Digital Toolbox

Apple releases Mountain Lion today

Today’s the day Apple’s latest operating system, OSX 10.8 – also known as Mountain Lion, will be available for download. The cost is $19.99. While there are more than 200 new features in this version of OSX, a couple of them are especially interesting.

First of those is Dictation. The voice-recognition efforts behind Siri for the iThings are paying off here. With Dictation, wherever I would normally type, I can just tap the function key twice then dictate my entry instead. Dictation works in the text field of any OSX app and uses my system’s built-in microphone. Does this mean I can “text” in Messages without touching the keyboard or dictate blog content in Safari? Of course, if I’m working in a noisy environment (like two dogs and a mouthy bird), a headset may be a better option. And, the more I use Dictation, the better it works because it gets to know my verbal mannerisms. Like any good dictation app, it understands commands like “comma”, “period”, “new paragraph” and “all caps”. This feature alone could be worth the $20 price tag.

Speaking of Messages, in addition to text messages with Macs and iThings, the app also supports AOL, Yahoo!, Google Talk and Jabber services. It sounds like most of the very cool functions – like read receipts, group chats and large attachments – will only work within the Apple environment.

Of course I’m looking forward to having iCloud connecting my iWork apps as well as the iLife ones. Does this mean Pages, Numbers and Keynote are getting updates too? I hope so since iWork.com is shutting down July 31st. The one thing I really liked about it was the Keynote presentation sharing capability. The preview doesn’t mention any similar feature so I’m expecting it will be a while – if ever – before there’s a replacement.

Notes sounds quite interesting. It supports rich text formatting, hyperlinks, images and attachments and can be pinned to the desktop. Notes can be organized into folders, searched and shared via Mail or Messages. Even before I see it in action, it just sounds like it fits my style for jotting things down. And, if I can email them, they can easily be sent to Evernote too.

I’m not sure why Notes and Reminders are two separate things, but I do like the idea of a shopping or to-do list that can be easily pushed to my iPhone as I head out the door.

With Mountain Lion, my Mac gets lots of social goodness too. After signing into Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Vimeo once, I’ll be able to share directly from the apps that support it. And, Twitter supports multiple accounts.

These are just a few of the features included in the upgrade. Some of them – like the security upgrades are just as impressive even if they aren’t as exciting.

I’m looking forward to spending some time getting acquainted with this big cat.

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