Apple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion review

Price when reviewed

Mountain Lion – or OS X 10.8, to give it its more prosaic designation – is the latest big cat to stalk onto the Mac. It will run on most Macs released since 2008, so long as they have at least 2GB of RAM and are currently running Snow Leopard or Lion, and the cost remains very low: a single £14 purchase from the Mac App Store allows you to upgrade all your authorised Macs (which in practice means up to five machines).

Yet although the price suggests Mountain Lion is a minor upgrade, it represents a significant shift in focus for OS X. Or, rather, it brings to fruition a shift that began last year, when Lion started importing iOS features such as full-screen applications, multitouch gestures and the Launchpad view to the desktop. Mountain Lion builds on this, tying the Mac in more closely to online content and services – and to iOS devices.

New online features

The most visible new feature is the iOS-style Notification Center. Calendar appointments, emails and software updates are heralded by tasteful notification balloons at the top right of the screen, which optionally either fade out or remain until snoozed or dismissed.

As in Lion, you can sign in to various external email services, including Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft Exchange – and you can now also connect directly with Twitter, Vimeo and Flickr. Facebook integration is promised for this autumn. If you miss a notification, simply swipe to the left or click the new icon at the far right of the menu bar to see your notification history (pictured above).

A wider range of online services than before is supported, though Facebook isn't yet ready.

More subtle is the appearance of discreet Share buttons dotted around the various applications. In Safari, you can now share URLs and send images to email, Twitter or the Messages application directly from the toolbar. In iPhoto, Photo Booth and Preview you can click to post an image directly to Flickr – or set it as your avatar on online services. Even the Finder now sports a share button to send a file to a friend.

The Messages application now supports iMessages, so you can chat seamlessly with people using both OS X and iOS clients. More excitingly, there’s also now a Mac version of the iOS Game Center for playing games directly against mobile users – we couldn’t try this as it wasn’t yet live.

Living in the cloud

Mountain Lion isn’t only about socialising. iCloud integration has been beefed up to help you manage multiple devices. In Lion, this service synchronised mail, calendars and some types of document between your Mac and mobile devices: now it can also synchronise Safari web tabs – so you can put down an iPad and continue on the Mac – and share photo streams with other iCloud users.

You can share memos created in the new cloud-aware Notes application too: update a document and it will sync across your Mac, iPhone and iPad. The Reminders application works similarly, but lets you attach a date and time to an alert, which will then pop up on all of your Apple devices. Reminders can be assigned to locations too, popping up when you arrive at a particular place.


Software subcategory Operating system

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? no
Operating system Windows XP supported? no
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes

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