Apple's Mac OS X 10.8: what's in it for business travellers?

By John Walton, July 25 2012
Apple's Mac OS X 10.8: what's in it for business travellers?

If you're one of the many business travellers running a Mac, you'll discover plenty of useful new features in Apple's latest OS X 10.8 operating system.

Dubbed 'Mountain Lion' (a sequel to today's OS X 10.7 Lion), it'll be available this week for a meagre $20.

Here are ten top features of Mountain Lion which we reckon will make life much easier on the road.

1. Documents in the Cloud: Messages, Reminders, Notes and iWork docs

Syncing your Apple Messages, Reminders, Notes and iWork documents (Pages, Keynote, and so on) via iCloud just got a lot easier with Documents in the Cloud.

For many business travellers, that might make the Reminders app in particular a compelling option.

2. Offline Reading List in Safari

Save any webpage to be read offline -- on a plane, for instance -- with Offline Reading List.

That's useful for how-to guides, documentation, long news pieces... or, for that matter, our signature reviews of airlines, lounges and hotels.

The perfect read for your long flight?
The perfect read for your long flight?

You don't need to keep the tabs open in Safari any more -- just add them to your reading list and you can catch up on your web reading even when you're not online.

3. Dictation

It's not quote Apple's voice-activated assistant Siri, but Apple's Dictation software is integrated throughout Mountain Lion. Just double-tap the Fn key and you'll get the dictation popup.

If you've used dictation on the newest iPad (what many of us call the iPad 3), that's roughly how it'll work on the Mac.

It should work in every app, but fingers crossed it understands non-American accents.

4. Notification Center

Taking another leaf from the iOS book (and someone remind us to get a new metaphor in the era of ebooks), Mountain Lion is pulling together notifications into one central place.

It's a pulldown menu or swipe gesture on the right-hand side, which will show you notifications from apps that support it, including Messages, Twitter and Mail.

That's useful when you need to get into the flow and concentrate on one specific task -- turn notifications off while you're concentrating and everything's waiting for you when you come up for air.

In a big win for business users, Notifications are also disabled when you connect your computer to a projector.

5. Automatic App Downloads

Here's a feature that might be more of a problem than a benefit for business travellers. Automatic App Downloads pull down all apps you buy on one Mac to your other computers.

So if your other half buys an app on the home computer, it'll download directly to your laptop when you're on the road.

That might sound like a good idea in the US, where data is much cheaper (especially in hotels), but it could be a costly annoyance in Australia and when on the road.

We'll probably be turning that one off.

6. Power Nap: automatic update and sync

In another "how much will this cost when I'm on the road" feature to consider turning off, Power Nap lets your new MacBook Pro or latest generation MacBook Air automatically update itself while it sleeps.

It'll also back itself up when it's charging (since that's more of a battery-suck).

7. New version of Safari

The Safari web browser gets a dash of Google's Chrome: the search field is now unified with the address bar, so you only have one area to type things in.

You'll be able to tweet direct from Safari, and there are also Share sheets built in so that you can send a link by email, Messages, AirDrop, Twitter, Flickr and more.

It'll also let you use the new iCloud Tabs option, where you can read a tab you opened on your iPad when you're on your laptop, and vice versa.

The "Do Not Track" privacy option is also default in Safari in Mountain Lion

8. Mail VIPs

Mountain Lion is making it easier to pull the most important messages out of the email pile.

Mail VIPs -- also seen on the new iOS 6 -- will star any email from your choice of recipients so that you can turn your attention to it at your earliest convenience.

That's useful for making sure that you get back to the boss, don't miss something from your partner or the family, and business travellers may also find it useful to have their airline and travel agent as Mail VIPs.

9. iMessage for everybody

After some months in a 'public beta' mode, Apple reckons it has swatted the bugs out of the Messages app so that you can easily fling messages between iDevices (using their inbuilt iMessage app) and your laptop or desktop Mac.

10. New Chinese-specific features

If you're in business in the Chinese market, you'll see new input methods, fonts & typefaces, and integration with mainland Chinese social networks.

While that's a pretty appealing mix, you may want to exercise some restraint rather than rushing out to immediately install it – just in case there's some software incompatibility or dreaded OS bugs lurking under the covers.

That goes double if you're on the road: why take any risks with your laptop just to get some extra shiny a few days early? Wait until you're back on home soil, with less pressure and more time on your hands.

Get the latest news, reviews and information for business travellers and frequent flyers: follow @AusBT on Twitter.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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