Apple is soon to launch OS X 10.7 Lion. The latest version of Apple’s operating system will be available from the Mac App Store as a digital download for Macs running the latest version of Lion’s predecessor, Snow Leopard.
This update to Apple’s operating system includes more than 250 enhancements. Overall, Lion offers many features at an affordable rate ($29.99), but not everything is perfect. This preview will focus on 17 of the major enhancements. Here’s what to expect.
Mission Control. It centralizes everything running on your Mac in one place (see our Mission Control slideshow). You get a bird’s-eye view of open windows, full-screen apps, spaces (virtual desktops), and, of course, Dashboard.
The thumbnails at the top of the screen represent Dashboard, desktop spaces, and your full-screen apps. Below that is the Exposé view of all the open windows on your desktop. Click to navigate, swipe to return to Mission Control. After awhile, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without this feature.
Multi-Touch gestures. OS X Lion fully integrates multi-touch gestures. You really notice this in Mission Control. It’s more embedded than in Snow Leopard and you can see that Apple made serious headway toward bringing the iOS feature fully to the Mac desktop.
Launchpad. A full-screen home for all the apps on your Mac, Launchpad automatically adds apps downloaded from the Mac App Store. Applications open with a single click and you can find apps using multi-touch gestures. Though to this reviewer, Launchpad feels out of place on the desktop.
Full-screen apps. OS X Lion includes built-in support for full-screen apps. That’s a blessing and a curse. It’s hard to get used to, older applications don’t automatically get it, and developers have to support it. However, with applications that do support full-screen, it’s a blast.
AirDrop. A fast, easy way to share files with people who are nearby, AirDrop lets you send files to compatible Macs wirelessly over Wi-Fi. You don’t even need a Wi-Fi network–no infrastructure required. To use it, click the AirDrop icon in a Finder window sidebar, and it will find anyone within 30 feet of you and you then you can exchange files with them. Just drag and drop files onto your friend’s picture and away it goes–right into their downloads folder.
Auto Save. It enables your Mac to automatically save what you are working on so you can stop obsessing about saving your stuff. Provided, of course, that your application supports Auto Save. The recovery side of Auto Save is called Versions. This feature stores your document history along with the most recent version of your document in an easily browsed timeline. You can view past versions, restore a previous one, or copy and paste from older versions to new ones using the Time Machine-like interface.
Lion Server. About $50 bucks will buy you an add-on to the client version of OS X 10.7 Lion that turns it into the server edition. The new OS X Lion Server comes with a plethora of enhancements, including a setup assistant, that make it easier to control your Mac server and the folks who have access to it. It also adds file-sharing capabilities for iPad, includes improvements to Wiki Server, iCal Server, and Mail Server, and comes with Xsan built in.
Mail. OS X Lion includes a revamped version of Mail. It includes the ability to go full-screen, letting you put your entire display to work, displays full-height messages, and a message list that includes snippets. There’s also email threads–Apple calls them Conversations–that include a timeline showing each communication and even hide redundant text. Mail also offers new search tools, which help you find the messages you’re looking for quickly, and a new favorites bar for quick access to folders that you use most.
Resume. You can restart your Mac and go back to what you were doing with all your apps in the exact places you left them, using the Resume feature.
Photo Booth. In OS X Lion, Photo Booth will run in full-screen view, if you like–switch to full-screen and Photo Booth looks like … a photo booth. There’s also a host of special effects with names like Lovestruck, Dizzy, Frog, Blockhead, and Nose Twirl.
Auto-Setup for Google, Yahoo, or AOL. Safari in OS X 10.7 Lion supports auto-setup for three leading web mail services. Login in to Google, Yahoo, or AOL in Safari and you’ll have the option to use them with Mail, iCal, Address Book, iChat, or other applications on your Mac.
Safari Reading List. You can save web pages to read later using the Safari Reading List; pages are stored in a reading list pane.
iCal. OS X 10.7 Lion ships with a version of iCal that is streamlined with a look and feel that’s a definite improvement over previous versions. You get more room to browse and edit your scheduled events and see them in various views–the daily view is seen here–and iCal also works in full-screen mode.
Time Machine. It keeps a spare copy of the files you create, modify, or delete on your Mac, which is handy if you accidentally delete a file–you just recover it from the local copy. Time Machine also supports encrypted backups when backing up to an external USB or Firewire drive encrypted with FileVault 2.
Mac OS Utilities. OS X Lion includes utilities that allow you to repair or reinstall OS X without needing a disk. You can also restore your Mac from a Time Machine backup or access the web to check your email or to browse the Apple Support site.
Mac App Store. The Mac App Store isn’t new, but it’s where you’ll get Lion when it’s officially released. In fact, there’s allegedly no other way to get it so if you haven’t checked it out, this is the time. (Though I’m writing stories for BYTE about how to create a bootable USB and DVD.)
Get up to date. If you bought a Mac system after June 6, you can get the OS X Lion update free through this Apple program. Sign up on Apple’s website.
I’m pretty psyched about Lion. It’s a great, affordable operating system update packed with features. Of the more than 250 new features, these are the 17 I thought would make you roar the loudest. I’m looking forward to giving it a test spin for BYTE in coming days. Thanks for touring Lion with me and see you soon.