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Mac OS X Mountain Lion's five biggest new features

Check out five new features worth getting to know in Mac OS X Mountain Lion.

Luke Westaway
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
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We're looking forward to the new version of Mac OS X Lion with mountain excitement (sorry). Due out in the summer, OS X Mountain Lion looks to bring the Mac and iOS operating systems a shade closer together -- though there's no Siri. Here are five new features to look out for, and click through the photo gallery above to check out some screenshots, courtesy of our US cousins at CNET.

Notifications

Drag two fingers to the left and you'll see your notifications arranged along the right of the screen. Notifications will incorporate a whole bunch of programs, from email and iMessage, to Twitter mentions and direct messages to event reminders.

If you own an iOS device running iOS 5, you'll be familiar with these bleeping reminders -- now you have them on your computer.

AirPlay Mirroring

This new feature will let you send a 720p stream of whatever's on your Mac's screen to a telly that's hooked up to Apple TV, turning your telly into a massive monitor that's connected over Wi-Fi. Handy if you want to give hilarious cat videos the big-screen treatment they deserve.

Apple TV isn't that popular, but with the company rumoured to be working on building a full TV set (craftily dubbed iTV, much to ITV's chagrin), this might be a more intriguing feature in the future.

Gatekeeper

This one's likely to prove divisive -- it's a new security feature that controls what kind of software is installed on your Mac, with owners able to choose between installing software from any source, or only allowing downloads from the Mac App Store, and Apple-approved developers.

Developers will have a unique Developer ID, which they'll get from Apple, that marks their software as safe.

A third option for the really security conscious will be to only install apps from the Mac App Store.

A helpful extra bit of security? Possibly, but the idea of Apple regulating software outside its own App Store is something new. Security-conscious Mac owners will likely choose the 'safer' Apple-approved option, putting pressure on software developers to make sure they have the Apple stamp of approval to get their programs downloaded.

While it increases security, it also gives Apple more control -- something I feel not everyone will be keen on.

Game Center

Apple's bringing its mobile gaming hub app to OS X. I'm not sure how often you'd end up using this, but the ability to setup multiplayer games, even if your competitors are using an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, is intriguing.

Apple's promising to let you 'personalise your Mac gaming experience'. Could this mean we'll get Game Center avatars to dress up in fancy virtual clothes? Here's hoping.

Notes and Messages

Yes, I've gone mad with power and bundled these two new features under one heading, for your convenience. OS X Mountain Lion introduces a Notes app that looks just the same as the iOS version, and Messages replaces iChat, working just like iMessage on mobile devices, with the ability to drag photos or videos into the conversation. You'll be able to hold chats between an iOS device and a computer running Mountain Lion. Handy.

So Apple is definitely trying to squish its mobile and computer-based operating systems into each other, with most of the new OS X features being taken wholesale from iOS. Are you excited about this upgrade? Tell me what you think in the comments below, or over on our Facebook wall.

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Swipe with two fingers to see Notifications.
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This is Gatekeeper, which controls the software you download.
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Game Center is coming to OS X.
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Notes has been taken from iOS.
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The Messages app replaces iChat.

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