Mac OS X Lion; Is It Worth the Upgrade?

This seems to be the question being asked on all of the various email list for blind users of the Mac. It’s presented in different ways, but when you get right down to it, most folks want to know if it is worth their time and effort, and, of course, $29 to make the jump from Snow Leopard or earlier versions of OS X to 10.7 Lion.

I am going to preface this by saying that I have, of course, done the upgrade myself and have always taken the plunge right away when Apple has released each new operating system since OS X 10.4 Tiger. Some have accused me of being a “Mac Apologist” or a “Mac Fan boy” over the years for my steadfast defending of Apple, and, perhaps, it is rightfully so. I have my share of opinions I have openly expressed in my two articles I have written about my experiences switching from Windows to the Mac. As far as I am concerned, as a blind person and computer user, I have plenty of solid reasons for my support of Apple and my satisfaction in being a very happy Mac user.

With that all said and out of the way, however, let me try to approach the question of upgrading to Lion from a both a logical and technical point of view. I realize that I might risk offending the sensibilities of the overly defensive folks who have been, in some cases, practically ranting and raving on some of the lists about their issues with Lion and how Apple has done the blind a relative disservice or how Lion has supposedly taken steps backwards in accessibility. No, these terms have not been literally used in any case, but if you read the words of some people and sit back to consider their complaints, this is tantamount to what they come down to when you get right down to their essence. Hopefully, I will put some things into perspective and demonstrate that one cannot make snap judgements or declare a new OS a “failure” in less than 72 hours after its release.

I am not at all seeking to offend or insult anyone, so I really hope no one finds themselves believing that I am doing so in this post. I am going through the same learning process as everyone else, and I will openly confess that I have, n the past, been guilty of some of the things I will mention later on in regard to my previous computer experiences and reactions to updates and upgrades. We are all human, and we often don’t even realize how our behavior or words are being interpreted by others. So, again, there is no criticism or the like intended in this post in the least.

Addressing the Negativity

Does Lion have imperfections? Are there things far different in Lion than they were presented in Snow Leopard? Are their “bugs”? Are some user habits going to have to be changed? Do some things work differently in Lion?
Of course, the answers to all of those questions are, Yes. With any new operating system that involves several technical changes, one is going to find a lot of things that work differently or appear unfamiliar. Additionally, well, bugs are simply a reality of computer life, and there is not an operating system out there that does not contain them. Not everything can be “fixed” during the testing process, and problems are often prioritized as far as what needs to be ironed out before a public, official release. The other things are left to be addressed as maintenance updates occur after the initial launch. In other words, Mac OS X 10.7.1 and beyond will undoubtedly deal with many of the “bugs” that currently can be found in Lion at the moment. This, folks, is how it simply works in the computer world.

To put this into perspective, for those of you who have used Windows or who still use Windows, consider every new release of Windows and, for that matter, every new incarnation of Microsoft Office or Outlook or Windows Live Mail. Mac OS X Lion is no different as far as it being a new upgrade with several changes compared to the previous versions of the OS. I can’t tell you how many times I sat at my computer scratching my head and asking the question after a new version of Windows came out or when I jumped from Office versions to the next, “OK, where did Microsoft move that item?”, or, “OK, why did Microsoft change that?”

It’s amazing to me how things go on email lists with each new release of an operating system or a developer updates their application. Change can be very disconcerting, and many people find themselves reacting to any kind of change without necessarily thinking first. People jump on the lists right away declaring that this or that is “broken” or how they are considering down grading because one thing or another isn’t working how, in their opinion, it “should”. People state, with conviction, that a certain feature or method of doing something in a specific program suddenly does not work, and they will often repeat this assertion until someone else comes along to calmly point out that it was only a matter of something being slightly changed or where they used to find a certain menu item has been moved. Yes, how many times do you read, “I can’t believe this. You can’t do …. any more. What was Apple thinking?”? Then, a few posts down, another list subscriber comes along to correct the misconception or point out how to now do the desired task.

Of course, there are things that might definitely be broken or have been changed in a way that now makes the preferred method or habitual process of doing something not work any more. There are surely legitimate complaints that have substance and confirmation behind them. It happens. Not every change or alteration is going to meet every single person’s personal criteria. Apple changed Mail significantly, for example, and though there still is the “classic” view available, like the rest of the OS, they moved to something that resembles iOS on the iPhone and iPad. Thus, yes, if you are using Snow Leopard or Leopard, things are “different”. Not “bad” or “broken” or “ruined”. Just different.

Taking a Step Back

From experience, if I have to offer anyone any advice as far as current users of Lion on the public email lists, please do not “personalize” every perceived problem or issue. It is really best that you try not to present your message as some monumental declaration that Apple has completely dropped the ball because you can’t figure out how to do something or you feel that the specific change they have made has rendered some aspect of the OS “unusable” by you. Instead, take a few mental steps back and take the time to breathe and think. As opposed to making generalize statements or declarative accusations of something being “broken” or “wrong”, ask the respective list if others are having a similar “problem” or “issue” as you are having. Explain how you did things in the past and what you have tried as far as discovering how it has changed in Lion, but you have not been able to find a solution. Don’t simply assume something doesn’t work because you haven’t been able to figure out how it might have changed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read these strongly written claims of one thing or another not working properly or how some specific change in the way some task was done has been “ruined” by Apple only to then have someone else come along and correct the misperception or thoroughly describe how one now does that same task in Lion.

If you are truly not finding the Lion experience to your liking, well, that is, of course, your choice and feelings. Like any other situation, Apple is not going to please all of the people all of the time. Lion might not be for everyone. However, if this is the case, please do the rest of your fellow users a favor and stay off the negative train by amplifying your issues and repeatedly asserting or insinuating that Lion is a waste of everyone’s time because you, personally, don’t like it. You are in the vast minority, and this sort of thing only adds to unnecessary list traffic that many of your other fellow list members don’t appreciate having to have cluttering their inboxes. If you’re not happy, that is your right and opinion and, thus, stay with Snow Leopard or whatever else you are happily using.

The reality is like anything else in life that changes, it takes time to use it and get used to how things work. Dismissing it or declaring in less than 24 hours that you think Lion or anything else is unusable or not worth the upgrade only tends to make you look foolishly emotional to others, regardless of what your intent happened to be. Again, from experience witnessing this sort of thing through my years of Windows and as Tiger changed to Leopard and Leopard upgraded to Snow leopard, and, of course, all of the updates to iOS, one can almost predict the patterns and write the proverbial script. I’ve already read someone claim Apple is “sloppy” in their implementation and have taken accessibility for “granted”. These sorts of statements are ridiculous at best and indicate a lack of familiarity or patience. They don’t serve the community overall and definitely fail to help to resolve real problems or sort out what really is something Apple needs to know about as far as actual “bugs”. Often, problems are, unfortunately, system specific, and coming onto public lists breathing fire in your method of describing your issue does little to enable other users to help you nor does it help to figure out if it is, indeed, something Apple needs to be made aware of.

If you really do feel or believe that something has been broken or does not work as it should, then let Apple know. Write to Apple Accessibility to explain the situation with as much detail as you can and, of course, attempting to be civil and reasonable. I’ve written to them more than a few times myself. If they don’t respond to you, however, please then do not go onto lists claiming that Apple “doesn’t care” or is “unresponsive” or any of that nonsense? They don’t reply to every message, but plenty of us out there have gotten enough feedback from them to be certain that they listen and take note of our reported problems or recommendations.

In time, most of this uproar will settle down until the next update. That’s just how it goes. There will be troublesome bugs that will linger and recommended work arounds for certain problems that become standard topics on the lists any time it is asked about by a new user. It’s the nature of the beast, folks. I am not pleased with every change and I have found myself scrambling to figure out where to find something or how to now do something that was second nature to me in Snow Leopard. Nevertheless, I’ve always sat back, thought out the problem and either have found a solution on my own or have discovered an answer by reading a helpful and informative message on one of the lists by a fellow user going through the same thing as me.

My Answer to the Ultimate Question

Lion is not perfect and will have its share of problems, but in the end, the new features and benefits to the blind Mac user will FAR outweigh any of the “problems” or “weaknesses”. Things have changed for sure, but time and use and experience will easily enable any “veteran” user to acclimate themselves to it. Lion is faster and snappier and more robust, and the improvements and advancements to VoiceOver, such as the new languages and voices, the Activities feature, the new drag and drop commands, improved Braille access, improvements to the non-contiguous selection process and many other additions, makes it worth the $29 investment.

Frankly, I now find the web browsing experience in Safari to be superior to that of any Windows screen reader. My overall advice to the individual either contemplating Lion or buying a Mac is to take the plunge and go for it. If you are troubled by what you might be reading on the email lists or by what someone tells you they heard from someone else, forget about all of that. Lion is an overall improvement and advancement for Apple, and demonstrates their commitment to accessibility with yet greater improvements and additions to VoiceOver. And, of course, these goodies don’t cost the blind user any additional money.

Additionally, if you are considering upgrading to Lion or have been on the fence as to whether or not to switch from Windows to the Mac, there are now plenty of podcasts out there demonstrating the new features in Lion. There are already a lot of resources available, including material presented on this site. If you want to read about VoiceOver in Lion, you can start

To sum up the answer to whether or not Lion is worth the upgrade, it is simply a resounding, YES, as far as this satisfied and happy Mac and Lion user is concerned.

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