later? I prefer to double click a bundle, then go from there.

    Those are a few of my Lion frustrations. I don’t see the advantage of running Lion over running a gnome based system, if what you really want is bash and work spaces.

  • Geoff

    How much of my life have I lost to hitting function+c because that is where the control key was…