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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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I can't wait until someone wrote "Natural scrolling" as one of the answers... –  Enrico Susatyo Jul 22 '11 at 13:03
@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
@CajunLuke me too, only took me 15 minutes to get used to. –  Enrico Susatyo Jul 26 '11 at 0:06
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
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

up vote 46 down vote

Finder merging of folders and files

I must say that the most smile-worthy thing I have come across is the merge folders / keep both feature. I still cringe a little when I even think about dragging a folder named pictures onto another folder named pictures, but once I learn to trust it, I will be more willing to clean up YEARS of old documents scattered in creaky nested folders named "old" "cleanup" "2002" "Documents from old Mac" and such.

It is a little thing, but boy is it fun to feel like I have an intelligent tool to automate what I want to have happen - and not just having one folder overwrite the other as past versions of OS X felt was the best choice.

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That might be the last feature I'll try in Lion. It's certainly well done and works like a charm, but 20 years of muscle memory will still prevent me for a long time from doing what I've always assumed to be a huge, unrecoverable mistake. Guess old habits die hard. –  Cyrille Jul 21 '11 at 13:12
@Cyrille - oh, it's recoverable alright. You are backing up with Time Machine, are you not? :-D </troll> –  Harv Jul 24 '11 at 1:42

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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Accessing accented characters has been made a lot easier.

Just hold down the letter and a list of alternatives will show. Awesome.

Example of OS X Lion accented characters popup menu

By pressing the number and continuing to type, the desired letter replaces the e and alows you to keep your fingers on the keyboard. Double Awesome.

This behavior can be turned off. Turning off this new feature allows the traditional key repeat function to work for all keys as shown in the keyboard system preference window. keyboard

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wha? I get the letter reppeeeeeeeeeeeating –  Joel Spolsky Jul 20 '11 at 20:49
Looks like it depends on the app. It's working in Word but not in Chrome... –  Joel Spolsky Jul 20 '11 at 20:50
Its WORKS for comments in Safari. Like these: áôćÿ :) –  jm666 Jul 22 '11 at 10:08
Actually this was the first thing I HAD to disable :) Never used accented chars and it keeeeeeeeeepsssss me from the repeating stuff :( –  bisko Jul 22 '11 at 10:58

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.


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.


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Safari offers to set up Mail, Calendars and Chat

When logging into a Gmail account in Safari for the first time (and if that account hasn't been added to "Mail, Contacts & Calendars" in System Preferences yet), Lion will offer to add that account. Great attention to detail that made me smile.

enter image description here

MobileMe, gmail, yahoo all worked for me so far.

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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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Safari opens new tabs relative to the current tab

Opening new tab in safari does not go to the rightmost tab, but immediately adjacent to the current tab. Multiple tabs spawning from one page stack up with the next one after the prior - but all as a group before other existing tabs.

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So its like Firefox now. –  GEdgar Jul 22 '11 at 15:25
@GEdgar - Chrome. Chrome did this tab behavior first. –  Fake Name Jul 22 '11 at 21:40
Most. Awesome. Thing. –  XQYZ Jul 24 '11 at 0:27
well it's about time. –  Randy6T9 Jul 25 '11 at 6:53

The redesigned lock screen

The lock screen is a small, relatively unimportant thing that made me smile. (Quite literally, when I was asked for a photo at the end of set up.) I like the fact that there's that little window that appears over the Andromeda Galaxy wallpaper. It simply feels more polished than the old black screen.

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Autocorrect services from the system

I am happy to see that one of the most helpful-yet-annoying features of iOS has made it into Lion - Autocorrect. Seeing the little pop-up with the suggestion and then seeing my spelling error automatically corrected made me smile. (I'll have to play with it a bit more to figure out exactly how to see other suggestions and cancel an incorrect one, but this is a great feature in the right context.)

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You mean the "way to do it", not the "day to do it", yes? ;-) –  Moshe Jul 22 '11 at 14:13
How do you enable this? I love apples autocorrect, it completely removed the need for English teachers moaning about spelling. –  Jonathan. Jul 24 '11 at 1:46

Multi-touch swiping of page history in Safari.

The animation for swiping back and forth through pages in Safari makes me smile every time. It's also a great example of transforming a slightly clunky (IMO) interaction into a useful and delightful one with a slight interface lift.

enter image description here

The animation is smooth and fluid.

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One major "gotcha" is swiping will easily trash whatever comments you have entered into most web pages. Normally, the system warns you before navigating away from a text entry, but this swipe just undoes whatever you have done on most occasions causing you to lose work :-( –  bmike Jul 27 '11 at 18:34
And an off-guard item: other things in Lion which have back/forward buttons such as the System Preferences or the iTunes store do not work with the two finger back/forward gesture. –  TessellatingHeckler Jul 31 '11 at 21:13

All window edges allow resizing

How about ability to resize windows from all edges of the window?

The reduced clutter of not having a resize nub is nice, but the power comes with these options (which can be combined):

  • shift - maintains aspect ratio while sizing
  • option - maintains the center point while sizing
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And you can hold shift while resizing to maintain the aspect ratio, and alt/option to anchor the window at its center, and both for a combination –  Jonathan. Jul 24 '11 at 1:41
@Jonathan That makes it stand out; Windows had edge resizing for some time now. Windows 8 will probably have aspect ratio resize! –  Thaddee Tyl Aug 1 '11 at 9:40

The Zoom ⊕ button will attempt to maximize

The Zoom button on the windows behaves more like Maximize on Windows OS rather than the old behavior where it usually made the window smaller (or the alternate saved/previous size). Be sure to experiment with the shift key when using the Lion controls.

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I think you'll change your mind once you plug in a second monitor :( –  Nick Bedford Jul 27 '11 at 22:46

Login sheet for WiFi network TOS negotiation

Lion will open a little window immediately upon connection to a WiFi network that requires a webpage to 'agree' to any terms of service (TOS)

This really helps if you have apps that use http in the background like twitter since those programs might "receive" the agreement form and disregard it before we as the users know to open our browser and see the terms. Most routers will give up after sending the first terms causing a broken network connection for many users.

Also, as a bonus, WiFi is now called WiFi instead of AirPort.

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+1 for WiFi. It's the little things. –  boehj Jul 24 '11 at 12:31
Pedantically, mine's called Wi-Fi, which I find really annoying for some reason. –  Magnakai Jul 24 '11 at 21:28
Sadly, the login sheet seems to fail if the Wi-Fi network redirects to a non-validating SSL page. Such "broken" logon pages are unfortunately typical in the enterprise world. –  Andrew Aug 9 '11 at 7:56

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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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

OS support for full screen apps!

I only have a 13" laptop, and when building iPad apps I never see the whole UI of the iPad in XCode - which is a slight nuisance. Now with XCode supporting fullscreen, that issue is less painful.

Also, Pages & Safari just look beautiful in full screen.

With Pages, if you have a second monitor, it will use that for palettes e.g inspectors, fonts and colours. Not all apps appear to support this yet, but it makes full screen much more sensible on multiple monitors. .

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"Fullscreen" is an absolute nightmare for multi-monitor users. It completely disables any secondary or tertiary monitors. Fullscreening an app currently sends the app to the primary monitor with no option of changing it. One of the biggest workflow fails in Apple history in my humble opinion. –  Nick Bedford Jul 27 '11 at 22:42
Sad to hear that - I love working multi-mon, just haven't yet had a chance with my laptop. Hopefully a future version will address this... –  Martin S. Stoller Jul 28 '11 at 1:40
Yeah this is actually one of those facepalm moments. I don't actually know how they could have wanted this... –  Nick Bedford Jul 28 '11 at 3:43
At least it's possible to see the dock if you drag your mouse over the lower side of the screen and then drag again (weird gesture). If you do that, the dock appears. –  Martín Marconcini Aug 1 '11 at 17:34
Doing anything when you make a window full-screen other than obliterating all secondary monitors is a non-trivial UI problem. For novice users — for whom full screen mode is surely mostly intended — it could quickly get very confusing. Apple doesn't implement features until it fully believes they are ready for prime-time; someday they will figure out (what they think is) the best way to do something useful in this situation. –  75th Trombone Aug 8 '11 at 20:03

Battery, Time and WiFi shown on Login Screen

The clock, battery charge level/status, and wifi status indicators that are now displayed on the Login Screen; three very useful pieces of information even when you're not yet logged in.

enter image description here

Here's a snippet of the top right portion of an iMac showing WiFi and time (default settings).

If you enable a hidden preference, clicking the time will show in order:

  • The mac's sharing name
  • The version (10.7) and build (11A511) of OS X that is installed
  • The IP address of the mac

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow AdminHostInfo true

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It does have a small bug (I raised a radar on it) that shows the time in 12-hour format even when the computers regional settings indicated 24-hour clock. –  Damien Aug 7 '11 at 11:17

System Information is more visual and speedy

System Information in Lion (which used to be System Profiler in Snow Leopard) has gotten a facelift and a tune up. The information is presented in a much more usable and graphical format. Memory pane in Mac OS X 10.7's System Information

In addition to the facelift, the launch time of the app is optimized to be immediately responsive, delaying any lengthy discovery hardware and software until you ask for that level of detail.

This makes it much more useful to hop in and copy your serial number without waiting for the app to finish launching an inventory of all software on the mac.

Storage pane in Mac OS X 10.7's System Information

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Stateful Terminal app

When you quit Terminal.app and re-open it it not only re-opens previously opened tabs (without restarting the commands that were running in it, of course), but it shows you the last 500 rows that were output in the closed terminal window.

This has two major advantages to me:

  1. I have the same history in the same tab as I had it
  2. Seeing the old output helps me bring the tab back to the state it was in.
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Apps like Preview can quit themselves when not needed

Previously, when you opened something in Preview and you were finished with it, it was left running (in the background).

Now, when you close whatever you're previewing and switch focus to another app, Preview quits. This behavior of saving the work and/or closing the app when the last document is closed is a standard feature in Lion for many apps to use.

I'm a bit anal about keeping not required apps running, so was glad that has been introduced in Lion.

The system will quit apps too if resources are low

This is covered in detail at Lion is a Quitter from TidBITS, but the system will step in and automatically terminate apps which adds to confusion for people that pay attention or are habituated to the old way where users had to intentionally quit apps for them to disappear from the dock and app switcher tab.

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It's not only preview.app, see here: arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2011/07/mac-os-x-10-7.ars/… –  Agos Jul 24 '11 at 9:55
As Agos is referring to, it only does so when you are low on needed resources and when it is clear you are not using it. For example, with more capable computers, this will not happen so much. –  Randy6T9 Jul 25 '11 at 7:07
@HandyRandy well, in my case Preview closes no matter how many resources I have available. With 2GB of RAM completely free an unused it still quits the moment I focus on other application. –  Michal M Jul 25 '11 at 7:14
Doesn't close 8GB (MBP 2011). –  Cedric H. Aug 7 '11 at 9:43

It doesn't qualify as a tiny thing, per se, but since it came up in the comments...

Natural Scrolling

It took a couple of days to get used to it but now it really does feel natural: moving your fingers across the trackpad the same way you would move your hand if the content was on your desk (or iPad) fits and actually makes sense.

I know it's not popular with everyone but the only reason the traditional scrolling direction feels normal is because we're used to it; the scroll wheel on a mouse and the old trackpad response was about moving the scroll thumb in a given direction, not the content.

Even before Lion when I'd been using my iPad for an hour or two and then sat down with the trackpad on my Mac I'd end up using the trackpad wrong for a moment. Why couldn't I push the web page up if I wanted it to move up?

Me, I'm a fan.

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Despite feeling like riding a bike backwards (something you can force yourself to do, but lack trust or good feelings about the change), I can see a month down the road absolutely abhoring "the old way". Moving something is simpler than moving a control that moves data underneath my fixed viewport. Challenging to adapt to this reversal, but I predict most will switch to "riding our bikes backwards" soon. –  bmike Jul 24 '11 at 19:34
It's a nice feature but I had to turn it off because it really messed me up when I tried to scroll on a Windows or Linux box. –  Ferruccio Jul 25 '11 at 12:59
I love it. Got used to it in about an hour. As for who to blame for the traditiona scrolling with mouse scrollwheel: most likely Microsoft. IIRC they came with first scroll wheels (brilliant idea), but, alas, did not think hard enough and mapped the wrong directions :) –  Rimantas Jul 31 '11 at 19:20
I donno, it was/is really annoying for me. On the iPad, stuff moves with your finger and you're physically touching it, so it this style makes sense. On the Mac, the monitor is actually perpendicular to your trackpad and the whole thing is disorienting and doesn't feel intuitive at all. –  Tejaswi Yerukalapudi Aug 1 '11 at 2:26

Safari and background tabs

Safari appears to aggressively manage its memory footprint by unloading unused pages then reloading them as needed, much like Safari in iOS.

You can see this in action if you open up a large number of tabs and then leave some of them alone and unviewed for a while. When you return to a tab that hasn't been viewed in a long time, Safari will quickly reload it.

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Do you know if this can be turned off (maybe on a session to session basis)? Sometimes one may not want to have pages to reload silently. –  Debilski Jul 25 '11 at 22:00
It seems to only be doing it for pages that have their cache preferences set correctly. So it won't do it if there is a web form that is half filled out, or if a page is set to non-caching. –  X-Istence Jul 31 '11 at 21:34

Finder - make a new folder with a selection of files

Given the number of times I'd have to do the Cmd-Shift-N/highlight/drag dance, this is by far my favorite:

New Folder With Selection

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There already is one! Highlight the items, and go to the Finder's File menu, and you'll see that it is Ctrl-Cmd-N. –  Gauzy Aug 6 '11 at 4:22
That command being disabled when only a single file is selected could be the most annoying thing about Lion though. –  ؘؘؘؘ Dec 12 '11 at 11:41

Drag flocking with multiple selections

Drag flocking:

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

The nice animations of collapsing all objects to a neat pile while dragging and then smartly re-exposing the individual components as you hover over a potential destination helps you understand better what will happen if you end the drag with a drop at that point.

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I like this so much that I want it to happen sooner with less delay. If anyone knows how to shorten the delay for this transition, let me know! –  Randy6T9 Jul 25 '11 at 7:04
I don't think I like the sensation of the thing I'm picking up wriggling under my fingers! –  joerick Jul 31 '11 at 16:54

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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you can also swipe with 3 or 4 fingers to switch space in Mission Control –  Jonathan. Jul 25 '11 at 6:51
ohh +1 for that trick with “option” –  Agos Jul 28 '11 at 17:42
I didn't like this, use defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool NO to disable. –  joerick Jul 31 '11 at 16:58
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

Safari download controls and animations

I love the new Safari download controls (menu bar / pop-up dialogue / iPad menu thingy).

enter image description here

It's great to have downloads not be another loose small window cluttering my workspace. Sorting by recency of download is nice as well.

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It does not work like this in Safari 5.1 on SL. –  jpc Jul 25 '11 at 22:02
I wish there was a way to assign the old KB shortcut to this without needing to use a script (like this). It's a nice solution, but I'd rather not a separate program just to assign that shortcut. –  Gauzy Jul 26 '11 at 2:25
Too bad I cannot have the downloads as a separate window that I don't have to click every time. This is a huge letdown for people who use keyboard shortcuts as this is not possible anymore. Costs some time every time I need this. (Apple sadly has removed a lot of keyboard controle in Lion.) –  MacLemon Aug 1 '11 at 12:26
You can also drag from the download list to move the downloaded file in the finder. You can drag to your desktop and the file will move from your downloads folder. –  ridogi Aug 2 '11 at 21:13

Clamshell Mode simplified for external displays

In Lion, if you want to use an external display with a closed notebook (also known as clamshell mode), you can do the following:

  • Attach the external display and power adapter to the notebook.
  • Close the notebook.
  • The external display stays on!

The process is much easier because Lion assumes that closing the notebook doesn't mean "put my Mac to sleep" if you also have an external display attached.

Lion also assumes that opening your notebook means that you want to use its display, so there's no need to manually force display detection.

In Snow Leopard, if you wanted to use an external display with a closed notebook, you'd need to do the following:

  • With the notebook open, attach the external display.
  • Close the notebook. Wait as the Mac goes to sleep, and the external display goes dark.
  • Wake the notebook from sleep (using an external keyboard or mouse) to activate the external display.

If you then opened the notebook so that you could use its display as well, you'd need to force the Mac to detect displays.

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Woah. I thought this was a bug in Lion. Because, naturally, when I close the lid of my MBP, I want the secondary display to go off as well. Thanks for sharing. –  ayaz Aug 1 '11 at 19:42

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

tmutil is a command line interface into Time Machine.

time tmutil startbackup --block is full of win.

You can now start a backup, time how long it takes, and know how much data was saved, all from the command line!

You can flush your local backup store to free up disk space as well (or enable local backups if desired):

 sudo tmutil disablelocal
 sudo tmutil enablelocal

Managing Time Machine from the unix prompt is a bit of a geeky thing, but I wanted to call out this hugely useful tool that is hidden underneath the hood. Being able to analyze the difference between the current mac and the last backup with tmutil compare is also incredibly useful. Particularly useful in addition to managing the on/off and local/remote status of Time Machine, managing exclusion lists - these few commands seem particularly useful to me (and hence make me smile broadly, perhaps Lion-like):

  • calculatedrift
  • uniquesize
  • latestbackup

The man page is great and actually teaches how the backups work and encourage exploration of local storage, inheriting previous backups and much more. Someone deserves beers or better at the next WWDC.

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The best feature of tmutil, in my opinion, is tmutil disablelocal. –  LaC Aug 2 '11 at 15:10

Quicklook natively supports animated GIFs

Freaking awesome.

enter image description here

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Oh for crying out loud... THIS! ABOUT TIME! –  Jason Salaz Jul 26 '11 at 0:48
@VxJasonxV - Awesome, right?? :-D Also - automatically resizing quicklook as you scroll through photos, in order to fit the photo. Before, it would size once (on the 1st photo) and then scale up/down the next photos to fit that one size. Glad they took another look at it. –  Harv Jul 26 '11 at 0:53
Urgh, I hate animated GIFs :-) –  Matt Gallagher Jul 31 '11 at 8:15

TextEdit got a serious facelift

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protected by Community Aug 8 '11 at 18:17

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