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Facebook Integration Comes to Mountain Lion

Unlike some cats you might know, Mountain Lion is a sociable beast, and with the 10.8.2 iteration it has become even more so by adding Facebook integration to its collection of big cat toys. This integration gives you the capability of making Facebook posts from Mountain Lion’s Notification Center, from Game Center, and from the Share buttons in the Finder, in Safari, and in Quick Look windows. Plus, you’ll be able to see all of your Facebook friends in your Contacts app and add their profile pictures to Contacts — if you so choose.

To bring Facebook into your Mac OS X environment, take a trip to System Preferences and open the Mail, Contacts & Calendars preference pane. There you find Facebook as one of the account types listed on the right side of the preference pane. Click the Facebook logo in that list, enter your Facebook username (or the email address you use to log into Facebook) and your Facebook password, and then click Next.

When you do that, you see a list of all the things you can do with Facebook. These include the following:

  • Download and integrate your Facebook friends into the Contacts app
  • Integrate Facebook into Notification Center and post links from various apps
  • Enable other Facebook-savvy apps on your Mac to work with your Facebook account — only, Apple is careful to point out, with your consent

Following that list are various caveats and additional items of interest concerning the integration. For example, Apple points out that you can approve or deny any app’s request to use your account, you can review what the requesting app purports to do with your account, you can grant the app permission to use information available to the app on your behalf in Facebook, and you can see (and specify) whether that information is available to just your Facebook friends, just you, or the entire Facebook community.

In the fine print, Apple also points out what granting Facebook access to your apps could entail; this is well worth reading and considering if you are at all concerned about maintaining a modicum of privacy while interacting with Facebook from Mountain Lion. But, if the fine print doesn’t scare you off, click Sign In and you’re ready to go… almost: the preference then presents a pane showing you the apps that have requested Facebook access. In my case, the only app listed was Contacts, and the default was to allow Facebook
access to my Contacts list (I immediately unchecked it). Even if you don’t allow Facebook access to your Contacts, you can still have Contacts look through your Facebook contacts and bring profile pictures from Facebook into your Contacts app and assign them to matching contacts if you like.

Posting to Facebook from Safari is much like posting to Twitter: click the Share button on the Safari toolbar and choose Facebook from the pop-up menu, compose your post, and click Post. Your post, along with the URL of the page you are viewing, are published as your current Facebook status. Similarly, posting from Notification Center is much like posting to Twitter from there; in fact, the Click to Tweet button at the top of the Notification Center now shares space with a Click to Post button for Facebook. (For this to work, you must have the Share button enabled in the Notifications preference pane; for details, see “Going In Depth on Mountain Lion’s Notifications,” 11 September


In both these cases, and, I imagine, in other situations where you can post to Facebook from a Mac app, you see a small pop-up menu at the top of the posting pane from which you can choose who gets to see your post. Choices include Public (i.e., everyone on Facebook), Friends, Only Me, Friends of Friends, and various other Facebook groups to which you may belong. In fact, this menu seems to me more obvious and informative than the one lurking at the bottom of the Facebook posting pane in
Facebook’s own Web interface.

Posting to Facebook from the Finder or the Quick Look window is a bit different, since you must first select a file, then click the Share button and choose Facebook from the pop-up menu. But Facebook (and this is true for Twitter and Flickr as well) appears in the menu only if the file selected is a graphic file format, and you’re given the additional option of posting the image to your Wall or to an existing Facebook album.

Facebook integration also includes notifications: when someone comments or likes a Facebook post of yours, or sends you a message via Facebook, Notification Center can let you know about it. You can configure Facebook in the Notifications preference pane to choose how you are notified in the usual ways — None, Banners, or Alerts — and you can specify how many Facebook items are listed in Notifications Center.

The integration that Apple and Facebook jointly provide in 10.8.2 seems to me to offer a good balance of utility and security. Whether you are only an occasional Facebook user or a complete Facebook addict, I suspect you’ll like what the cat dragged in in the latest OS X update.

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