Newer Mac—those shipped in the last year or so—can enable AirPlay Mirroring which sends their entire screen to an Apple TV. The iPad 2 and iPhone 4S have both supported this feature since their release, but having AirPlay Mirroring support on a Mac takes it to a whole new level.
Students can share their work with the class directly from a MacBook without having to waste instructional time fiddling with VGA cords and looking for the correct dongle. Teachers can display their content and other materials without being tethered to the projector. At $99, the Apple TV appears to be a reasonable alternative to the $29 dongle that allows you to plug a display cable into your Mac.
The bad news is that AirPlay Mirroring is not supported on all Macs. This is not an evil marketing ploy by Apple to get us all to buy new Macs. Older Macs do not have the graphics cards needed to reliably send the contents of their screen over the network and still respond to user interaction on the built-in display. That said, there are software solutions to get around this.
Mountain Lion also brings support for voice dictation to Mac OS X—another feature that made its debut on the iPhone 4S and new iPad. Users can assign a hot-key combination to summon a little pop up modal box that records your voice until you dismiss it. The recording is sent off to Apple’s servers, translated to text, and pasted onto your screen.
It’s important to note that this feature does not work without an Internet connection and—because it sends data over the Internet—is not suitable for long passages of text. If you need software that converts speech to text in real-time and without relying on an Internet connection, Dragon Dictate may be a better option for you.
As of this writing there is still no support for Siri on Mac OS X.
Better iCloud Support
Mountain Lion now features better support for storing and retrieving your documents in Apple’s iCloud service. Open and save dialogs now have two distinct tabs: one for your locally stored files and one for your files in iCloud. Not all applications support this functionality either. iCloud support is missing most notably from Microsoft Office. Only applications sold through the Mac App Store are allowed to support iCloud.
iOS apps, such as Notes and Reminders, now have siblings on Mac OS X. The apps sync seamlessly with their counterparts along as the user is logged into their iCloud account on both devices.
Working With Gatekeeper
Somewhere along the line, Gatekeeper will be considered to be a wonderful security feature. At this point however, it’s more of a hassle and works best if you turn it off completely. The idea behind Gatekeeper is that it limits your Mac to only running apps signed with a security certificate by Apple. This is great because if a piece of software turns out to be malware, Apple can throw the kill switch and disable it on all Macs with Gatekeeper enabled. The problem right now is that no software outside of the Mac App Store currently supports these certificates.
The best option at this juncture is to head into System Preferences > Security and Privacy > General and select Anywhere to enable apps that haven’t been updated for Mountain Lion yet.