Our Experience with Lion So Far

September 6, 2011  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

I always debate whether to share the big Apple announcements on Apple Briefs.  I usually come down on the side of not doing so, under the theory that anyone who reads this has already read the big Apple news on three or four other sites already.

And so, on the day Lion was released, I simply installed it and began using it.  I had been using the developer preview for a while on our server.  But I hadn’t used it day-to-day.

So far I would describe the experience as:  cautious optimism.

Lion certainly does some big things.  All new apps for the core tools (Mail, Address Book, iCal, Preview).  Versions, with corresponding updates to iWork.  Remembering open windows.  Redesigned Dashboard.  All new Launchpad and Mission Control.

Here’s what I like the best:

  • The new Mail is pretty nice.  Not all the existing plugins work, though.  So the experience has been mixed.  Still, it’s a definite upgrade.  I like the new threaded message view (where you can see the entire thread in one shot).  And the overall interface is just much more pleasing and friendly.
  • iCal is a little less fugly.
  • Preview is a major improvement.  It no longer feels like a blast from the past (everything else seemed moving to the future but Preview in Snow Leopard felt like a Panther app for some reason).  Lion’s Preview is a lot more slick.
  • Lion Server feels more friendly for casual use (but see below).

Here’s what isn’t working:

  • It’s definitely slower.  I noticed that within about 10 minutes of installing Lion.
  • It’s also buggier.  I get a lockup about every 5-7 days.  That never happened with Snow Leopard.  And there are plenty of smaller things (trouble unlocking screen, missing icons when saving some files, etc).
  • I initially hated the new way Lion handles duplicate files when copying (“Keep Both” is a problem when dragging multiple files).  But they’ve mostly fixed that with the 10.7.1 update.
  • Launchpad is next to useless.  I have seven pages of apps displayed and I can’t understand how I am supposed to make it better than the Finder for getting to an app.
  • The Finder’s prettier.  But I still end up waiting for it while an external hard drive spins up.  Why do all of the Finder windows block when one window needs a hard drive to spin up?  It makes no sense.
  • Lion Server is a little stripped down.  It’s possible to restore some functionality by manually installing additional tools.  But it’s frustrating to have things removed.

Our verdict, as you can see, is essentially a hung jury (with a major lean toward “guilty”).  At this time, I don’t see any compelling reason for a business to upgrade to Lion (especially if everything you have is working just fine).  We’re leaving the rest of our machines on Snow Leopard until things stabilize and more apps are fully Lion compatible.

Down the road, I do expect that to change.  And using a laptop certainly brings additional benefits (the new apps, full screen, etc.).  But for our office use, we’re staying with Snow Leopard on the desktop for now.

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