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Mac OS X Lion Includes Many Small but Significant Changes

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The OS X Lion developer preview was released about two weeks ago, and while the marquee features such as Launchpad and Mission Control are getting most of the Mac (s aapl) blogosphere’s attention, there are some smaller changes in Lion that I think are worth pointing out.

Resize Windows From Anywhere

In Lion, you can resize windows from any border, just like in Windows(s msft). This is a pretty radical change for Mac OS. Some even said it couldn’t be done because of how thin OS X window borders are. The traditional resize handle at the bottom right corner is gone, too, probably due to the addition of iOS-style scrollbars that fade in on mouse-over.

Local Snapshots in Time Machine

Time Machine in Lion is able to take hourly local snapshots, meaning you can back up to your own hard drive rather than having to plug in an external one. I’ve always hated having to connect my MacBook to my external HDD to back up, so it’ll be nice to be able to go a couple of days without having to.

Migration Assistant Supports PCs

The Migration Assistant in Lion is able to transfer over files from a PC that’s on the same network, which should make it much easier for new Mac converts to acclimatize. I tried this out with a Windows 7 laptop, and Migration Assistant didn’t seem to recognize it, so I’m not sure if the software’s still only partial or if Apple will be releasing a companion Windows program to handle the other side of the transfer. When I tried it with a Mac, it said I needed to update the version of Migration Assistant on that Mac.

Finder View Settings No Longer Global

In the Snow Leopard Finder, when you change the view style from, say, icon view to list view, that change is applied to all folders unless otherwise specified in the view options. In Lion, when you apply a view style, it’s only applied to that folder, which will always open in that view style. If you uncheck this setting in the view options, that folder will always open in icon view instead.

Spotlight’s Bigger and has Previews

Spotlight’s search field is significantly bigger in Lion, as are the search results themselves. When you mouse over a text document or an email, a preview pane slides out so you can read it, which is pretty useful and blows the pants off of Windows Desktop Search.

Easy Access to Accented Letters

You can access accented letters easily in Lion by simply holding down the key for the letter you want to accent – just like in iOS. This change means a lot fewer trips to the Special Characters palette (which, by the way, is also different in Lion).

Even Smaller Changes

There are some changes in Lion that merit a brief mention:

  • When you download an application from the Mac App Store, the icon flies into Launchpad rather than the Dock.
  • Dock badges look exactly like they do on iOS.
  • When you’re moving more than one file in the finder, a red number appears showing how many items you’re moving.
  • When you highlight a word and use the Look Up in Dictionary command, a pop-up appears with the definition rather than launching the Dictionary app.

There’s surely more secrets lying in Lion, just waiting to be found, so stay tuned.

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25 Responses to “Mac OS X Lion Includes Many Small but Significant Changes”

  1. “When you highlight a word and use the Look Up in Dictionary command, a pop-up appears with the definition rather than launching the Dictionary app.”

    Don’t know if anybody has already asked this, but does that mean it now works like Cmd + Ctrl + D does since Tiger? I totally love this function, it’s very useful.

  2. Cold Water

    I like the idea of Time Machine running locally for backing up old versions, but only if it will still transfer them to Time Capsule, maybe on a less frequent basis.

    The window resizing change is long overdue. Will I have to keep running Cinch, or will Lion get gestures like Windows 7?

  3. duhvinchi

    “Finder View Settings No Longer Global” …. “In Lion, when you apply a view style, it’s only applied to that folder..”

    If true, this seems like a really bad idea. Hopefully there will still be a way to apply global settings. I use list view as a rule. It would be a pain to have to set every Finder window one by one. What a waste of time.

  4. What is the point of backing up to the local drive?Automatic back was touted as one new big thing and I would assume that that is to the local drive. Why the redundancy?

    Time machine is supposed to be a backup in case of drive failure. If the drive fails ,you lose your local backup. what’s the point? More bloatware?

    • I think the idea here is to have a way to easily and automatically version files you are working on locally. This isn’t meant to be a disaster recovery solution, but possibly a mistake or change/history recovery solution.

      I think this is a damn fine idea. I used git source control all day long on my programming projects. The fact that this would work automatically for any document type that supports it makes it a pretty powerful feature.

    • Ed, before you continue to criticize and label features as “bloatware”, you might want to educate yourself a bit. The obvious use case here would be for mobile users that do not have constant access to their Time Machine volume. Recovering data from a failed hard drive isn’t the only use case for time machine. Sometimes people accidentally delete something they didn’t want to. Maybe they’ve overwritten a document with bad data and want to go back to a version from 3 hours ago, etc… while on the road and not connected to their time machine volume. Really, think a little before spouting off or at least just ask you question nicely without ignorantly labeling something as bloatware simply because you don’t understand it.

    • Martin

      The way Time Machine is implemented makes it a bit more than a dumb backup service, it’s actually a versioning system: you make a mistake, no worries, go back to the previous version. The problem is, when you’re on the road, there is no previous version… So the point is to have a local versioning system of your documents. You still need an external backup to ensure the security of your data.

  5. Andrew

    The Lion developer release has new versions of Migration Assistant for both Mac and PC available as separate downloads. You might want to try those before giving up …… hint :)