Lion changes we'd like to see

Lion icon

In general, we think Lion is a pretty darned good operating system. But is it perfect? Of course not. (After all, Macworld awarded OS X 10.7 four-and-a-half mice, not five.) Now that we've been using the final, shipping version for a few weeks, we've found more than a few flaws. Here are seven areas deserving of a little more attention; we'll no doubt find more. In the meantime, let us know what you'd like to see fixed in the comments section below.

Full-screen: when it makes sense

Lion's introduction of full-screen apps reflects some typical Apple ingenuity. But the implementation still feels like a 1.0 release (which, of course, it is). Support for multi-monitor setups is laughably poor: Put an app in full-screen mode, and your other monitors merely show the now-ubiquitous linen background. In the next iteration of 10.7, I'd much rather see an adjacent workspace on my other display.

Another welcome improvement would be an option to enable a slim Dock and menu bar while still in full-screen mode. I'd guess that such a compromise would be sacrilege to the Apple team that championed full-screen apps in the first place: It's not really full-screen if such interface accoutrements are still on the screen, too. But I can't quite work full-screen apps into my Mac computing routine; they embody the worst aspects of multitasking on the iPad, and ignore the benefits that the Mac can offer: For example, I want to see my Dock badges update when new emails and IMs come in, without needing to hover over the Dock. One potential solution would be to implement iOS 5's promised floating banner notifications in Lion. In that case, updates that would normally only increment a Dock icon counter would trigger a banner notification when the Dock wasn't visible.—Lex Friedman

Get Mission Control under control

While Mission Control is does a nice job of unifying the Exposé and Spaces features from Snow Leopard, it could still be better. For example, if you could rename your additional desktops (instead of simply Desktop 2 and Desktop 3), that would make it a lot easier to navigate your workspaces. And, while we're at it, I'd love to be able to reorder desktops and full-screen apps by dragging and dropping them. Plus, while you can assign an app to particular desktop, it would be nice to be able to lock spaces and full-screen apps in a particular order—so, for example, full-screen Mail would always be directly to the right of my primary desktop. This, plus better multiple monitor support (see elsewhere) would go a long way toward delivering the kind of control that Mission Control seems to promise.—Dan Moren

Get a handle on permissions

Try dragging the Chess application from the Applications folder to the Trash and you’ll be presented with a message that reads “‘Chess’ can’t be modified or deleted because it’s required by Mac OS X.” Really? It’s that important to Apple that I have the Game of Kings planted on my Mac? No. What’s happened is that Apple has turned a sterner eye toward permissions—making it more difficult for unwary users to do things that they shouldn’t, including tossing out applications. While this makes sense for people who’ve never touched a Mac before, it’s annoying for those who want greater control over their Macs.—Christopher Breen

Correct auto-correct

Lion's new iOS-style auto-correction doesn't work everywhere. Many apps—including some of Apple's own—don't seem to support it at all: Stickies and iChat don't; TextEdit and Mail do. Support across third-party apps seems equally haphazard. I can either rely on auto-correct or not rely on auto-correct, but the unpredictable mix-and-match approach is the worst of both worlds: I end up deleting an auto-corrected the unnecessarily, while failing to fix a typo'd teh that I expected the Mac to catch. Apple needs to implement auto-correction universally.—Lex Friedman

Scrolling that's natural for each device

I'm fine with Apple's decision to reverse the Mac's traditional scrolling behavior in Lion. With so-called Natural Scrolling, content on the Mac follows your finger: Scroll up, and the content on your screen moves up, too. It makes sense—though it takes a period of adjustment—on a multitouch input device like a trackpad or Magic Mouse. It feels less sensible, however, when you're navigating with a scroll wheel.

Unfortunately, Lion allows you only to set scrolling behavior one way or the other across the board. In 10.7.1, Apple should instead allow you to customize that preference for each input device, so that your trackpad scrolls one way, and your scroll wheel mouse, the other.—Lex Friedman

Make your own gestures

One of the lesser-hyped features coming in iOS 5 is the ability to create custom vibration patterns for different notifications. You tap out the pattern you want and assign to a contact, and our custom vibration is triggered when that person calls.

Apple could implement a similar approach for creating customized finger gestures in Lion. My fat fingers feel foolish when they attempt 10.7's thumb-and-three-fingers-reverse-pinch for exposing the desktop; I'd prefer to customize the gesture required—maybe a circular swipe, or perhaps just a four-finger swipe down, since I don't care about or use App Exposé. Right now, Lion hard-codes specific gestures to specific actions with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. A little more flexibility on Apple's part could help those of us whose fingers have a little less.—Lex Friedman

Greater support for media files

Apple is clearly fond of the AAC audio- and H.264 video formats. But it’s time the company embraced a broader variety of audio and video files. On the audio front, high-resolution Ogg Vorbis and FLAC files are commonly found on the Web, yet iTunes and QuickTime turn a blind eye to them. In regard to video, browse that same Web and you’ll find various flavors of .avi files, which play natively on Windows PCs but not on the Mac. Mac users can play many of these file formats by downloading and installing the Perian QuickTime components, so we know support is possible. Wouldn’t it be nice if that support was built in?—Christopher Breen

Product mentioned in this article

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  • OS X Lion (10.7)
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    At $30 for all of your Macs, the only reason not to upgrade to Lion is because you rely on old PowerPC-based apps that won’t run on it. Otherwise, it’s a great price for a major upgrade.

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