Should you upgrade to Mountain Lion?

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.

Mountain Lion coming soon.

Mountain Lion coming soon — price in US$.

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.

About This Mac.

About This Mac on my MacBook Pro with Retina display shows the Operating System is Version 10.7.4, or 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.

Apple tell us Mountain Lion will include more than 200 new features. One thing I really like the look of is Dictation:

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.

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  1. Johnson said:

    Yes, please fill in more once it’s out and you’ve upgraded. I’m really wondering if I should upgrade. I got an iMac last Nov, so it’s using Lion and that’s fine. I’ve heard people sometimes have problems w/their upgrading, but more than that I wonder if it’s really essential. I just have the one computer in my life; no iphones, ipads, nothing else to synch up with this. I don’t want to fall behind and not be able to upgrade later. But I haven’t even got thru the manuals I purchased on using Lion! I did just buy some external drives and wonder if they would now w/an upgrade. Also my MS Word app. I have thought of buying the upgrade, just to have it at hand, but not install it for now. If I later needed the ML upgrade to get a later upgrade, then I would have it available. ‘Tis a puzzlement…

  2. Benjamin said:

    I’m wondering if Mountain Lion will make the dictionary feature better or worse. I hated it when they changed it so the definition balloon popped up with very truncated definitions. It was easier to get to than the previous version, but the definitions are too minimized to be very useful. I liked it better when you could get to the full dictionary app with a few clicks on a word. Now with Lion I have to actually copy the word and paste it into the dictionary app since it won’t bring up the app any more directly from the word. Ideally one should be able to configure whether clicking on a word will bring up the definition balloon or take you to the full dictionary app with the word’s definition selected. My worst fear is that they’ll make it worse and not even offer the dictionary app anymore at all and all I’ll be able to see is that stupid truncated definition in the balloon.

    Do you know what is planned for this feature?

  3. AmanO3 said:

    If I pay for Lion now, will I still have to pay for ML on the 19th?

    I cannot see them being all that much different in real requirements.
    Will they stop selling Lion or drop the price?

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Well, until Apple tell us what they plan we have no way of knowing. If you’re planning on upgrading to Mountain Lion, why not just wait a couple of weeks? It’s supposed to be available soon.

  4. Don Perreault said:

    I’m to impatient to do any waiting when Apple upgrades it’s OS. I’ve been running ML on and off since the first beta and am looking forward to it’s release.

    I’ve always believed that Apple has done a magnificent job with their major OS X upgrades. True, they have had some problems but nothing like their competition. Apple engineers and develops the Apple computer and the OS limiting the chance of problems. Apple doesn’t have to worry what video card Computer Company ABC is going to install in their newest computer. Apple doesn’t license their OS to other vendors. Although for a brief period of time they did. I still own a Power Tower Pro that worked perfectly when I used it for a couple years. However, I was happy switch back to a Mac manufactured by Apple when the time came.

    The competition that develops the OS software only, to license that software to computer hardware manufacturers have to be sure to include all the necessary libraries and drivers to run on that computer and many others. Sounds simple but once you start licensing your OS to numerous vendors I would assume it could become troublesome to keep the OS stable because each manufacturer is trying to get the edge on the other and that creates problems.

    This gives Apple a tremendous edge to perfect an almost perfect OS.

    As usual Miraz another great post.

    Keep up the great work…

    PS: Feel fee to edit any portion, my grammar is horrendous.

  5. Beth said:

    So, if I’m back at 10.5, what would it take to get to Mountain Lion?
    Do I have to do an intermediate upgrade first?I’ve got a MacBook Pro with extra RAM and an extra hard drive, so I’m not worried about the minimum specs.

  6. Brian said:

    They don’t need my 20 bucks for at least six months.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Waiting a while is a good strategy. Let us early adopters discover all the problems and pitfalls. :-)

  7. Kris Lockett said:

    I hope Mountain Lion addresses the appalling interface changes that Lion brought to iCal and Address book!

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      That’s great, Mary! I like what I’ve seen of it so far. One thing I didn’t mention: it’ll almost certainly be available first as an electronic download and that could be in the order of 4 or 5Gb. You’ll need a decent broadband plan to cope with it. I imagine it’ll also be available from a Mac reseller later on a disc or thumb drive or similar at a small extra cost.

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