I am actually running Mac OS Lion Golden Master (11A511) release for a week now and I wanted to give my first though on the new major version of Mac OS. The machine used to test-drive this OS is my main development machine:
MacBook Pro 3,1 (late 2007) - 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo, 4Gb RAM, 120Gb SSD + 160Gb HDD

I started from an up-to date Snow Leopard install (10.6.8) and ran the installation procedure. A few minutes later (about 15 minutes) Mac OS X Lion was ready to roar. The first start prompts me with a list of uncompatible software (PowerPC ones, no big deal to me) telling me they have been moved in a special directory under /. I then tried to launch my favorite IDE (Intellij IDEA) and OS X prompts me to download and install Java (not included anymore...), then I launched IDEA and....

Where are my spaces ?

I am, for a few years now, very meticulous with my virtual displays (under Linux or OS X thanks to Spaces). I use(d) 6 (3 horizontally on 2 rows) of them to focus easily on tasks :

  • one dedicated to Internet browsing / Mail management
  • one to Instant Messenging / IRC
  • one to Office / iWork apps
  • one to my IDE
  • one to Terminal
  • one to Music (I can't work without music)

This is where the lack of spaces is difficult for me. I launched IntelliJ, it switched automatically to another virtual desktop (just right of the current one, where I am used to have my IDE on the bottom left one). I then launched iTunes, it launched and switched to another virtual desktop.

Hum, wait... Mission Control, that's it !

Default settings let Mac OS reorganize virtual desktop order for you, which can be very disturbing if you're, like me, used to switch space with key combo (cmd+tabbing is fine though). The things I really miss (from the existing discontinued Spaces) are :

  • hability to have a multiple rows layout (faster to switch while giving hability to have a many spaces)
  • simple hability to assign a space for an application (you know the good old add an application and choose the desktop you want to use in Spaces preferences). In order to do this, you have to set the application on the desktop you want, and right click its dock icon and select "Options > This desktop". The good part is that settings from my existing Snow Leopard set-up were migrated automatically !
  • hability to easily switch to spaces one with another via drag'n dropping
automatic reordering is nice when you're used to it

Some good things are still good to notice :

  • revives the dashboard (at least for me), as it is shown as the leftmost virtual space by default
  • will certainly helps standard users to discover the power of virtual spaces
  • better, faster UI (specially regarding old UI for Spaces)

Made with real Lion fur !

As I am talking of better, faster UI, I have to say that there is a lot of small improvements that are quite comfortable. First of all, you can now resize a window from any side of it ! (I know it sounds silly for non Mac OS X users...). The other thing that will certainly hurts you is the scroll behavior that mimics touch enabled devices (iOS in sight), you scroll up, it scrolls bottom... (overridable via Trackpad System preferences, very hard to be used with a physical mouse wheel). And the last thing very iOS-ish is the long press on a key which pop-ups character variants, bypassing key repeat (I have not found out on how to disable this) : welcome touch enabled MacBook Air / iMac ?

I will take Terminal.app for example, I noticed two really cool features, if you activate window blinking on bell, you'll no more risking being turned blind by an intrusive white flash. Now, the flash is slowly fading, a detail but it is very sweet to have it (no more stress on hitting tab at shell prompt). The other sweet thing is a system wide Lion feature that keeps application state on exit. The result in Terminal.app is that when you (re)launch it, it automatically reopens the tabs / windows you had, and reminds you your last shell history with a nice grey effect : Resuming Terminal.appThe other  UI improvements are subtle but you'll notice that every common control has been redesigned (combo-boxes, check boxes, and... scrollbars !!) Everything is suited to provide more real screen estate (as the new full screen feature suggests, but I have not used it so I can't tell for now).

Get ready to fill your zoo !

So, what's my conclusion regarding this new version. Get it while it's hot, for only a few bucks (in a few days), you'll have a very complete OS, with updated bundled applications (the new Mail.app is slowly bringing me back to a native app client), without any drawback. I see no use in LaunchPad (I am to addicted to Alfred.app and Spotlight to launch my applications), it is too iOS for me. I am not a big user of the Finder too, there is changes, but I have not enough played with it to discuss about it !

Don't hesitate to share your thoughts via comments !

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