Thankfully, in Lion, you can turn those decisions off. Take Mail, for example, which has been given a bold metallic new look. By default, Mail hides folder and mailboxes, offering instead a button navigation along the top. Most users, however, will quickly click the Show button in the top left corner to make their folders and mailboxes visible again. Functionality trumps elegance.
Or take the new rules for scrolling, intended to mimic what happens on a tablet. The system we've all gotten used to with mice scroll wheels is to scroll down to move down a page. In Lion, the default is the reverse of this. Certainly most scroll mouse users will uncheck that option as soon as they realize they can.
Some users will be in for an unpleasant surprise after installing OS X Lion, as Apple no longer supports apps that require the older PowerPC chip.
This means that Quicken, Microsoft Office for Mac 2004, Pro Tools, eFax Messenger, and several other (mostly minor) programs won't open. This reviewer kept an old copy of Palm Desktop on hand, with a few things stored in Notes. Those things will never be seen again. If you're worried about compatibility of a third-party app, check with that app's developer before upgrading to Lion.
Mail: Mail has been redesigned to offer a more streamlined look. Gone (at least by default) are the list of folders and mailboxes on the left-hand side. (Graphic courtesy Apple)
We only uncovered one odd problem while testing. The search field in Mail simply isn't turning up results properly. It repeatedly misses older messages that match search terms. The regular desktop search, luckily, is able to find anything, including old Mail messages.
OS X Lion is worth your $29, but it's worth it for the many smaller features that make the operating system more usable.
Run a search from the magnifying glass icon in the upper right window and you can now hover over the results to get a preview. You can even scroll through that preview to see the whole document. It's terrifically handy.
Also, you can now resize an application window by dragging on any side. You don't need to have the correct corner. These are small touches that make work more pleasant.
Other welcome additions include AirDrop, which lets you wirelessly drop files to Macs on the same network (only computers released in the last few years are compatible) and the ability to combine videos in QuickTime into one longer video just by dragging and dropping.
In the end, we don't want a radically redesigned way of using the Apple OS, just a series of refinements that make life easier (and we'd like desktops and iPads to remain two separate worlds). That might not be enough to justify a $129 upgrade, but for a sweet $29, small refinements are just fine.