Should you upgrade to Mountain Lion?
Sunday, 01 July 2012
The Operating System, or OS, is the software that drives your computer. Every new version makes new and interesting things possible. In July 2012 Apple will release Mountain Lion, OS 10.8. Here’s how to tell which version of OS X you already have and a few things you should know about upgrading.
The Operating System drives your computer
Before you even try to do something like check your email or visit Facebook your computer needs to be switched on with things showing on screen and ready to accept your typing. The software that handles that basic level of making your computer ‘work’ like that is the Operating System.
Which version’s which?
If you bought a new Mac within the last 11 years or so its Operating System will be one or other version of OS X (pronounced ‘ten’). Here, from Wikipedia, are the version numbers and names, along with the interval until the next version. I haven’t listed the public beta version that came first:
- 10.0 “Cheetah” — March 24, 2001 (6 months)
- 10.1 “Puma” — September 25, 2001 (11 months)
- 10.2 “Jaguar” — August 24, 2002 (13 months)
- 10.3 “Panther” — October 24, 2003 (18 months)
- 10.4 “Tiger” — April 29, 2005 (30 months)
- 10.5 “Leopard” — October 26, 2007 (22 months)
- 10.6 “Snow Leopard” — August 28, 2009 (22 months)
- 10.7 “Lion” — July 20, 2011 (11 months)
- 10.8 “Mountain Lion” — [US] Summer 2012
You’ll see that as I write the current version is ‘Lion’, with ‘Mountain Lion‘ to be released soon.
Note: the links here to Apple’s OS X page currently point to Mountain Lion. At some time in the future I expect it will change to point to whatever comes after Mountain Lion.
Discover which OS version your Mac’s using
Go to the
Apple menu and choose
About This Mac. A small window appears that probably shows
Mac OS X and below that a line with the version number.
The first two numbers on the Version line are the important ones here. For example, on my MacBook Pro with Retina display the window shows
Version 10.7.4, as in the screenshot. The first part,
10.7, tells me this Mac is running ‘Lion’. Check the list above to see which code name matches your Mac’s version of OS X.
Every version of the OS adds new features
Lion brought a great many changes to how the Mac works. I’ve been using it for a year now and have forgotten what’s actually new, but one feature I like is that I can just restart my Mac and when it opens up again all my windows and documents just reappear on screen. Before Lion that just didn’t happen.
OS X now supports Dictation. So wherever you can type, you can use your voice instead. Just select a text field and turn Dictation on. Use the keyboard shortcut — press the Function key twice — or choose Dictation from the Edit menu in any app. When you’re finished speaking, click Done. Dictation converts your words into text.
Last week’s Tip, Typing’s a pain on the iPhone, so why not dictate instead? is a lead-in for that feature in Mountain Lion, explaining how dictation works and how to use it.
Should you upgrade?
That’s actually more than one question, because before you decide if you should upgrade to the new Operating System you need to know what may be involved.
Your computer needs to be able to handle the new system. Every upgrade makes more demands on the computers it runs on — adding all those fancy new features doesn’t come easily.
If you have an older Mac and are determined to upgrade to Mountain Lion you might have to buy a new Mac, or at least add some extra oomph to your current Mac.
The Tech Specs page helps you find out if your current Mac will be good enough for Mountain Lion. Roughly speaking (but check for details), if you bought your Mac in the last 4 years it’ll probably be OK. If it’s older it probably won’t.
If your Mac can handle the upgrade then you also need to be careful about any apps you already use that are essential to what you do. Some apps won’t work properly with the new Operating System, or at least not straight away.
For example, although it’s a slightly different thing — when I bought this new MacBook Pro with Retina display I found one essential app I use to make all my screenshots doesn’t work correctly on this machine.
You may find if you upgrade to Mountain Lion that your accounting app or your email app or some other app won’t work correctly any more.
If you mainly only use apps that Apple make, such as Safari, Pages, Mail, Address Book and so on, then things should be fine. But if you have crucial software that’s not made by Apple, then check before upgrading.
I’ll be upgrading
As soon as Mountain Lion’s released I’ll be upgrading and starting to write new MacTips to help you use the new OS. I’m already doing my research and plan to release at least one ebook to help you use some of what’s new.
I also expect the excellent Take Control ebooks (affiliate link) series to include a swag of new titles to help us all learn what’s new with 10.8.
Let me know what you need to know about Mountain Lion and I’ll see what I can do to help.