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I would like to call for a place to list some little things that surprise you about Lion. There are so many articles and lists of all the new features with information overload, I would rather focus this spot of the site on tiny delights with a note why it makes a difference to you.

Please one topic per answer, this isn't a race to enumerate everything that changed. This isn't the place for massive topics like the implications of FileVault 2 on your entire workflow - just a stroll past some little gems, fun oddities or subtle changes specific to Lion.

Answers must relate to why or how you use the feature - links to official tips and tutorials are great, but the intent is to collect little gems that affect how the system gets used. Expect answers that are not specific to lion or lack a personal use case to be heavily edited or deleted.

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9  
I can't wait until someone wrote "Natural scrolling" as one of the answers... –  Enrico Susatyo Jul 22 '11 at 13:03
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@the_great_monkey I will admit to being totally comfortable with "natural scrolling", and I've only been using Lion since Friday. –  CajunLuke Jul 25 '11 at 19:03
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@CajunLuke me too, only took me 15 minutes to get used to. –  Enrico Susatyo Jul 26 '11 at 0:06
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Natural Scrolling only makes real sense if you use a trackpad, if you try that with a scroll wheel, it drives you nuts :) –  Martín Marconcini Jul 29 '11 at 11:38
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I'm especially happy about the price of Lion ($29.99 upgrade from SnowLeopard), but this isn't worth putting as an answer. –  bneely Feb 8 '12 at 5:42

107 Answers 107

The loupe magnifier in Preview (is smart and context-aware)

Preview now has a magnifier. Select Tools → Show Magnifier to activate it. Its exact hotkey will depend on the localization being used; if using US-English, the hotkey is `

Open up an image and the magnifier will be a circle, open up a PDF and the magnifier will be a rectangle.

Definitely something that caught me by surprise.

What is even more elegant than prior loupes, is the smart loupe will detect content and re-size itself to show you entire objects of interest rather than be bound to a static size.

Also, you can pinch to increase/decrease the size of the loupe.

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Backtick key isn't underneath Esc on all keyboards, btw. On my UK keyboard it's above Ctrl. –  scottishwildcat Oct 7 '11 at 16:43

You can trash things whilst trash is emptying

No more refusals!

If you move things to trash whilst trash is emptying, the moves simply form a queue.

After trash empties: the system attends to your queue — those things appear in trash.

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FileVault 2 encrypts all your data on the drive

(not just the home directory of users opting for FileVault)

enter image description here

Storing the keys in the Recovery HD and requiring an admin to unlock the volume before network and non-white-listed users makes this much more useful to both home users as well as lab settings where many people access one mac.

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File Vault 2 does NOT encrypt the whole disk, but only a whole partition which is a serious difference. If you have more than a single partition you can have some partitions unencrypted and others encrypted. The fact, that there are multiple partitions cannot be hidden (as it would be with full disk encryption. If you don't know about this, you'll inadvertedly end up with unencrypted partitions. You also cannot add encryption to a partition with DiskUtility, this is only possible with /usr/sbin/diskutil. –  MacLemon Aug 1 '11 at 12:30
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I would not recommend FileVault 2 for a lab, where it might be necessary to remotely restart a computer. See FileVault 2 prevents remote restart and other answers under Apart from being able to encypt an entire volume, what are the other differences of Filevault 2 over Filevault? –  Graham Perrin Aug 8 '11 at 5:54

Mission Control: move all app windows by mouse

In Mission Control, to move all of an app's windows to another space has changed. You now do this by grabbing the app icon/badge on top of the stack. (Before it was ⌘ Command-drag or Shift-drag)

enter image description here

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Sadly, this only seems to work for dragging to another Space on the same screen. If you drag the app's icon to a Space on a different screen, it highlights during the drag to suggest that it will move the windows there, but doesn't actually move them. –  Ken May 30 '12 at 17:17

Improved app switcher - pause at the end of the loop

It's interesting to see how now the TAB doesn't loop like crazy if you leave those keys pressed; instead it stops at the rightmost item and only if you press it again it will loop (once) until it reached the rightmost item again.

This avoid crazy looping when you get past the last item if you had a lot of apps open.

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That is so cool! I can't believe they put that in - wow! –  bmike Aug 2 '11 at 20:58
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You can always still use CMD SHIFT TAB to reverse the direction if you pass up what you were looking for. –  styfle Dec 12 '11 at 6:31

Easy access to unicode characters and glyphs (Emoji)

System-wide pictograms, or, as you might call them, “Emoji” are built into the standard edit menu.

Choose Edit ▸ Special Characters…, then select Emoji in the sidebar of the character palette. Double click (or drag) an Emoji to insert it into the active text field. Nice! 🌵 🐳 🐔


Finder => Edit => Special Characters...

Finder, Edit Menu, Special Characters Item

Some of the newly available Emoji characters

Emoji characters in the Character Viewer

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1  
The addition of "South Asian Scripts"->Kannada is a big advantage for those of us that need the look of disapproval often ಠ_ಠ –  Matt Gallagher Jul 31 '11 at 8:26

Finder remove (cut) happens after move is complete

I love that you can move items in the finder by using -C to copy and --V to move. Kind of like cut and paste (which doesn't work), but it doesn't cut the original until the new one is pasted.

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This isn't new at all... –  Tim Büthe Aug 3 '11 at 7:53
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I don't know, but Tiger and Snow Leopard did that too. BTW: Windows does that as well I I guess Linux distros / Desktop environments as well. –  Tim Büthe Sep 2 '11 at 9:55
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@Tim Büthe - Leopard and Snow Leopard and prior versions of OS X never did this, of course Linux and Windows did it using CUA shortcuts (C-x, C-c, C-v) That's not of use/interest when you're not actually talking about one of those platform. Please cut down the noise, we want signal here. The shortcut on Lion is new, and it's designed in such a way that it addresses Apple's "semantic issue" with "Cut", and instead is copy / move, and not cut / paste. –  Slomojo Sep 5 '11 at 1:47
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The cut/paste method we had previously on Finder was drag/drop (for same Volume move) or drag/Cmd-drop (for moves to external or network volumes) - There was no keyboard equivalent. –  Slomojo Sep 5 '11 at 1:54

No scrollbars!

I wasn't aware how ugly scrollbars are. I love the iOS-ish approach.

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I hate it. Scroll bars give a lot of useful context at a glance... so I'm very pleased there's an option to leave them turned on. –  scottishwildcat Oct 7 '11 at 16:47
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@scottishwildcat just touch whatever device you use to scroll and they briefly appear –  Steve Moser Mar 22 '12 at 2:18

Quick Look previews URL contents directly from Mail/iChat

iChat and Mail have a way to preview webpage links. A small button (black square with a white down-arrow) appears when you hover the mouse over the link in these apps.

A small button appears next to webpage links in iChat when mouse hovers over them

Clicking this button opens a Quick Look window in-place with a preview of the linked page.

Quick Look preview of the image opens when button is clicked

This powerful feature is very iOS-like. It is particularly useful when you are using Mail in full-screen mode, or your browser is off in another space.

Clicking the link itself still opens the page in your default browser as always. The presentation of a link flows from minimal, to expanded to full access in a browser very naturally.

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1  
I like this feature, but I find the little button you have to click a bit finicky. Would rather it just showed the preview it when mousing over the link, but I guess there were performance issues doing it that way. –  scottishwildcat Oct 7 '11 at 16:46

Multitouch in Safari

This is hard to describe but Apple made Safari feel like mobile Safari and it's great. When you scroll past the length of a page it bounces like mobile Safari. You can double tap with two fingers to zoom in on a column and ignore the ads or you can use Safari reader to do the same. Also there is a nice animation when you swipe left and right to navigate forward and back. The the end of this video shows the animation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kSoYCp3mrY

Also there are a lot of multitouch gems in this Apple support article like when in Mission Control swipe down with two fingers to expand a group of windows belonging to one app.

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4721

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Local Time Machine snapshots

When not connected to your primary backup drive, time machine can make use of the local hard drive for backing up changes. Yes, I know it doesn't produce any real reliable backup since it's on the startup disk, but it gets merged into the main backup when you connect and preserves the backup history. It's a nice improvement to TM.

This feature will police itself and start to clean up local backups when the free space on your local drive reaches 80% full / 20% free space. As the drive fills, the duration of local backups gets shorter and shorter. This really is working well in practice and I have yet to see any slowdowns with this enabled.

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FYi for others, you can tell if local backups are enabled in the Time Machine prefs. If enabled it will say something like "local snapshots as time permits". More info in the unofficial FAQ. –  studgeek Jan 16 '13 at 13:42

Finder menu for video encoding / conversion

The ability to encode video and create different resolutions and sizes natively within 10.7

CTRL Click on a video file and select "encode selected video"

Right click selected video

Select video

enter image description here

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1  
Nice, I didn't know about this one! There goes Handbrake... –  Stephen Orr Sep 2 '11 at 11:30

Hide or filter System Preferences

The customize menu item is new and let's you visually slim down the main icon view. enter image description here

If you only use a few of the preferences, you can hide most of them from view and have quick access to them all by clicking and holding on the Show All button until the alphabetical full list is drawn.

enter image description here

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Please, how do you present the checkboxes? –  Graham Perrin Aug 8 '11 at 6:05
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@Graham Perrin - System Preferences > View > Customize... –  Slomojo Sep 5 '11 at 1:59

QuickTime saves audio recordings as M4A.

QuickTime audio recordings are now saved as M4As, instead of MOVs. This makes is so much easier to use the sound in movies and GarageBand rather than having to use a tool to extract the audio track before using it.

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Yearless Birthdays

Want to keep track of your friends/family birthdays? Addressbook now lets you add just the month and the day so you don't have to guess how old they are or add a generic year like 2000. These birthdays will then display nicely in iCal to remind you. Makes life nicer for me! :)

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PILE OF POO

PILE OF POO in Character Viewer in Lion

Credit to bmike for the hint and thanks to calavera for applying humour to controversy — the tag caught my eye (no pun intended) at Can one ask Hackintosh questions on Apple (beta)?

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Select Multiple Ranges

  1. open finder to a location with some files
  2. click file in finder
  3. hold shift
  4. click another file (selects range)
  5. hold cmd+shift
  6. click another file out of selected range
  7. hold shift
  8. click another file out of selected range

Now you've selected 2 ranges.

You can keep selecting individual files and ranges this way all you want. This was working well in windows but never worked on Mac before Lion.

EDIT: This is not new to Lion, actually. I didn't know this either until I started to share this with friends, but they've insisted, and I've just confirmed, that this behavior was also possible in Snow Leopard.

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This is seriously awesome. Thank you! –  Gauzy Jul 31 '11 at 23:33

Terminal is more keyboard accessible

Those are Apple's standard keyboard shortcuts for moving the cursor from word to word.

And so on …

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New services for opening a New Terminal Window/Tab at Folder

It's disabled by default, but you can enable it in System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Keyboard Shortcuts -> Services

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Multiple SMB share operations are queued rather than parallel

I often copy files around from my media machine in the living room to my laptop. Previously, if you selected a bunch of files, then a few more, then a few more -- the different batches would be done in parallel, slowing each of them down. Now, in Lion, they're queued such that one batch starts when the previous one is completed.

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More desciptive security dialogs

In past versions of OS X, the "SomeApp wants to make changes" dialog was king.

In Lion, these dialogs are more descriptive. For example, I've seen:

  • "SomeApp wants to install software"
  • "SomeApp wants to modify system files" (or something to that effect)

(Seen another cool one? Add it to this post!)

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easy assignment of an app to a Desktop using the Dock

The option to make a program belong to all spaces is very handy. I only am surprised once when I am taken to a new space as it's easy to change the behavior when you have the program running.

enter image description here

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It's nice to have a way to easily bind an Application to a space that way. It's terrible that Apple took away the whole list view so now I have to check each and every Application manually by itself, instead of being able to look up all bound Applications. –  MacLemon Aug 1 '11 at 12:35

Mouse movement no longer wakes a display

Moving your mouse around can no longer wake the display. It requires a click/tap with your mouse or keyboard key press.

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Is the logic behind it... because it's more subtle to touch than to click/press? If so than it's a damn great design decision. –  Enrico Susatyo Aug 1 '11 at 14:08
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I always use the shift key... it won't actually enter a command or accept a dialog or change the caret, but will wake the screen. –  r00fus Aug 5 '11 at 23:30

Full screen Photo Booth.

I'm serious. I have twin four year olds and they love Photo Booth but the old Snow Leopard version only filled a small amount of the screen. The new is far more engaging and fun.

It works MUCH better in full screen view.

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Window/dialog open animations

These animations are elegant and work well when other transitions are in play.

Also a tip, holding ⌥ Option while clicking on a space in mission control switches the mission control view to that space rather than switching to that space normally. This allows for multiple window management operations in one use of mission control

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4  
you can also swipe with 3 or 4 fingers to switch space in Mission Control –  Jonathan. Jul 25 '11 at 6:51
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ohh +1 for that trick with “option” –  Agos Jul 28 '11 at 17:42
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I didn't like this, use defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool NO to disable. –  joerick Jul 31 '11 at 16:58
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Anyone know a defaults command to get rid of the spaces-switching animation? It's really annoying to have the desktop icons fade out and in again each time I switch. Also it takes more than a second each time which is way too long for me. –  MacLemon Aug 1 '11 at 12:37

Smart Zoom on a two-finger double tap

Once you enable (or verify) the system-wide preference, two-finger double tap to zoom in Safari. It lets you zoom into the content of a web page, just like in Mobile Safari. Coupled with full screen mode, it is really easy to resize the page content to fill the screen.

Double tap with two fingers to zoom into content

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Mission Control enables new workflows

(whilst frustrating some existing workflows)

My wife was very positively pleased with how Mission Control improves her workflow. MC window grouping, MRU in App Exposé and Spaces management are exactly what she wants.

I have been very negatively surprised at how much Mission Control is a regression for my workflow. It feels like I'm back to the awkward Tiger/Leopard days. I was really flying at window management with Snow Leopard Exposé and App Exposé, minimized windows in app icons and fixed spaces. I find Mission Control lacking in many areas (see my questions for details).

Mission Control fails to scale if you have many windows per application as windows get align-stacked with more than three windows per application. Spreading an application windows with the zoom-in gesture ought to help but does not as they don't spread apart enough nor show minimized windows. Besides one can't work around those limitations by going to the full-spread out App Exposé from Mission Control or preventively handle windows by minimizing them and having them show in Mission Control.

The primary downside is for workflows that expect to go to a space by number or place in the ordering. This is a big interruption for people that don't want Mission Control reordering spaces.

Luckily this reordering can be disabled and you can assign shortcuts to go to existing spaces too.

enter image description here

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TextEdit got a serious facelift

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

DJ your mac using Album Artwork screensaver

Quicklook works from the iTunes "Album Artwork" screensaver!

This lets you play music by clicking on the albums. You can even do this without unlocking the screen.

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Incremental backup with FileVault and TimeMachine

FileVault no longer cripples Time Machine.

Your data gets backed up whether you are logged in or not and the speed of the backups is much improved over Snow Leopard.

You incremental backups of the encrypted bundle took much longer than incremental backups of actual files. Coupled with the delay in backing up changes until a reboot or log out, this delayed the writes and let the backup drive's speed be a bottleneck.

With the new FileVault, they just work nicely together - incremental, background, unnoticed and up-to-date.

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