Every successive OS X release has made an attempt to revolutionize how we interact with our computers while making them easier to use and more intuitive.
Apple’s newest release, Lion (10.7), introduces a host of new features that will make working with your Mac easier, and make you more productive without forcing you to re-learn how you do everything.
Key features in OS X Lion
For those of us who have collected a lot of applications, you know how hard it can be to get to the application you want to quickly. There is no way that a reasonably sized dock can contain all of the applications that you use a lot, and cluttering your Desktop with icons is not much better than an overcrowded dock.
Navigating to the app you want to launch by browsing the Applications folder may mean scrolling through a very long list of icons, and a search may take a while to bring back all of the results. Apple realized this and created Launchpad to address the problem.
With a simple trackpad gesture (pinch with your thumb and three fingers), Launchpad displays all of the applications available on your system. If you have a lot of applications, Launchpad breaks them into separate pages, and you can scroll to the left or the right to see the rest. When you’re done just reverse the gesture, or hit the Esc key to return to your desktop.
The past few releases of OS X have offered us different ways to quickly navigate from application to application. Dashboard, Spaces, and Expose were all attempts to help you get a 10,000 foot view of what apps are running. In Lion, Apple took the best elements of their previous efforts and created Mission Control.
With another extremely simple gesture (swipe upwards with three fingers), you can see miniaturized views of all of the apps you’re currently running. From there you can click on any of the open applications to switch directly to it. If you want to go back to the application you were previously working in, just reverse the gesture (swipe downward with three fingers), and you’re back where you started.
At the top of the Mission Control screen, you can see your Spaces, which are different Desktops. When you move the pointer up to the top of the screen, a + will appear in the right corner of the screen. Click on the + to add additional Desktops. This makes it easy to logically group your apps without resorting to multiple monitors, and it makes it extremely easy to hop from Desktop to Desktop.
Multitasking is supposed to make you more efficient, but sometimes you need to need to narrow your attention to one task to get it done. In Lion, you can now view a wide variety of apps in full-screen mode. If you’re updating your calendar in iCal, browsing the Web in Safari, or reading your email with Mail.app, you can switch to a full-screen view to block out all of the distractions that kill your productivity.
All you have to do is click on the double arrows in the right corner of the application’s toolbar to switch to full-screen mode. When you want to switch back, you can either hit the Esc key or click on the double arrows in the upper right corner of the screen. Expect this feature to start appearing in third-party apps in the future.
Auto Save and Versions
At some point, everyone has lost changes they made to a document because they forgot to save it. Even though a lot of common apps have auto-save, some still do not. Apple built on the success and simplicity of Time Machine to introduce Auto Save and Versions. Now you do not have to remember to save, because your apps will save your work automatically. You can also revert to a previous version of the document in the event you save something that you did not intend to save.
When you actually do need to revert to a previous copy of your document, you enter a Time Machine-like interface. You can flip through previous versions of the document, and you can interact with each version. If you only needed a paragraph you deleted a few versions ago, you can navigate to that version, copy the paragraph, and paste it into your current copy of the document. The best part about Versions is that it only saves the changes that you make to the document, so your document history will not devour your hard drive.
If you work in close proximity and you need to quickly transfer a file, AirDrop will let you do it easily. If another Mac user is within 30 feet of you, just click the AirDrop icon in the sidebar, and your Mac will find the other AirDrop user. Just drag your file onto the other person’s icon, and once they accept your file, it will be encrypted, transferred, and saved in the other user’s Downloads folder.
If you’ve ever gotten flustered, because you have to restart your Mac when you have a bunch of different apps and files open, Apple solved your problem. Resume does exactly that. If you need to restart because of a software update, when your system restarts and you return to your desktop, all of your apps will be exactly where you left them.
There are a lot of new features in Lion that will make you more productive, preserve your work, and save you time. These are only a few of the new things that Lion has to offer and you can expect even more functionality and convenience with the launch of iCloud later this year.
Since Apple dropped the price of the upgrade to $29.99, you can get all of these features plus a lot more, and pay just one time to upgrade all of your Macs.