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  1. Computer Skills
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Computers

An In-Depth Look at Social Sharing in Mountain Lion

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This post is part of a series called Mastering Mountain Lion.
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This tutorial will introduce the new sharing features in Mountain Lion and help you get set up to instantly share files, tweet, upload videos and more right from various built-in OS X utilities.

Sharing

It turns out that social media isn't the short-lived fad that countless e-prophets claimed that it would be. Over the past decade, social media has grown from a quirky past time to an integral part of the daily routine for millions of people around the globe.

With iOS, the stand-alone nature of each app required some new ideas for how content can be shown to your friends and acquaintances online. Thus the "share" button was born.

sharing button
The symbol for sharing in iOS and OS X.

With Mountain Lion, the folks at Apple realized that the iOS quick sharing format would also be helpful on the desktop. Sure, you could go to Twitter.com, log in, and paste in a link, but wouldn't it be easier if you could do this directly from various parts of the operating system?

With Mountain Lion, you can do exactly that. Let's explore how.

Accounts

The first step that you'll want to take for sharing is to set up your various accounts in System Preferences. When you launch System Preferences, you'll see a row of icons labelled "Internet & Wireless."

From here, you'll be tempted to click on the "Sharing" button, which makes perfect sense right? That's really for local networking stuff though and dates way back to before social media even existed. Instead, you'll want to click on the "Mail, Contacts & Calendars" icon.

If you're thinking that this makes no sense because Twitter is really none of the above, you're right.

If you're thinking that this makes no sense because Twitter is really none of the above, you're right. Apple needs to rename this to something more generic such as "Accounts."

accounts
Click on Mail, Contacts & Calendars

Pushing aside the strange naming inconsistency, this Preference Pane is actually super helpful. It provides you with one easy place to set up all of your various accounts; from Gmail to AOL and beyond.

The three new options in this pane are some of your favorite social media sites: Twitter, Vimeo and Flickr.

accounts
Three new social media options in Mountain Lion.

Linking these services to OS X is super easy. Simply click on one, then type in your username and password. You can repeat this process multiple times if, like me, you have multiple accounts with these sites.

twitter
Just sign in to link OS X to your account.

What, No Facebook?

Obviously, OS X is missing a few major social media sites, Facebook and YouTube to name two. As for Facebook, sharing integration and notifications are in the works for this fall. With Google, it's a little more complicated given the ever-increasing tension between the two companies.

Hopefully, in the future everyone will learn to play nice and we'll begin to see this type of integration, but if Apple abandoning Google Maps on iOS is any indication, don't count on it.

Tip: Facebook integration is coming to Mountain Lion this fall.


Notification Center

The first place that you'll likely notice social media integration is the awesome new Notification Center. As soon as you slide the Notifications panel over from the right side of the screen, you'll see a "Click to Tweet" button.

notification center
Click to Tweet

This is awesome for all those times throughout the day when you think of a brilliant tweet but don't want to start down the massive time-sucking wormhole that is your Twitter feed.

Once you click the tweet button, you get a little window that looks like a sheet of notebook paper where you can choose your account, type your tweet, set your location, view your available characters, etc.

notification center
You can tweet right from Notification Center

Notice below the Tweet area that you can set up a third party Twitter client to work with Notification Center instead of the official Twitter client. I've been using the Tweetbot beta and it seems to integrate perfectly with notifications.

Tip: On your trackpad, swipe with two fingers from right to left, starting outside of the trackpad, to bring up Notification Center.

Managing Notifications

Whether you're using a third party client or the native Twitter support, you can set up how notifications work in the "Notifications" pane in System Preferences.

notification center
Twitter Notification Preferences

As you can see, this pane allows you to set your notification style, the number of recent notifications to be shown, the appearance of the badge icon, and the option of whether or not to play a sound for notifications.

The little "Options" button in the bottom right allows you to differentiate between notifications for Mentions and Direct Messages. Currently, this only seems to be present for the native Twitter functionality and not third party apps.


Safari

Perhaps the most important place that you'll find yourself sharing content is from Safari. As we browse the web, we're constantly finding content that we'd like to pass around and Safari 6 inside of Mountain Lion makes this easier than ever.

In Safari, the share button will typically appear to the left of the new Smart Search bar, but you can drag it to any position you like along the top if you hold down the Command key. To view the various sharing options, simply click the button.

safari share sheet
Safari's Sharing Options

As you can see, there's more than sharing going on here. You first have two separate bookmarking options: Reading List, which is meant to be temporary, and Bookmark, which is conceptually a more permanent solution for saving a URL.

After this, you really get into the sharing options. You have a choice between sharing via Email, Messages and/or Twitter.

Email this Page

You might think that the email option will launch a new message with a link and a description, but what OS X does is much stranger than that.

email
Emailing a Web Page

As you can see, Mail attempts to grab the entire web page and embed it into a message. I personally think that this is borderline useless and would greatly prefer a simple link option.

I personally think that this is borderline useless and would greatly prefer a simple link option.

Message

If you click the "Message" button, a Share Sheet pops up automatically inserting the current link into the page. From here you can choose who to send it to and customize the message, complete with emoticons.

messages
Sharing a link with Messages

Twitter

Clicking the Twitter button brings up a Share Sheet similar to the one that we saw in Notification Center. This time there's a fancy little thumbnail effect to indicate that a link to that page will also be present in addition to the text that you type in for the tweet.

safari twitter
Sharing a link with Twitter

My big complaint here is that just about every sharing extension and app that I've ever used automatically inserts the page title into a tweet, which saves you the trouble of typing it out manually. This feature is unfortunately not present in Safari's sharing features.


Finder

Mountain Lion goes beyond sharing links in with Safari, you can also share files right from Finder. Look for the sharing button to the left of the Spotlight search field.

Finder sharing
Sharing a File with Finder

As you can see, there are a few more options here that we didn't see before, namely AirDrop and Flickr. It's interesting to note that the Sharing menu is actually adaptive. In the screenshot above, Flickr is present because I have a JPG selected, watch what happens when I select a video:

Finder sharing
The Sharing menu adapts to your selection.

As you can see, Flickr has vanished and in its place is Vimeo, Mountain Lion's current and only choice for video sharing.

Quick Look & Others

I've gone over the main places that you'll find yourself sharing from, but there are various other sharing buttons scattered around OS X as well such as the one in Quick Look:

Quick Look sharing
You'll also find a sharing button in Quick Look.

The bottom line is, any time you want to share something with social media, a Mountain Lion Share Sheet will never be too far away. Always be on the lookout for that symbol or the word "share" in any application that you use.


Go Forth and Share

It seems that social media is here to stay and OS X Mountain Lion embraces that concept fully with a plethora of new sharing options.

Down the road, I'd really like to see these options open up to developers in a similar fashion to Notification Center. It would be nice if specific apps and services could provide support for their product while giving users the option to customize what does and doesn't show up in the share menu. To be honest, I don't see this happening though simply because of Apple's tendency to maintain control over these types of things.

Regardless, the new sharing features in Mountain Lion are definitely a step in the right direction. I'm already so used to them that I'd instantly miss them if they were gone.

What do you think? Are you happy about the new sharing features? What features and services are missing?

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