OS X Mountain Lion Available in July, Priced at $19.99
This is a discussion on OS X Mountain Lion Available in July, Priced at $19.99 within the Apple News forums, part of the Apple News Room category; AirPlay, Apple's wireless audio and video distribution system, gets an update in OS X Mountain Lion, offering modern Macs with compatible hardware the ability to ...
Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion GM: AirPlay Mirroring
AirPlay, Apple's wireless audio and video distribution system, gets an update in OS X Mountain Lion, offering modern Macs with compatible hardware the ability to wirelessly mirror the screen to an Apple TV-attached HDTV display.
AirPlay, originally named AirTunes when Apple debuted it in 2004 as a way to wirelessly stream audio from iTunes to speakers connected to the AirPort Express base station, had its name changed by Steve Jobs in 2010 after the technology was expanded to include video and photo streaming to the then-new, $99 iOS-based Apple TV.
While iTunes currently has the ability to stream both audio and video playback to Apple TV, OS X can't deliver audio or video from other apps. Additionally, because AirPlay involves encryption of streamed data, it's not easy for third party developers to send data to AirPlay devices.
New AirPlay Mirroring
All that is changing in Mountain Lion. The most obvious benefit is that hardware-compliant Macs can now do the same AirPlay Mirroring trick as last year's new iOS devices (iPhone 4S and iPad 2 or newer): anything on the screen can be mirrored to an Apple TV-connected display.
As with iOS devices, Macs need special hardware to support AirPlay Mirroring. It doesn't work on the Mid 2010 MacBook Pro, for example, but does work on early 2011 MacBook Pros, as well as mid 2011 or newer MacBook Air, iMac or Mac mini systems.
These systems are the oldest machines capable of supporting AirPlay Mirroring because they are the first to deliver dedicated hardware encoding for H.264. Without a CPU capable of crunching this task using specialized hardware, earlier Macs simply can't transmit video fast enough without a lot of heat and screaming fans.
Older Macs can already send video from iTunes to Apple TV via AirPlay, but they stop local playback while doing this. Mirroring requires the system to produce two video images, one driving the local display and one to be wirelessly delivered to the external screen.
AirPlay doesn't just relay video from the computer (or iOS device) to Apple TV. It scales down the video to fit on an HDTV resolution, and has to convert the colorspace from the computer's RGB to the native YUV that televisions use. Both tasks require a lot of processing resources, so without the extra hardware available on newer Macs, mirroring isn't possible.
Remove Leather Appearance from Address Book & iCal Easily with Lion Tweaks
There’s a strong love and hate relationship with the leather UI skeuomorphism that has adorned many OS X and iOS apps as of late, and if you’re in the “hate” crowd then you’ll probably be pleased to discover that a free tool called Lion Tweaks makes removing the leather appearance from the interfaces of Address Book and iCal easier than ever.
No more manually changing iCal UI files, Lion Tweaks includes two simple one-button installers to change the leather user interface back to the traditional aluminum appearance. Reversing the change back to the default leather look is just as easy.
Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion GM: Game Center and Chess 3.0
Apple is expanding Game Center from an iOS play into the Mac arena with OS X Mountain Lion, enabling developers to add friend requests, recommendations and challenges as well as unlockable achievements and top score listings.
Apple introduced Game Center for iOS in 2010, hoping to capitalize on the growing selection of casual gaming titles that make up a huge part of App Store's catalog.
With social gaming features similar to those in Microsoft's XBox Live or Sony's PlayStation Network, Game Center allows developers to tap into a single system for reporting scores and achievements, and for sending invitations to friends or getting matched up with other players in multiuser games.
In Mountain Lion, Apple is bringing Game Center's features to the Mac desktop, and of course, to developers of the more involved and complex games available on a full sized computer.
Now under development, Game Center currently doesn't sport any titles in the Mac App Store. Apple has outfitted the bundled Chess with Game Center features, demonstrating how the new features can work within desktop games.
The Game Center app
As with IOS, Mac users will now soon have a central app that links to their networked friends, the games they play, pending requests, and the achievements they've unlocked in each title they play.
After signing in, users can pick a nickname that will be used in leader boards and to identify them in multiplayer games. Users can opt to have a public profile, where they are identified to other player by their real name. There's also an option to look up Game Center friends using your existing contacts.
Once logged in, users can view their gaming social network of friends or invite others into their Game Center network. Existing iOS Game Center players should find their existing pool of friends once the service goes online with the release of Mountain Lion.
The third tab of Game Center lists the gaming titles (below) that user has been playing, presents recommendations, and links to the App Store. Note that games are listed as being "OS X Games," as Apple is advertising that Game Center on iOS and Mac will allow for cross platform gameplay, in addition to titles that are exclusive to either App Store.
Currently, the link to the Mac App Store presents an empty inventory of Game Center titles, simply because it hasn't officially launched yet.
Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion GM: new iOS-style Accessibility
In OS X Mountain Lion, Apple is radically improving the layout of Universal Access features for users who are sight, hearing or motor impaired, and changing the name of its portfolio of features to match iOS: "Accessibility."
Apple has long been associated with making technology easy to use, and a significant part of that commitment has applied to users with special challenges in seeing, hearing or physically interacting with the company's devices.
The company pioneered many early concepts to help disabled users gain expanded access to computers, including features such as Mouse Keys and Sticky Keys on the original Macintosh.
In OS X 10.4 Tiger, Apple added a spoken interface called VoiceOver, which built a screen reader (previously an expensive third party option) into the operating system to allow sight impaired users to navigate windows and menus via auditory cues. VoiceOver has since been incorporated into iOS for use on Apple's mobile devices, as well as on the iPod Shuffle.
In 10.5 Leopard, Apple added the advanced Alex voice to make VoiceOver even more useful, and it has further expanded its voice selection since, using RealSpeak voices licensed from Nuance. VoiceOver currently supports over 30 different languages and dialects.
Along with VoiceOver, screen zoom, contrast, cursor size and related features for making the desktop easier to use by people with visual impairments are currently squashed, "Panther Era style," into the Seeing tab of the Universal Access preferences pane (below). Other tabs contain Hearing, Keyboard features and Mouse and Trackpad options related to accessibility.
In Mountain Lion, these features are given a facelift for the new Accessibility pref pane, which presents a more modern looking, graphical menu of options related to the Display, Zoom, VoiceOver, Audio, Keyboard and Mouse & Trackpad (shown below).
The new pane also presents the Speakable Items section that has been removed from the Speech pref pane to make way for Dictation features. Once referred to as "Speech Recognition," the Speakable Items features are now most applicable to users who rely on them for accessibility features.
This revamping of the user interface isn't the only new accessibility feature in Mountain Lion; Apple says it is adding support for 14 new braille displays (on top of the 40 USB and wireless devices Apple already supports out of the box), and Mountain Lion's VoiceOver now supports press and hold buttons, dragging items to hotspots, and drag and drop modifier keys (such as Command and Option). The Accessibility pane also now has a universal keyboard shortcut: Option+F5.
Late last year, blind-from-birth musician Stevie Wonder praised Apple for its pioneering efforts in making its devices accessible to users with disabilities. "I want you all to give a hand to someone that you know whose health is very bad at this time," Stevie Wonder said to his audience. "His company took the challenge in making his technology accessible to everyone. In the spirit of caring and moving the world forward, Steve Jobs."
Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion GM: using iCloud as the smart, automated way to store
In OS X Mountain Lion, iCloud begins to take shape as the smart, automated way to store documents on a per-app, device independent basis, incrementally displacing the local file system that non-technical users have long struggled to comprehend and replacing it with a cloud-based service that connects and synchronizes desktop and mobile devices via the Internet.
Steve Jobs debuted Apple's iCloud strategy last summer at the company's 2011 Worldwide Developer Conference. Over the past year, iCloud may have appeared to be simply a renaming of Apple's beleaguered MobileMe, as it has principally provided the same email, contacts and calendar services that MobileMe has since 2008 (and .Mac had since 2002). However, Jobs' vision for the future of iCloud went well beyond the commonplace internet accounts at the heart of MobileMe and its .Mac predecessor.
Jobs initially outlined his vision for cloud computing in a presentation at WWDC 1997, where he described the cloud storage network technologies put into place at NeXT over the previous decade. At the time, these features were simply too complex and expensive to broadly offer to consumers. However, fourteen years later Jobs described at WWDC 2011 how Apple would be deploying iCloud as the "next big insight."
Jobs' "big insight" focused on the problems of having multiple desktops and mobile devices, each with its own local file system storing documents, music, photos and other media. "Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy!" he said. “We’ve got a solution for this problem. We’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device. We’re going to move your hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.”
iCloud takes shape under OS X Lion
Seven years ago, speaking at the "All Things Digital" conference in 2005, Jobs noted that "in every user interface study we’ve ever done," Apple found that "it’s pretty easy to learn how to use these things until you hit the file system and then the learning curve goes vertical. So you ask yourself, why is the file system the face of the OS? Wouldn’t it be better if there was a better way to find stuff?"
Jobs then contrasted the conventional OS-level file system for managing documents on a computer to an email application, explaining that "there’s always been a better way to find stuff. You don’t keep your e-mail on your file system, right? The app manages it. And that was the breakthrough, as an example, in iTunes," Jobs stated.
"You don’t keep your music in the file system, that would be crazy. You keep it in this app that knows about music and knows how to find things in lots of different ways. Same with photos: we’ve got an app that knows all about photos. And these apps manage their own file storage."
Six years later, Jobs unveiled iCloud as the solution to multi-device, cross platform media and document access, moving a variety of data stores that were once tied to a particular Mac into the cloud.
"iTunes in the Cloud," and in particular its iTunes Match feature (above), would allow users to access their Mac's entire iTunes music collection from their iOS devices, for example, while iCloud's new PhotoStream feature (below) let users see their photos anywhere, from mobile devices to their Macs to their living room television via Apple TV. New purchases from the App Store, iTunes and iBookstore can now appear on any other device the user owns, automatically, via iCloud.
With iCloud, end users don't have to think about where those individual media or app files are stored or how, any more than they have to worry about the precise changes in voltage or magnetic fields that store the bits that represent the data in those files.
In addition to managing apps, photos and music, Apple's iCloud continues to link together users' Macs and iOS devices with network Mail, Contacts, Calendars and Safari bookmarks (and now open tabs, as shown below), having added "everywhere access" for Reminders and Notes and Messages and FaceTime.
Related networking features are also tied to the same iCloud account, including Game Center friends and achievements, Back to My Mac remote access, and the Find My iPhone and Find My Mac services for locating, alerting and remotely wiping missing devices.
Mountain Lion & Documents in the Cloud
The big new iCloud feature in Mountain Lion, however, is completed support for Documents in the Cloud, the foundational network architecture that erases users' dependance upon manually managing documents in the file system.
Apple first debuted the feature in its mobile iWork apps, allowing iOS users to, for example, start work on a Pages document on their iPhone, subsequently make changes on their iPad, and then access the same up-to-data document on their iPhone again for presentation or printing.
In Mountain Lion, developers can add iCloud's "Documents in the Cloud" features to their own apps, allowing users to access and edit documents stored in a central repository (Apple's iCloud servers), so there's no need to manually manage version control or sync updates between a user's computers or other devices.
Additionally, Apple supports cross platform editing of documents between iOS and OS X, erasing the boundaries and limitations of the conventional local file system, physically stored on a single device. While this may sound similar to basic cloud-based file sharing such as Dropbox or Apple's iDisk from ten years ago, it's a lot more sophisticated under the hood, particularly in terms of its app-based security model, as is described below.
Apple hasn't yet released support for "Documents in the Cloud" in its own OS X iWork apps including Pages, Numbers and Keynote because this feature requires the as-yet-unreleased OS X Mountain Lion. But last year, Apple updated its iWork apps to support the new features of OS X Lion after its public release, including Auto Save, Full Screen apps, Resume, and Versions. So it makes sense to expect new OS X updates to iWork as soon as Mountain Lion ships.
Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion GM: Go Full Screen on any display
In OS X Mountain Lion, Apple has taken an incremental step toward making OS X's new iPad-like Full Screen mode more useful: you can now pick which connected display you want to use.
The path to Full Screen in Lion
Apple first began developing the concept of full screen functionality within its own iLife apps, particularly iPhoto. In iPhoto '09 (released in January 2009 for OS X 10.5 Leopard), users could enter a special full screen mode that provided distinctly dark "heads up display" toolbars.
In late 2010, Steve Jobs demonstrated Full Screen as a new feature of OS Lion, providing it a system-wide feature that apps could make use of to switch from a windowing environment to a simpler, distraction-free Full Screen display similar in many respects to the iPad.
Jobs demonstrated Preview and what would later ship as iPhoto 11 on OS X Lion, where when entering Full Screen mode, the system would actually hide the toolbar.
Additionally, rather than presenting "heads up display" style toolbars, apps taking advantage of Lion's new Full Screen feature would instead adopt a revised user interface suited to working within a single screen, and very similar in appearance and design to the iPad's default user interface.
Full Screen... with multiple screens
At the time, the idea of removing the previously always-visible Mac menu bar and allowing inactive scrollbars to vanish when not in use appeared to be the most controversial aspects of the new Full Screen feature.
In reality, users seemed to readily adopt the optional new Full Screen feature without significant complaints, and simply didn't use it if they couldn't find it useful to their needs.
Except for one group of users, that is: anyone with multiple monitors. Apple's new Full Screen feature instantly makes any connected displays completely worthless anytime an app enters Full Screen mode. That's because the system blanks all secondary displays with "dark linen" and simply uses the primary display to go full screen (below top: Safari in Full Screen under Mountain Lion on a secondary monitor; below bottom: the primary display is blanked and therefore useless).
Full Screen is clearly only useful to users who are working on a single display, because blanked external displays can't be used for anything else. You can't open a second Full Screen app to display in it, you can't show the desktop on it, and there's nothing you can drag (say, app toolbars) into the secondary display to free more screen real estate.
Full Screen on any display in Mountain Lion
Improving this situation isn't simple. How could you actually work in Full Screen on one monitor while the system attempted to retain a fully functional desktop on another? What happens when you try to move a window from one display to the Full Screen one (which is designed purposely to avoid the complexity and distractions of a windowing environment)?
Apple's solution in Mountain Lion is an incremental band-aid, but does expand the usefulness of Full Screen mode to users who connect to external displays. New in Mountain Lion is the ability to target which screen you want to go Full Screen in. In the screen shots above, Safari was taken full screen on an externally connected HDTV.
This allows notebook users, for example, to connect to a big external display and use it for Full Screen work. Unfortunately, all the other screens are still blanked, but there isn't a simple fix to addressing this in a sensible way.
Note that Lion users can already do essentially the same thing by using display mirroring rather than setting up their external display as an expanded bit of desktop before entering Full Screen. In Mountain Lion however, Full Screen apps can actually make use of the greater resolution available on a large external display, rather than scaling down to show the image on the primary display.
And of course, tech-savvy Lion users can also configure their external display as the primary screen, but jumping through hoops like that erases the simplicity that Full Screen is supposed to provide.
This is likely why Mountain Lion now supports (on Macs with compatible hardware) AirPlay Mirroring but not simply AirPlay distribution of a virtual secondary monitor screen.
AirPlay Mirroring is targeted to address effortless, wireless presentation of what you see on your Mac (or iPad, or iPhone or iPod touch) to a TV screen via Apple TV, not for setting up a complex multiple display configuration that wouldn't have a clear or obvious purpose and not be broadly useful. At the same time, however, users can now turn on AirPlay Mirroring and take an app Full Screen to easily show what they're doing to a larger audience.
Multiple Full Screen apps? Consider Spaces and Screen Sharing
In the future, Apple could build support into OS X to allow multiple monitors to each display different Spaces of the virtual desktop. Users can already switch between Spaces supporting a desktop with windows and other Spaces, each with a dedicated app running in Full Screen mode, but can only see one Space at a time.
Displaying different Spaces on different monitors would be one solution to allowing users with multiple monitor to use each of them at the same time in Full Screen mode, but it also raises new problems.
Unlike the existing behavior, where different Spaces are never active and visible at the same time (and therefore users have no way of trying to drag windows or toolbars or selections between them without the Space "changing"), it might be confusing for users to see Safari running Full Screen on one display, Mail in another, and the desktop on the primary, and not have the ability to drag items between them.
Changing how Spaces' virtual desktops work would also affect remote display apps such as ARD and OS X's built in Screen Sharing. However, Apple earlier enhanced Screen Sharing in OS X Lion to enable remote users to not just see the logged in user's desktop, but alternatively log in as a separate, concurrent graphical user (shown below).
That's not the same issue, but it does show Apple is investigating various ways to improve users' experience in working with multiple users, screens and displays. Apple has also added support in Mountain Lion Screen Sharing for drag and drop of files between the local system and a remote system's shared screen.
In any case, until changes are made in the technical underpinnings of OS X's Full Screen and virtual display Spaces, the best one can do in Mountain Lion is pick which display to take the current app Full Screen in, which is at least a significant step ahead of Lion's implementation.
Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion GM: Calendar & Reminders offer smart search, location-
In OS X Mountain Lion, Apple has replaced iCal with two separate Calendar and Reminders apps, harmonizing with iOS and improving the overall interface while making Reminders not just calendar event with alarms, but also location-based notifications.
The new Calendar app offers some streamlined interface tweaks, such as a sidebar Calendar listing that appears when you click on the Calendar button. Previously, this button created a popup menu. The new sidebar not only shows your configured calendars across all your accounts and calendar subscriptions, but also shows/hides a series of monthly calendars (below).
A second significant feature is smart search. Enter the beginnings of a search query, and Calendar now offers possible results, including Events with matching names, People identified with a particular event, or Locations. These search "tokens" work like searches in the Finder or Mail, so you can create specific searches that include multiple search criteria.
A third tweak is calendar picker popups, which let you select a date from a calendar, rather than just by adjusting the numbers of the month and day. This feature is widely used on the web when selecting dates.
Calendar also sports new Notification Center integration, so rather than popping up its own reminders, it forwards them though the new central repository for such events in Mountain Lion. This enables you to set your preference for notifications in one place (below).
While there isn't yet any direct support for showing Facebook events in Calendar, if you turn on the "Birthdays" calendar and sync Facebook with Contacts your calendar can be populated with the birthdays of everyone in your social circle. Additionally, you can opt to have alerts fire for birthdays (below), with however much advance warning you'd like (one week before, one or two days before, or early that day).
Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion GM: Contacts to get new groups, sharing, linking and F
In OS X Mountain Lion, Apple has replaced Address Book with Contacts, bringing the simpler OS naming convention to OS X and adding a variety of new improvements, including easy sharing, card linking between different accounts and (later this year) Facebook integration.
The new Contacts app still uses the unconventional "book" user interface introduced for Lion's Address Book, which laid out contact listings as though they were written in a physical, leather bound notebook, with groups accessible by clicking on an ornately detailed red bookmark.
The new Contacts in Mountain Lion tones that down slightly, removing the bookmark theatrics and putting Groups on the same page as listings (below top). It's still possible to set the view to omit Groups, or to simply show one contact at a time (below bottom).
A related fix that is greatly appreciated: when you enter a term in the search field and then click on a group (to narrow the search down), as long as the search is relevant (returns results within the group), it will show you matches within the selected group. Previously, every time you selected a group in Address Book, your search field was cleared and you'd have to start over.
There's a new Share Sheets button that lets you send (via its popup menu, above) one of your Contacts out as an Email, a Message, or to another nearby Mac using AirDrop. Just as with sending files from the Finder, AirDrop looks for other Macs on the same network with an AirDrop window open in the Finder, populating everyone it finds as potential targets for "AirDropping" the contact record.
Duplicates and Links
While there aren't any sophisticated new tools for managing duplicated data within your contacts, there's still the all-or-nothing "Look for Duplicates" feature that offers to blindly fix however many duplicates it thinks you have, without any way to review what it will be doing.
Because it only looks for matching names, this doesn't seem to be very useful, particularly if you can imagine a scenario where you have more than one contact with the same name, or if you realize you have duplicate data where the first name isn't going to match (say, separate cards for the same Bob and Robert with identical information).
However, there is a new feature in Contacts for linking multiple contact records associated with different accounts, such as a record in iCloud and another in Yahoo and another in a corporate Exchange address book that all relate to the same person. Once linked, all the records will appear to be the same card in Contacts, simplifying and unifying your listings and putting all the related information in one place. This doesn't change information on each account, and the card can be unlinked later.
Facebook support for Contacts (coming soon)
Apple's Facebook support for Mountain Lion (which won't ship at the launch of OS X, and isn't scheduled to ship until the fall) can additionally take all your Facebook "friends" and add them to your Contacts. Additionally, it will update their photos and contact information in concert with Facebook. Apple will also provide Facebook matches for your Contacts who aren't connected to your Facebook circle.
This doesn't happen automatically. Similar to Twitter support, you have to manually go to the accounts pane of System Preferences and log into Facebook just as you would for Twitter. You then have to provide explicit approval for Facebook to work with Contacts (or any another app that requests access to your Facebook account, again just like Twitter integration).
Once you do this, you'll be able to post Facebook status updates from Notification Center, get Facebook options on a variety of system-wide Share Sheets, and you'll have all your Facebook friends integrated into Contacts, with their URLs, addresses, phone numbers and other information they've publicly advertised about themselves within their Facebook account. Facebook also becomes a "Group" in Contacts, so you can sub-select it when searching. Additionally, you can jump to a Contact's Facebook profile or photos page from Contacts.
If you've already entered Facebook names for your Contacts, the new Facebook integration software for OS X will duplicate this field in your contacts. However, the information it puts in is badged with a "fb" logo so you know that's the entry that the software is maintaining automatically for you. Facebook data uses "links" to join users' Facebook cards with existing Contacts cards, but a new "Linked cards" entry (above) lets you click each account listing to see separate cards with only the information associated with each account.
Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion GM: Mail 6.0 & Notes
In OS X Mountain Lion, Apple has split Notes off from Mail as its own app, mirroring iOS. Additionally, Mail gets new VIP contact, notification and search features, while the all new Notes app for OS X provides a new option for drafting ideas that are kept up to date across all your devices via iCloud.
Mac OS X Mail origins
Mail is one of the original apps Apple bundled with OS X, in large part because it was derived from NeXTMail, a key bundled app of the NeXTSTEP operating system developed by Steve Jobs' NeXT prior to its acquisition by Apple in late 1996. While Apple subsidiary Claris already had its own "Em@iler" client app, the company decided to drop it in favor of NeXT's, which despite being much older was also more sophisticated.
Mail on OS X debuted (above) with support for such features as multiple accounts and rules-based message management. In OS X 10.4 Tiger, Apple added junk mail filtering and changed how Mail 2.0 stored individual messages to allow the then new Spotlight to index them for fast, system wide search. The company also began experimenting with new user interface concepts, including controversy-arousing new pill-shaped toolbar buttons (below).
Mail 3.0 in OS X 10.5 Leopard incorporated RSS support and added Notes (below) and Todos, similar to how Microsoft's Outlook and Exchange Server handle specialized email messages to provide note and reminder features.
In the following 4.0 version in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Apple built upon that foundation by adding native support for Exchange Server 2007, including not just email, Notes and ToDos in Mail, but also supporting Exchange contacts in Address Book and syncing calendar events with iCal.
Mail 5.0 in OS X 10.7 Lion added Full Screen support and expanded Exchange support for Server 2010. In the new Mail 6.0 of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, however, Apple is focusing more on connecting OS X with iOS and its users, including a variety of new features aimed at users in China.
A reorganized Mail 6.0 in Mountain Lion
Mail doesn't drop any of its existing support for Exchange Server, but it is following iOS in reorganizing different types of messages with specialized apps. Unlike Outlook, which is a single client for mail, calendar, contacts, notes, tasks and journal features, Apple has always kept Address Book and iCal distinct from Mail.
Now, with Mountain Lion, Apple is following the path of iOS 5 by not only renaming Contact and Calendar, but also spinning todo events out of Calendar (and Mail) into their own Reminders app and similarly removing note functionality from Mail and putting them in the standalone Notes.
Another notable change is the dropped support for Mail's RSS feed parsing, which is also now missing from Safari, too. In both cases, it appears Apple has acknowledged that third party RSS feed aggregators are far more useful than the tacked on support in Mail and Safari, and that RSS feed reading isn't a core operating system feature.
New VIP features in Mail 6.0
Mail 6.0 is also getting some useful new features. In what can be described as the opposite of junk mail, users can now tag specific specific contacts as "VIPs," whose messages are then highlighted within the special VIP mailbox, categorized by each VIP contact. This allows you to, for example, see messages from your boss, team members, spouse, clients or anyone else who you want to give priority status.
Adding a VIP is as easy as ticking the star icon next to their name in an incoming email (below). Once added, that contact and all of their new and past emails will appear in a special smart folder of VIP correspondence. Just as with other smart mailboxes, this doesn't move your mails around, so their messages continue to exist in the regular inbox or in whatever static mailboxes you've manually sorted them into.
In addition to getting a priority inbox, VIP emails can also be given specialized rules, such as triggering an alert via Notification Center. In fact, any messages matching one of the configurable rules can now trigger a notification. VIP, as a feature, is really just a pre-made Smart Mailbox with some extra access in the user interface. If you already have your own system of groups or rules, you can easily add Notifications as an action that is triggered when the rule is evaluated (below).
"Sender is VIP" is now just one of the rule conditions (below top) that can be used to not only trigger a Notification, but any other sort of Rules action as well (below bottom), from an automatic reply or redirect to a more sophisticated action built in AppleScript.
3 Simple Things To Do Before Installing OS X Mountain Lion
The release of OS X Mountain Lion is just around the corner (tomorrow by most estimates!), but before jumping into the latest major Mac system update, you’ll want to do a few things. We’ve broken it down to a few simple essentials that are easy to follow:
1) Verify System Requirements and Check Compatibility
Almost all relatively new Macs will run Mac OS X 10.8. You can easily find out if your Mac will run Mountain Lion by comparing it against this list of supported machines:
iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
Xserve (Early 2009)
If you’re unsure of your make and model year, check on your Mac by doing the following:
From the Apple menu, select “About This Mac”, then click on “More Info”
The model name and date will be shown, compare that to the list
All things considered, the system requirements for OS X Mountain Lion are fairly light, but there are some Core 2 Duo Macs that lose support and won’t be able to update. That can be frustrating, but it’s the price of progress. Remember that you’ll need at least 12GB of storage space available to install Mountain Lion, but realistically you should have more than that available to insure your Mac runs best anyway.
2) Check App Compatibility
If you’re already running OS X Lion (10.7) then you probably don’t need to worry much, but for those who are upgrading to Mountain Lion from Snow Leopard, there’s a good chance that an app or two won’t work. This is due to new architectural requirements for the latest versions of OS X and unfortunately there are some developers who have gotten on board to update their apps yet, despite having years to do so (QuickBooks is a prominent example).
If you find apps that are incompatible with OS X 10.8 you can either find an alternative on the App Store, or consider holding off on the system upgrade until the developer gets their act together. Smaller developers tend to do this faster than larger software companies, so if you’re waiting for a large company it may take a long time.
3) Backup, Backup, Backup
This is probably the most important step when upgrading any OS and a Mac is no different. The odds of something going wrong are slim, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Your best bet is to use Time Machine and initiate a manual backup right before installing OS X 10.8 update. If you don’t have Time Machine setup and configured yet, what are you waiting for? Grab a cheap external hard drive and set it up as a backup drive now, Time Machine is completely automated and as easy as backups get.
Ready? Buy & Install
Once Mountain Lion is on the Mac App Store, it’ll be a $20 purchase and installs directly from the App Store. It takes about 30-45 minutes to install depending on the speed of the internet connection and it’s mostly automated, you don’t need to sit around babysitting the installer.
Have some more time on your hands and feel like doing a bit more than the bare essentials? Before installing a major new OS version it can be a good time to clear out unused apps, verify disk integrity, and clear up some free disk space. Here are 5 ideas to get you rolling in that direction: