6 Reasons to Download Lion Today

It’s been a long two years since the release of Snow Leopard, and with all the fanfare surrounding Apple’s mobile devices recently, many Mac users, myself included, are feeling a little left out. Lion’s much-anticipated release follows Apple’s promise to bring focus “back to the Mac” by integrating advancements from iPhone and iPad development into the Mac platform. In its attempt to bring the best of iOS to the next generation of OSX, Apple has some people worried that Lion will turn their Macs into giant iPads, or introduce iOS-like restrictions to the Mac. Now that this cat is finally out of its cage, let’s dive right in and see what Lion has to offer!

Unlike Snow Leopard, which featured mostly behind-the-scenes improvements and few obvious changes, Lion is a feature-packed major update that will noticeably change the way you use your Mac. Lion comes packed with over 250 new features, so let’s take a look at some of its biggest selling points (in no particular order).

1. Improved Interface & Interaction

Lion makes some significant changes to the way you interact with your computer, moving away from the standard point-and-click input and towards a multi-touch future. The most noticeable change is the way Lion handles scrolling: they’ve changed the appearance and behavior of scroll bars, and reversed the direction of the two-finger scroll.

Instead of having scroll bars taking up valuable screen real estate, scroll bars are now only triggered when you use a scrolling gesture on your track pad or mouse, and the scrolling content now moves in the direction your fingers travel, so it feels like you’re “pushing” or “pulling” content as you would on an iOS device.

To change the scrolling direction back, go to System Preferences / Trackpad and disable the checkbox at the top marked “When using gestures to scroll or navigate, move content in the direction of finger movement.”

Lion also features some welcome design updates: core elements such as buttons, sliders and progress bars have all been redesigned, and now fit better with the overall appearance of the windows and applications.

Redesigned interface elements show a marked departure from the "Aqua" theme

Redesigned interface elements show a marked departure from the "Aqua" theme

2. Expanded Multi-Touch Support

Lion introduces a slew of multi-touch interactions, from the familiar spread-to-zoom to new gestures like the five-finger pinch. Some of the gestures take a bit of getting used to, and you may have to customize them in System Preferences, especially if you’ve already been using gestures like three-finger scrolling in apps like Reeder or Sparrow. Of the default gestures, I found the most useful to be the three-finger swipe to move between spaces, and the five-finger spread to view the desktop.

That checkbox at the top will save your sanity

That checkbox at the top will save your sanity

A lot of the gestures in Lion are actually more advanced than those in iOS (though probably hint at things to come in iOS5) and offer some powerful new options for interacting with your Mac. I think there’s a very futuristic appeal to multi-touch, sort of a tactile-meets-virtual interface that reminds me of the computer interface in Spielberg’s Minority Report.

3. Versions and Autosave

Versions is really, really cool; I would pay for the upgrade even if this was the only new feature. Though not implemented in all applications (it’s up to app developers to update), Versions is like Time Machine for your documents. When using a supported application, like TextEdit, you’ll notice that as you make changes, instead of seeing a little black dot in the “close” button, a little arrow beside the word “edited” appears at the upper-right corner of the toolbar. When you click on the arrow, you have the option to revert to the last saved version, lock the current version, or browse all versions. When you select “Browse all Versions,” you’re taken to a Time Machine-like interface where you can see autosaved (or manually saved) versions of your document and restore from any state.

Versions is like Time Machine for documents

Versions is like Time Machine for documents

Rather than just autosaving at specific intervals, Lion saves whenever you pause what you’re doing, or every 5 minutes. This “pause-detection” means that the autosaved versions of your document change in logical steps, instead of just wherever you were at an arbitrary point in time. Versions only saves the changes on each document, instead of re-saving the whole thing each time, so it doesn’t hog up your disk space.

4. Mission Control

I’ve heard Mission Control aptly described as “Exposé on Steriods,” because although it performs the same function as exposé, it’s much more powerful (and simple). There are basically two exposé actions: slide three fingers up to view mission control, slide three fingers down for current application windows.

Mission Control: Turbocharged Exposé

Mission Control: Turbocharged Exposé

Mission Control is like Leopard’s “show all windows” Exposé feature, but now it intelligently groups windows from the same applications, displays and lets you switch between spaces, and generally makes the whole feature cleaner and faster to use. Swiping down displays all open windows in the current application, as well as a list of recent documents. I find both features to be time-saving, but would prefer more customization options with the multi-touch gestures (for some reason I always want Mission control to show up when I swipe down).

5. Airdrop

AirDrop allows you to easily and painlessly share files with nearby Macs without cables or wi-fi. AirDrop appears in your Finder’s sidebar, automatically detects other Macs with AirDrop within 30ft and lets you drag-and-drop files between computers. AirDrop uses data encryption and firewalls to keep your information safe, making it a great option for transferring files between a laptop and desktop, between coworkers, or sharing photos with a friend. I sometimes collaborate on projects with my roommate, I expect AirDrop to be a huge time saver!

Anybody out there?

Anybody out there?

6. Resume

When you need to shut down your computer, you generally have to go through the process of going through each open application to save documents and quit, and then re-opening all your applications and documents after restarting. Lion introduces a feature called Resume, which preserves the state your computer is in before shut down, and then restores your computer to the same state when you restart. I didn’t think I’d find this feature very helpful at first, now I realize how much productivity I used to lose every time I had to restart because of an update or browser crash. If you’d rather have a fresh start after shut down, you can uncheck the option on the shut down dialog.

Resume gives you the option of a fresh start

Resume gives you the option of a fresh start

And Much, Much More

In addition to the highlights I’ve discussed, here’s a quick run-down of some of Lion’s other notable features:

  • Mail 5 features conversation view, more powerful search, and a re-oriented interface.
  • Full Screen display for supported applications, with three-finger swipe to switch between them.
  • Redesigned Applications including iCal and Address Book.
  • Accessibility improvements keep Apple at the forefront of accessible technologies, including improved text-to-voice, VoiceOver Activities, Braille support, and zoom settings.
  • FileVault 2 encrypts your entire hard drive for increased security, using XTS-AES 128 encryption.
  • Finder updates include the very cool “all my files” sidebar shortcut to view recent files, sorted by type. Also boasts improved sorting features and multi-touch browsing.

Unlike the more seamless upgrade to Snow Leopard, you might find some of your apps aren’t yet compatible with Lion, so be sure to back up, and check that your essential apps are supported before updating.

Conclusion

I’m overall very impressed with Lion’s new features, and at only $29, there’s really no reason not to update if you’re using a supported Mac. Though you may not be a fan of features like the Launchpad or reverse-scrolling, rest assured that your Mac isn’t being relegated into an iPad.

So, will you be upgrading? Are you happy with the direcion OSX is headed? What are your predictions for the future of the operating system? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  • Joe

    So far so good, was hoping for tabs like Chrome for the Finder window.

  • http://adrusi.com Adrian Sinclair

    You mean totalfinder http://totalfinder.binaryage.com/

    • Joe

      Exactly like totalfinder but without purchasing totalfinder, haha…

      • http://sridharkatakam.com Sridhar Katakam

        We don’t need to purchase TotalFinder.

        After the trial period is over, it is fully functional with a unobtrusive logo at the right.

        Screenshot: http://www.screencast.com/t/7FYOSNjzH6

  • Bill

    I’ve already upgraded, and I’m loving it. Nothing I hate so far, and this version of Mail has even managed to BRING ME BACK (I have been using PostBox). That’s a good thing – because now I have the integrations I didn’t have with PostBox… including integration with DevonThink Pro.

    • Swastik

      +1. Perhaps the thing I love the most is the new mail. I too was using Postbox and have shifted back again! Things, and a whole lot of other
      apps integrate with Mail.

      • NakkiNyan

        I have to agree, the new mail and all of it’s new features are great. It even handles conversations better than Gmail.

  • Shawn Stringfield

    I was a bit disappointed in #3 only because I don’t need version control on my iWorks files or TextEdit. I was sort of thinking it would work for all the applications out of the box but thinking about it, it makes since for developers to have to re-code portions of their app to get this working… Still, it’s a glimpse at what’s possible.

  • Paulyboy

    Going to wait at least a few days before I take the plunge. I think I prefer seeing what the general experiences before doing it myself.

    I actually do have a bunch of PowerPC applications (much to my surprise when I checked using the System Profiler) but none of them are anything I really use anymore. I’ve heard Lion puts an “x” or something over their icons so I’ll use that to easily visually identity and delete them after upgrading. A quick way to clean up my years of pack-ratting lazyness!

    Other than that I’m not really concerned about encountering too many issues after upgrading. Nevertheless waiting a few days never hurts.

  • http://sophisticatedfinance.typepad.com Robert Hacker

    The Finder window above shows Dropbox. Can some one confirm that Dropbox will work immediately w/ Lion.

    • http://adamawilliams.com Adam Williams

      It’s working fine for me

    • Jossy

      yea dropbox works fine

      in regards to Lion, loving it. Not sure i’ll bother changing the scroll direction back to normal, think i’ll just let myself get used to it and see how i go.

      • Tessa Thornton

        I agree, I was going to change it back, but now that I’ve briefly restored to a backup of snow leopard, I realize I’m already accustomed to the new scrolling.

  • J.C.

    So far it has been interesting to learn about, but I’m not enticed. There’s too much up in the air as to support for applications outside of the Mac world. And for those of us living in the broader world, the gesture pad really isn’t that useful to use inside of applications, where when we’re doing serious work in detail, its just not as balanced between speed and accuracy as compared to one hand on the keys and another on a navigational device.

    Lion should appeal very well to the devoted Mac user, but not as much to those living in the bigger world of OS’s and multiple environments.

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  • Daniel

    Overall i do like Lion, however there are some things that drive me crazy.

    First, there is no option for having both the secondary mouse button be a right-click on the trackpad, _and_ using the two-fingered tap/click. You can only pick one, and this runs me into some problems in iTunes and browsing online, as i like to be able to right-click on the trackpad, and right click with two fingers like in SL.

    Second, Mission Control seems too chaotic for me. Expose was previously very rigid and structured in that all apps were equally spaced from each-other and could easily be viewed. In Mission Control, they are either close together or they are spaced out haphazardly as if someone threw a deck of playing cards across a table, and this is frustrating both on my eyes and hands.

    • Jack

      When your mouse over at a group of safari websites, for example, two fingers up, this will help you to see all pages of safari that you have opened.

    • Andres

      I totally agree with you. I found that Mission Control has ruined expose and spaces. Mission Control was good because I use to be able to use it with my magic mouse and quickly find that safari app or that other small app with ease. And now I feel like its just a huge mess put together to get people who never used expose “into it” and then ruin it for the ones who actually use it. As for spaces, I doubt I’ll be using that again…

      • NakkiNyan

        I think they had to make mission control because expose was broken by full screen apps. Even app expose won’t show full screen apps correctly.

  • Eleni

    I particularly hate how spaces are handled. You used to be able to have columns and rows and specify how they were going to be. Now it’s just all spaces in a single row…

    • Joel

      I totally agree.

      And also the ability to see all programs in the spaces is not there. When you open Mission control it only shows the program that is in the front of that space.

      Not cool

      • Billy

        You can actually switch between spaces when in Mission Control by swiping with 4 fingers and it will then show you all the open windows in that space….but I do miss being able to arrange the spaces.

  • Joel

    Also, I’m not seeing AirDrop in my Finder.
    Is anyone else having this issue?

    • http://www.applesource.biz Perry F.

      Open the Finder’s Preferences, click the Sidebar panel at the top and be sure AirDrop is checked.

    • NakkiNyan

      Do you have wireless on the mac? My 2006 MP does not and it does not show up in my options but my MBP does and it showed up by default. I really wish they went Bluetooth as an option…

  • Bernie

    With the cheap price and versions / autosave features I’m sure I’ll upgrade, but I can’t say that I’m super excited.

    - I am usually using my tablet or mouse unless I’m at a coffee shop or in a meeting, so I question if the trackpad updates will mean much to me

    - Since I’m a hardcore user and fan of Alfred, I’m not sure the finder and mission control improvements will make much of a difference

    - The designer in me loves the look and simplicity of the continually improving Sparrow app for my email

    - I only have one computer and like fresh restarts

    Perhaps after a hands on experience and seeing the design updates it will be a more exciting update than I currently think

  • rob

    hey how do you get that Trackpad screen? i cant find it

    • Tessa Thornton

      system preferences -> trackpad

      • Tessa Thornton

        actually, now that I’ve checked, it looks different in the final release.

      • Felix

        Tessa are u using the latest release?

        this is how it looks for me:

        http://cl.ly/160A3r0e2m0l0R143p2Q

      • rob

        yes mine looks like Felix’s, weird uh?

    • NakkiNyan

      They changed it so those options are separated into tabs.

      • hsmead

        Thanks, guys. I was driving myself nuts trying to find the original display. Wouldn’t mind having that as an option though.

  • John Oliver

    As a professional who need his machine to work perfectly the time – I’ll probably wait a few months for the initial bugs to get ironed out before upgrading.. but thanks for the highlights.

    Also, many of the new touch based features don’t apply to me as I mainly use a tablet and mouse. Interested to see what people think of the Mail app update though as I’m currently using Postbox.

    Presumably you cant upgrade to Mail 5 on Snow Leopard?

    • rob

      it looks a lot like Sparrow. one thing that still dont like (and i thought they might add) is add an image as an attachment, which stills embed into the mail.

      • NakkiNyan

        I wish it had this too.

  • http://ithinkdiff.net Mahmud Ahsan

    Yeah I updated to Lion and I’m very happy to see the new gesture features and performance.

  • Ashley Clarke

    I have been a bit sceptical about lion, I have been put off by the major ios integration. However I cannot resist something new from apple so lion is currently downloading (about an hour with my slow connection)
    I am looking forward to trying it out as most people seem to have good things to say about lion :D

    • Ashley Clarke

      Lion is now installed, I am finding it much faster/responsive :D
      Very Good OS (that I’ve noticed so far)

  • Steven Griffiths

    I updated yesterday and My mac is running at lightning speeds. Even the internet seems a lot faster. I have not had any issues with compatability. PS, AI, C4D running like a charm.
    FaceTime does not seem to work though, which I suppose will be sorted soon.

    In all I would say it’s a nice update and well worth the £20.99.

  • Johan

    TimeMachine & WesternDigital MyBook Live 2TB does not work anymore.

    Message: ” There was a problem connecting to the server “AFP@strumpet”.

    What I learned in the mean time that Apple in LION changed the identification.
    So I need to wait for a Lion update here.
    All NAS Users would survey the same problem ?

  • Jenn

    I have heard rumors that the EULLA of lion takes into consideration virtualizing. If so, I wounder if it would be okay to download the installer then create the virtual machine (weather in virtual box or vmware)….There are some games that I have that are universal and I still want to play :) …it would also be fund to bring over a virtualized version to my windows computer

  • Chris

    Does anyone know how well it works with VMWare Fusion 3? I really want to upgrade to Lion, but until I know whether or not my virtual machine will continue to work, I can’t.

    • Davan

      VMware Fusion 3.1.3 is working fine for me in Lion.

      • Chris

        Sweet thanks! I’ll probably make the switch this weekend then.

  • Steven Griffiths

    I’ve just noticed that the iMac Volume seems a lot louder since the update. No idea if it’s Lion or the iTunes update.

  • Orangepanda

    Lion does look pretty sweet!

    But i’m gonna wait till bugs are worked out for Maya and CS4. I’ve read reports that there are stability issues with these 2 running on Lion. Anyone else heard this?

  • Andres

    From what I have seen and used the GM. I don’t know when I will be updating to Lion, it just doesn’t seem to excite me to get it. Mission Control now puts together some of the main features I used in Snow Leopard. Expose and Spaces and I think it does a bad job at them. At least for someone who uses hot corners for those two and (seriously every like 2 seconds) I just think it takes me longer at doing something that barely took a second which is very annoying. I like simple yes, but I also like color… Lion looks so simple that kinda feels like its dead.. just me though, I’m sure I’ll update soon and love it after a couple days :)

  • Chris

    I updated yesterday, and have been playing around with Lion quite a bit. In my opinion, there are a few things that are kind of handy, but overall it hasn’t been that revolutionary. I’m really impressed with Airdrop, and some of the aesthetic changes (really like the new use of scrollbars!). I hope I get used to Mission Control, because so far I find it awkward. I had to search Google to find out how to get out of full-screen mode (though swiping sideways between full-screen programs is kinda nice), search around to figure out how to install flash, and miss my disk-space usage being listed at the bottom of the finder window. All in all…. I think $30 worth of gin would’ve made a much bigger difference in my life than upgrading to Lion.

    • John

      Do you need to have Lion / AirDrop on both of the machines that you’re moving files between?

  • Jung

    I haven’t upgraded and I won’t be any time soon. As someone who uses spaces heavily on a daily basis the new ‘improved’ OS is a huge step back.

    Also the full screen ability is massively over rated. Especially if you do a lot of work in web browsers on a 27inch iMac. The full screen mode is more or less useless.

    I would advise anyone that is an active user of spaces to avoid upgrading until apple realise what they’ve done with this OS. Making things idiot proof is fine for oaps but don’t forget about power users as well. I’ve yet to discover a keyboardshortcut that let’s me switch directly to a space. This alone means I will notbe upgrading my personal laptop altough I do still need it for work so I have to run it on a separate partition. I hope apple wake up and realise that they have removed a very powerful feature :(

    • Tessa Thornton

      Control+number will get you to a specific space!

  • Mark

    I just got Lion and I bought my first app from the Mac App Store. Check it out. http://www.subtorioussound.com/p/media.html

    • nathan g

      dude i checked out this demo. good find! thanks for sharing. i haven’t seen a music app like this before.

    • Sonic The Mac Hog

      This app is awesome, but that link does’t seem to be working anymore. This one does though. http://www.subtorioussound.com

  • http://http://www.fprinting.com Sticker Printing

    All these reasons are valid to download this software. We must use it and take the benefit. Thanks for sharing this info

  • Dante

    facetime is not working with Lion do you Guys know Why?

  • ore

    Do we know anything about TRIM support?? thanks…

    • Pimpology

      Yes we do. Macs that come with Apple supplied SSD have TRIM. I can see it enabled on my MBA 13″

  • coke

    I find Mission Control ugly. Not being able to see all windows (including minimized windows) is a huge feature disappointment! I hope they update it real soon, or else I’ll be rolling back to Snow Leopard 10.6.8.

  • prfbst

    I kinda miss the Spaces settings, can’t seem to find it? Also there are still a few performance bugs. And shifting from one space to another seems slugish because the desktop is blank before completing the shift and then shows windows like finder and icons..

  • noko

    I just have one reason not to download Lion today. Compatibility, I have many programs that still don’t support this new upgrade so until everything’s safe

  • yeah

    Tried a free version (if you know what I mean) two days ago. Maya, C4D, After Effects, Illustrator and Photoshop… Hell even are laggy as fuuu. Gonna wait a few months before buying this (if I buy it), I’m not like you guys who get a boner with a few new gestures and a renamed spaces and exposee. I actually use my computer for things other than facebook and youtube.

  • Darrell

    purchased a new Imac 3 weeks ago, my first MAC and I love it. Computer Tech, Been using Windows for over 20 years and I am very happy to be in the MAC community. I did the free upgrade to Lion, system properties crashes, lost all my photos. link to wallpapers no longer works, (grayed out) too many broken links, so I did a clean install and went back to Leopard. It will take another major update for me to go back to Lion.

    • Pimpology

      How much data did you have on a Mac that was only purchased 3 weeks ago? Your experience is rare. Lion has been more stable at launch than Snow Leopard was.

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