Launchpad is Apple’s new application launcher. It’s heavily influenced by iOS’s Home Screen and anyone who has used iOS will be familiar with Launchpad’s functions. Launchpad acts as an individual application so you can add it to Dock (though it is there by default) or you can launch it using a specific gesture, or simply Spotlight it. Once you trigger Launchpad, you're shown all of your Mac's programs in a tile layout identical to iOS's Home Screen, and its behavior is as expected: apps can be moved into folders, and can take up multiple pages which can be navigated using your touchpad or your mouse.

In all honesty, I find Launchpad to be fairly useless. I’ve been using Lion since the first Developer Preview and I’ve only used Launchpad a handful of times. There are a number of faster ways to launch an app, especially Spotlight. Maybe I’m a slave of my old habits but... I don’t find any use for Launchpad. It's one of the less successful iOS imports - it doesn’t fit in, nor does it bring anything truly new, since the Stacks feature has been doing same thing for a while now.

A Stacks view of the Applications folder. Look familiar?

Launchpad may, however, offer more utility on a laptop with multitouch trackpad because it is easy to trigger it with a gesture. On a desktop, the only way to open Launchpad is to either click it in Dock or use Spotlight, unless you have the Magic Trackpad. This even applies to Magic Mouse, although it is possible to add gestures using third party software. Making it so hard to access takes away its usability. Why would I open Launchpad to launch an app when I could open the app I want to open straightaway? 

What I find the most irritating is that Launchpad does not recognize your existing folders. For instance, I have my Adobe apps neatly in Adobe CS5 folder, so they don’t take up my whole applications folder when I’m browsing it (very annoying with Stacks). I would have to group them again just for Launchpad. Call me lazy, but there are so many other ways to launch an app which doesn’t require that, and I think I will stick with them.

I can see Launchpad working well for users that don't have that many applications on their Mac however. With a single page of icons, Launchpad may be a more consumer-friendly way to launch applications. Perhaps this is Apple's way of introducing iOS users who've never owned a Mac to launching apps in OS X?

Full Screen

Safari in full screen

For people who have used Windows, making windows full screen may not seem like a big feature since it has been included in Windows for ages. In fact, it may sound a bit laughable considering that it has taken Apple this long to integrate any OS wide full screen feature to OS X. However, as usual, Apple likes to reinvent the wheel and do things differently than others, and full screen is no exception.

Apple’s approach is a bit more than just a maximize button. Earlier in this article, we talked about Mission Control and how it works. Basically, full screen windows act as individual Spaces. If you make a window full screen, it will create an own Space for that window. That way you don’t have to to exit from full screen when you want to change the window, you simply use the gestures to scroll between Spaces or use Mission Control. The end result is a truly monolithic experience where you're only interacting with one application at a time, and even then the resemblence to iOS is quite strong since full screen mode does away with the Dock and the OS menu bar.

In my opinion, Apple’s approach makes usage of full screen a little more complicated than in Windows but at the same time, full screen applications are more usable. You don’t need to minimize your full screen window in order to use other windows. You can also work with multiple full screen windows effortlessly. Full screen is not a big deal for desktops with hi-res screens since you have the screen estate for multiple windows but in a laptop, especially 13” and smaller, Full Screen can take better advantage of every single pixel on your screen.

There is one huge limitation though: running apps in full screen in multi-monitor setup is unusable. You simply cannot run an app in full screen in the other monitor while using another app in the second monitor. When in full screen mode, the other screen will only have the grey background, you cannot move any windows there nor launch any new apps. For example, you cannot run Mail in full screen in your second monitor while browsing Safari on your main monitor. And this is not the only issue. If you have a window on your second screen and make it full screen, it will be full screen in your main monitor. Essentially this means you cannot run apps in full screen in your second monitor, which is really a shame for people with multiple monitors. This is even present with QuickTime Player, you cannot use it to play movies on your TV for instance without making it your main monitor. Luckily this is only limited to QuickTime, and other players with their own full screen modes work fine.

Apple’s full screen approach definitely has its pros and cons over Microsoft’s but overall it’s a crucial feature for OS X and it’s surprising that it has taken this long for Apple to add it. 

Mission Control Multitouch


View All Comments

  • quiksilvr - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    $29 is indeed a solid improvement. However, given the Mac Store now being out there, their desktop OS should follow the formula of their mobile OS: Free to upgrade. These features are nice but I can't help shake the feeling that these are Service Packs (because they are). And with their "app" store available on the OS and the means of most of their cash inflow, it makes more sense to make this a free upgrade for everyone instead of a $29 upgrade. Reply
  • xype - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    Service packs? Are you serious? Read up on the changes and try to come up with one service pack that changed as much.

    Some people…
  • danielkza - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    XP SP3 would be a good candidate, but yes, 10.7 is a bit beyond what one could reasonably call a Service Pack. Reply
  • Taft12 - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    You're thinking of XP SP2, and if you have to go back 7 years to come up with a comparable "service pack", it's certainly fair to say OSX 10.7 is more than a service pack. Reply
  • AfroPhysics - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    I fail to see how the age of the service pack matters. Xype asked for an example and qualified nothing. Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    Are we really going through the tired argument that every 10.x update to OS X is just a service pack and should be free? Then at what point should Apple try to recoup costs for OS development, because even if individual point updates are evolutionary, going from the original 10.0 to 10.7 has got to be a major change in anyones eyes. And the same questions could be raised about Windows NT 6.1 aka Windows 7 where the server version is bluntly labeled Windows 2008 R2 and Windows NT 6.0 aka Vista/2008 or Windows NT 5.1 aka XP and Windows NT 5.0 aka 2000.

    Besides, even if you discount the user facing changes, Lion has seem some major security infrastructure changes. Both the 32-bit and 64-bit kernel have been rewritten with full NX-bit and ALSR support as in place in Windows Vista/7 addressing the major security complaint Charlie Miller had with OS X. Application sandboxing frameworks are now available and soon to be mandatory for Lion apps in the Mac App Store which I believe is a security feature that even Windows isn't pushing yet. With the dropping of the Core Duo, the Lion has also be rewritten to make more use of SSSE3 instead of just SSE3 as pointed out by the Hackintosh community. Lion isn't just Snow Leopard with a few features added on top, but the entire OS has seem updates at a low level even if the user might not necessary see all the differences.
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    And about the App Store being a major source of income for Apple, Apple has consistently said they aim to run their stores as a break even venture.

    I'm not clear if the iTunes Store in the graphic in the above link includes the App Store, but at the very least as an example of Apple's digital store, the revenue stream really hasn't increased in the last 2 years. Apple's sales growth is clearly from their hardware, iPhone, iPad, and even Mac.
  • GotThumbs - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    $1,634,000,000 in revenue from Other Music Related Products and Services (3)

    (3) Includes sales from the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore in addition to sales of iPod services and Apple-branded and third-party iPod accessories

    I'd say their goal of a break even venture is not an accurate description of their stores. Hence the creation of the MAC Store. It sounds like a nice thought, but Apple is in business to make money and it seems their VERY good at it. Perhaps their projection analysis was a bit off.

    Hey, this is good news for the investors and I understand that they are a business. Lets not be too naive and just don't drink the cool-aid.
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    Perhaps my finance terms are wrong, but I'd hope the Apps Store is taking in revenue. But if Apple should be offering some of their other products like OS X updates for free, shouldn't we be concerned with whether the App Store is making major profits, such that there is money to spare to pay for OS development? Reply
  • solipsism - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    Revenue ≠ Profit

    They've paid billions to both developers, and music and video cotent owners. They've also spent money on the infrastructure to support their stores. I'm sure they're making a profit as all good for-profit companies should, but it's not the cash cow you've attempted to present here.

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