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Meanwhile, Back at the Lion Ranch…

In the course of Apple’s super-release last Wednesday, most of the air got sucked out of the room by the new iPhone 4S and iOS 5. But those weren’t the only components of the release. For developers, there was Xcode 4.2 for both Snow Leopard and Lion. And for Lion users, there was Mac OS X 10.7.2, which appeared in the usual four forms, including delta and combo updaters for both Lion and Lion Server. As always, it’s easiest to let Software Update handle the delta updates; the combo updaters are useful if you have to reinstall for some reason.

Considering how long it has been since Lion was originally released (see “Our Favorite Hidden Features in Mac OS X Lion,” 20 July 2011), and considering the minimal nature of the early bug-fix release 10.7.1 (see “Mac OS X 10.7.1 Fixes Just a Few Bugs,” 16 August 2011), 10.7.2 may come as something of a disappointment. If you were seriously expecting that Apple would provide an official option for turning off major new features such as Auto Save, those hopes are dashed; modifying (or even moderating) its strategy is not a typical part of the Apple ethos. Even minor tweaks are fairly few and far between.

The delay in releasing 10.7.2 was not, it appears, so that Apple could make extensive changes, but so that iCloud could appear on your Mac and your iOS devices simultaneously; in other words, iCloud is 10.7.2’s big new feature. Now, iCloud is a major subject, and we’ll doubtless be featuring considerably more news and information about it shortly. (Suffice it to say for now that initial efforts to move to iCloud have been fraught with problems for many people, so if you’re not desperate to try the new features, you might want to wait for a bit.) So let’s leave iCloud to one side for a moment and focus on the rest of 10.7.2. It turns out that a couple of the behaviors mentioned in our article “Subtle Irritations in Lion” (17 August 2011) are in fact emended, and there are a few additional if subtle usability improvements. Here’s a rundown of some of the more noticeable changes in 10.7.2 (and if you find others, please do mention them in the comments).

Auto Termination -- The Auto Termination behavior that I discussed in “Lion Is a Quitter” (5 August 2011) appears to be moderated somewhat. In my experiments, applications such as TextEdit and Preview no longer vanish from the Command-Tab switcher the moment they were backgrounded and without windows. But they did eventually vanish from the Command-Tab switcher (and the Dock, if they weren’t permanently resident there). So while the timing may have been changed, the basic behavior has not; and the basic behavior still seems to me to be just plain wrong. Auto Termination should be completely transparent, meaning that the user should not be able to tell that anything has happened; removing an application from the Command-Tab switcher, when the user knows darned well that it was there a while ago, is disruptive and confusing.

Smart Folders -- Smart Folders, at long last, are working correctly in Lion. For some of us, this is a major bug fix (though its tardiness is unforgivable, seeing as Apple knew about the problem well before Lion was originally released). Briefly, you can now save a Spotlight search as a Smart Folder and then later correctly view (and possibly modify) that Smart Folder’s search criteria. This makes Smart Folders useful once again, restoring their behavior to match that of earlier versions of Mac OS X. For more information about using Smart Folders, see Sharon Zardetto’s “Take Control of Spotlight for Finding Anything on Your Mac.”

Desktop Order -- In Mission Control’s All Windows mode, desktop spaces and full-screen applications beyond the Dashboard and the first desktop can now be rearranged by dragging. (This change is actually called out in Apple’s own release notes.) This should make manual management of desktops far easier; if you uncheck “Automatically rearrange spaces based on most recent use” in the Mission Control preference pane, in particular, the order of spaces and full-screen applications should be completely predictable and under your control. Previously, you were stuck with the order in which desktop spaces and full-screen applications were created, or the order in which the automatic rearrangement algorithm chose to re-sort them for you.

Moreover, desktop spaces now survive a restart: if you allow open windows to be restored as you log out, restart, or shut down, then when you log back in, those windows will resume their places in the spaces where you left them.

Versions on Unsupported Volumes -- In “Beware Lion’s Versions Bug on Network and Non-HFS+ Volumes” (8 September 2011), Adam Engst outlined a situation where you could end up working on a document on a server or non-HFS+ volume (which Versions can’t handle) without realizing that Versions wasn’t protecting you. In 10.7.2, Apple has addressed this bug in the simplest possible fashion, by putting up a warning when you try to close a document stored on an unsupported volume. The only problem is, as reader Joel Lingenfelter complained, is that if someone opens a document on a server, modifies it, has the changes saved by Auto Save but ignored by Versions, and then tries to close, the only options provided are Cancel and Close. Thus, the only way to close the document without the auto-saved changes is to click Cancel and then use Undo repeatedly to revert to the initial state of the document, which is clumsy and error-prone.

Anything Else? -- Launchpad icons are considerably larger. And a tiny but definite change that I particularly appreciate (as a user of multiple systems) is that when pressing the Restart button after changing your setting in the Startup Disk preference pane, it is once again possible (as in previous versions of the system) to hold Option to skip the confirmation dialog. Apart from these, very few visible changes seem to be manifest; but the release notes list numerous small technical fixes that will probably improve the overall quality of life for Lion users. For example, Safari 5.1.1 is said to fix issues with hangs and memory usage that were all too obvious. On the other hand, MacBook Pro users who have been seeing Lion crash (kernel panic?) to a black screen will, apparently, continue experiencing this issue until Apple issues a firmware update, expected soon.


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Comments about Meanwhile, Back at the Lion Ranch…
(Comments are closed.)  2011-10-15 21:34
I've seen a few suggestions here and there that Xcode 4.2 is available for Snow leopard. Well maybe it's available for paid developers, but all I get is an error message when I try to get to its page in the App Store. As I recall, the Snow Leopard version cost about five bucks, not a freebie like the Lion version. If there really is an update, it should be available to us too, yes?
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-10-16 01:56
There really is an Xcode 4.2 for Snow Leopard. Guessing what's behind Apple's pricing policies and the odd hoops they make you jump through to obtain different Xcode versions is above my pay grade...  2011-10-16 18:38
It turns out that the description page for Xcode for Snow leopard has been removed from the App Store, so it's impossible for new users to download the installer. It IS still possible however to update an existing installation from the Purchases menu.
Scott Rose  2011-10-16 06:39
I refuse to upgrade to Lion until they fix the Address Book. The Address Book in Lion is completely unusable and counter-productive. Bring back the Address Book from Snow Leopard.
Lou Judson  2011-10-18 02:13
Nice to hear this - not about address book, but about not upgrading to Lion. I do audio professionally, and until Pro Tools is offically sanctified for Lion I will have no part of it. Actually, I will not be using it until my current Macs die and I am forced to buy one with it on it. Maybe they will have the bugs out by then, but not holding my breath!

I am tired of Apple changing so many basic things we use, and remain firmly 3 years behind the bleeding edgers! And ever since theirCloud came out, my mail has been slow and buggy on 10.6.7. Feh!
Stephen Schulte  2011-10-22 09:08
Can you comment in greater detail on Address Book in Lion? What is different and why doesn't it work? I'm holding-off for now moving to Lion -- for lots of reasons but now this seems critical! Thanks for any more details as Address Book is essential for me.
Thanks, Steve 22 Oct 2011
David Blangstrup  2011-10-17 17:29
I am sure Apple has solved the annoying bug where Time Machine backup would block wifi, and other wifi connection bugs.
mike whybark  2011-10-18 04:15
The incompatibility in drivers for some machines using the diamond bvu USB outboard video dongle was resolved as expected.
In MacOSX 10.7.2, with iCloud, I am getting double counts of unread e-mails, both in the Dock, and in Mailboxes. That is, both the unread e-mail downloaded to my MacBook Air, and the duplicate in iCloud are counted. e.g., if one new e-mail comes in the Dock says 2, and the Inbox count says 2, even though the e-mails are the same. If 7 download, the count is 14.

Is there a settings somewhere I am missing that controls the accuracy of this data??
I don't think you're missing anything Steve. I too have double everything. Lion, yuck!!!