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Mountain Lion creeps forward: new features in the developer preview

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In February, we took a look at smaller changes in the pre-release version of OS X Mountain Lion that Mac developers are using. These changes are good indications of what we’ll see when the final version goes live sometime this summer. Apple(s AAPL) has released two new previews since then with quite a few updates — some significant, some seriously minor, and some that have even undone changes since we last wrote about it.

Here’s what’s new:

General changes

  • The App Store now supports automatic downloads, which is one of the things I’d hoped Apple would add. You can also go backward and forward in the App Store and Game Center with two fingers, the same as Safari. Notably, you still can’t do this in the Finder.
  • There’s a new popover for choosing avatars, which is used in Game Center and the Users and Groups pane in System Preferences.
  • You can no longer remove apps and stacks from the Dock by simply dragging them off. You have to do it by right-clicking, which I expect is going to draw the ire of many power users.
  • Launchpad is no longer arranged alphabetically. The “Utilities” folder has also been renamed to “Others”.
  • The linen background in Mission Control is slightly darker than in Lion.
  • Font Book now has a full-screen mode and two smart folders in the sidebar for fixed-width fonts and monospaced fonts.
  • The battery item in the menu bar has been simplified so that the only option is to show the percentage left or not. Showing time left has been removed.
  • You can go from one stack to another in the Dock with one click. In Lion, clicking another stack with one already open just closes the current stack. (Updated: Sorry, this isn’t new to Mountain Lion. Turns out, it doesn’t work in Lion when your Dock is hidden — which mine was — but does when unhidden.)


  • There’s a new button for iCloud tabs, which allows access to tabs on other devices.
  • There’s a new page-loading animation, which you can see in this YouTube video.
  • Web apps can send native notifications through Safari, as evidenced by the new Notification Center tab in Safari’s preferences.
  • Reading List has a new look, with a more neutral background color and paper texture instead of linen. It also supports offline reading.
  • When you download a file in Safari in Lion, the file flies into the downloads button. In Mountain Lion, it flies into the downloads stack in the Dock, and a progress indicator appears over the stack.
  • Safari has a more “responsive” UI: when you resize a window past a certain point, buttons will be hidden to save space.
  • There’s a new tab button next to the bookmarks bar when only one tab is open and the tab bar is hidden.

Notification Center

  • There’s a new “do not disturb” mode, which disables notifications when active.
  • The menu bar icon has a gray dot in the middle, rather than black. It also changes into a moon when do not disturb mode is on.
  • There’s a new button in the lower-righthand corner that’ll take you to Notification Center’s preference pane in System Preferences.

System Preferences

  • The General perefence pane has been simplified. The options for smooth scrolling and double-click to minimize are gone, with the latter being moved to the Dock preference pane. The three dropdowns for the number of recent items has been consolidated into one. The dropdown for choosing the sidebar icon size has been moved to the top section. Finally, there’s a new checkbox for “Ask to keep changes when closing documents.”
  • The preferences for “tap to click” have been moved into the Trackpad pane and are enabled by default.
  • The Mission Control pane now has the option to disable grouping windows by application, so all windows will be shown the same way.
  • Time Machine’s pane has been updated slightly, with flatter buttons and a simpler explanation of what Time Machine does.

Updated and undone changes

  • When you edit a document that’s just been saved, the “Edited” text in the toolbar no longer flashes blue three times.
  • In the Versions menu, there’s now an option to revert to the last opened version.
  • When copying a large file, the iOS-like progress indicator is the only one that appears, completely replacing the traditional copy dialogue.

What do you think of the new changes? Tell us in the comments.

Header image via Flicker user sigsegv.

18 Responses to “Mountain Lion creeps forward: new features in the developer preview”

    • David Deese

      I notice that too. I have actually tried using this feature in ML:DP3 and find that the same reason I dislike this feature in Chrome is the same reason that I dislike it in Safari as well. It appears that Apple has not been able to integrate the search and url bar in a way that allows you to make a change in the current URL without wiping out the existing URL and searching for the new text entered.

  1. Louis

    Will tools like iStatMenu still display time remaining when on battery? I find time remaining much better that some percentage value.
    Also how will a progress indicator look when I use list view while coping items?

  2. Justin Freid

    I’m interested in the updates that’ll coincide with Mountain Lion.
    Good coverage of the changes, Alex, thanks.

  3. Frd75

    More change for the sake of change. I guess Apple has to do something to justify a new OS every year, and they don’t seem to care if they screw up your work flow in the process. Well, I suppose we should be glad that save as has returned.

  4. Ezenwa Okoro

    One that I’m sure will please a lot of people: in the File menu, holding down the option key changes Duplicate to Save As (i.e, Save As is back)

  5. I’d really love to see a return of the matrix view of Desktops (3×3, 4×4, 5×5). The linear view of Desktops works well for iOS devices but for serious productivity on Macs, the matrix view needs to return, at least as an option.

  6. drumrobot

    “You can go from one stack to another in the Dock with one click. In Lion, clicking another stack with one already open just closes the current stack.”
    I can already go directly from one stack to another in Lion. The current/old stack closes and the new one opens at the same time. Are you sure this is a new feature?
    Maybe I unknowingly enabled it with a Terminal command…?

    • My Dock on Lion was hidden, which is why switching from one stack to another didn’t work. It must be a bug. I’ll have it the article edited to reflect that. Thanks for pointing it out.

    • Ezenwa Okoro

      It is a conscious decision (at least it seems like it to me). It was all too easy to remove apps from the dock this way, and inexperienced users who knew nowhere else but the dock for accessing applications would think the app was deleted (or: VIRUSES!!!). If you do want to remove an app from the dock by dragging, hold option and then drag it out.

      • In DP3, it is fully possible to remove icons from the dock. What is different though, is that you have to move the icon off and pretty far away from the dock before the icon will be trashed.

    • It is fully possible to remove icons from the dock (you remove the icon, not the app per say). The difference from previous versions though, is that moving the icon only a few centimeters off of the dock isn’t sufficient any more. In Mountain Lion you have to move the icon further away from the dock, almost half way across the screen. Only then will you be able to trash the icon.