Two days with a Lion.

Lion has been out for two days now. I’ve kept a list of some of the things that I’ve found very useful, as well as a couple things I found ways to revert back to old behaviors.

Reverse scrolling

Apple calls this one “Natural Scroll Direction.” This takes some explanation. When the scroll wheel was created, it pushed the scroll bar up and down on the screen. When the iPhone was released, scrolling became pushing the actual content on the screen, which means that your fingers actually move backwards on those devices than on your trackpad or Magic Mouse.

Apple has decided to unify this, so that there isn’t confusion. OS X Lion’s scrolling is now reversed from the traditional way computers work. I’ve been running this way since I installed Lion, and am starting to get the muscle memory back. My suggestion is to leave it as Apple intends, unless you are frequently using a non-lion computer. In that case, there is an option in System Preferences->Trackpad->Scroll & Zoom that will reverse it.

Disappearing Scroll Bars

Apple has brought iOS-style scroll bars to Lion- meaning that they disappear when you aren’t scrolling. The problem with this is that scroll bars show information, even when they aren’t active- they show how much information is left. For instance, I was reading a webpage with my wife last night, and I had no way of knowing how much more information was left on the page unless she scrolled. I tried the default, for a day, and have since switched them to always display in System Preferences->General.

Show Desktop Gesture

In 10.6, Apple created the ability to gesture with the trackpad. In Lion (10.7), Apple has expanded these. I’m not going to go into details, except for one. 10.6 had a great gesture to get to the desktop of your computer- Four finger swipe up. Unfortunately, Apple has decided that this should be changed to go to Mission Control, Apple’s unification of several technologies in previous Mac iterations.

Instead, Apple has implemented a gesture that is as difficult to type as it is to do – “Three finger and a thumb unpinch.” It truly belongs in a “Kill Bill” movie. I am happy to say that I quickly found a way to reverse this, and put “Show Desktop” where it belongs. First, disable the three or four finger up swipe in System Preferences->Trackpad->More Gestures. Next, download Better Touch Tool from the Mac App Store or the developer’s website. The website says Snow Leopard only, but it works great in Lion. Use this to configure a four finger up swipe to show desktop, and you’re good. I also configured a four finger down swipe to activate Mission Control, so I’m not out core functionality. I haven’t found myself using Mission Control much, though.

Mail.app archive

Mail.app now has a much more refined interface, better search ability, and a nice new “Archive” mode. The new interface is good enough that I finally have been able to get to a zero inbox for the first time in years. The problem is- Apple didn’t include a key command that allows users to use the archive function quickly. Fortunately, we can use the Mac OS’s built-in ability to define keyboard shortcuts to remedy this. It’s found in System Preferences->Keyboard->Keyboard Shortcuts. Click on the “Application Shortcuts” line, then press the “+” button. Choose Mail from the application popup, enter “Archive” into the Menu Title field, click in the keyboard shortcut field and type a shortcut. I used Command Return.

Key repeats are gone, partially

I didn’t even realize this until a friend mentioned it to me. Apple has disabled repeating alphanumeric characters oh the keyboard. Special characters still will repeat.

Mail.app has note-taking ability

Mail.app has the ability to compose a “note,” which is essentially an email that you send to yourself. Since I am one of many people I know that use emails to self as reminders, this is an interesting and welcome change.

Fullscreen Mode

Apple has replaced the super confusing “Hide toolbar” widget in the top right of the title bar with a double arrow “Fullscreen Mode.” This is great, and allows any app that supports it to completely take over your screen. However, there are a couple of drawbacks to the current implementation. A minor one is that the user is briefly confused on how to get out of fullscreen mode until they realize that there is a menubar with a blue button to turn off fullscreen mode. The more major one is that the implementation does not deal with multiple screens well at all. My office configuration is my 15″ Macbook Pro, and my 23″ Apple Cinema Display. If I use fullscreen mode, it only uses the smaller screen, and eliminates all of the content on the second one entirely. I would love to see it work by treating each screen independently. This way, I could have one item fullscreen on one screen, and either not be fullscreen on the other, or have an entirely different fullscreen app on the second screen. This is especially important considering that Apple just released the new Thunderbolt Cinema Displays, which are able to provide more than one screen through a single port.

Security

Apple has greatly enhanced the security of OS X Lion. One security expert said it like this: If you are a Mac user and interested in securing your Mac, switch to Lion now. If you are a Windows user, and interested in securing your computer, switch to Lion now. Apple has put some really intelligent security measures into Lion. On top of that, Apple’s strategy of eliminating the economy of Mac malware means that Apple’s platform still does not have a long term successful virus or trojan horse.

With that, I am going to get back to digging through the details. I haven’t covered them all, and certainly haven’t covered some of the largest ones. But I’ve covered some that have enhanced my usability.

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