Here Comes Lion

Mac OS X Lion: What you need to know

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The Launchpad gives users instant access to all the applications on their Mac. It’s a look reminiscent of the home screen of an iPad. Users can see their entire application library laid out in icon form, arrange folders, scroll through pages, and rearrange apps as they see fit. Windows users who transitioned to the Mac after falling in love with their iPhone may very well take a liking to Launchpad’s Home screen-like interface; for experienced users with oodles of applications, however, it may prove too unwieldy for general use. As anyone who’s accumulated a few pages of apps on the iPhone can tell you, it’s a lot easier to just give up and use Spotlight rather than play the app-finding equivalent of Where’s Waldo. That said, Launchpad seems primarily aimed at iOS switchers, and those of us who prefer the comfort of the Finder can easily ignore it.

Familiar with the iPad’s Home Screen? Then you’ll feel right at home with Lion’s Launchpad.

What is Mission Control?

Mission Control is a reinvention of Exposé and Spaces, OS X’s respective window-switching and virtual desktop features. In Mission Control, you use trackpad gestures (or keyboard shortcuts) to quickly view all your running apps and switch between different workspaces (which include shared spaces with multiple apps, apps running in full-screen mode, and even the Dashboard). Instead of configuring what goes where via a System Preference pane, you just drag and drop apps and windows into new spaces from the Mission Control view. The idea is that you can be more productive by switching among different views (say, an e-mail window versus one containing a Web browser and a note-taking app), and Apple is counting on Mission Control being easier to use than Exposé and Spaces.

Use trackpad gestures or keyboard shortcuts to quickly view apps and workspaces in Mission Control.

What’s new with the other OS X applications I’ve come to know and love?

In Lion, you’ll find new revised versions of most of Apple’s core applications: There are changes across the board in Mail, Safari, iCal, Address Book, Preview, TextEdit, iChat, Photo Booth, and Quicktime Player—even Dictionary and Font Book have a new feature or two.

Mail has received the biggest overhaul, gaining a new three-column layout, conversation view, message previews, related messages, search suggestions, inline reply and deletion controls, custom labels and flags, the addition of an archive mailbox, and Exchange 2010 support.

A three-column layout and conversation view are among the changes you’ll find in Mail in Mac OS X Lion.

Safari, meanwhile, has a new Reading List function (similar to Marco Arment’s Instapaper); multitouch gestures like tap (or pinch) to zoom and two-finger swipe for navigation; enhanced privacy features; and support for new CSS3 and JavaScript elements along with the WOFF text format.

iCal and Address Book have been reskinned to more-closely resemble their iOS cousins, while Preview has gained new signature annotations, magnification tools, and support for opening iWork and Office documents. TextEdit has a new top toolbar, while iChat now supports third-party plug-ins for adding new IM services in addition to a unified buddy list. Photo Booth has several new effects, support for trimming video clips, and a fullscreen mode that imitates the photo booths of yore.

QuickTime has brought back several features from its defunct sibling, QuickTime Pro: You can now merge and rotate clips, export just the audio of a clip; and do partial screen captures (with or without cursor clicks). You can also export to Vimeo, Flickr, Facebook, iMovie, and Mail.

Lion’s Dictionary supports inline definitions throughout the OS.

Dictionary now supports inline dictionary definitions, OS-wide: This means you can highlight and control-click a word (or perform a three finger double-tap) anywhere in the system and have the definition appear in a pop-up. Font Book has been slightly reorganized and optimized, and there are even a few new system fonts: Damascus, PT Sans, and Kefa. In addition, if you like emoji, you’ll be pleased to see that Lion has integrated Apple’s own custom color emoji font.

The Mac App Store is staying the same, right?

Nope. Even though it just arrived in January, the Mac App Store should undergo a few modest changes when Lion arrives. Like their iOS counterparts, Mac app makers will be able to add in-app purchases and push notifications. Apple is also requiring developers to add sandboxing—which prevents applications from interfering with other bits of information on your system—for heightened security.

Updating your software should go faster, too. Lion will favor “delta” updates for the apps you own, meaning the Mac App Store will now download just the changes in a code for each software update rather than the entire application.

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At a Glance
  • 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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