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.

  • 10
    I can't wait until someone wrote "Natural scrolling" as one of the answers... Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 13:03
  • 8
    @the_great_monkey I will admit to being totally comfortable with "natural scrolling", and I've only been using Lion since Friday.
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 19:03
  • 2
    @CajunLuke me too, only took me 15 minutes to get used to. Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 0:06
  • 5
    Natural Scrolling only makes real sense if you use a trackpad, if you try that with a scroll wheel, it drives you nuts :) Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 11:38
  • 1
    I'm especially happy about the price of Lion ($29.99 upgrade from SnowLeopard), but this isn't worth putting as an answer.
    – bneely
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 5:42

107 Answers 107


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.

  • A huge improvement in usability - great call out!
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 22:32
  • identi.ca/conversation/77065575#notice-79639825 links to an overview (work in progress, begun before I joined Ask Different) with this opening statement: Do not rush to abandon FileVault 1-secured home directories (Snow Leopard) in favour of Core Storage FileVault 2 (Lion). If you have any questions concerning what's there — in particular, how to backup FileVault 1 home directories using Time Machine without logging out — I'd now love to be amongst those answering in Ask Different! Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 16:43

More International Localizations for system Text to Speech

The new text to speech voices included in Lion (or downloadable, post-install) are now no longer US English only - but with many diverse variants of English, and select other foreign languages - e.g. Swedish.

This is helpful for learning foreign languages, in combination with the "say" command, for example.

Built-in voices VoiceOver in OS X Lion includes built-in voices that speak 22 languages: Arabic, English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish (Spain), Swedish, Turkish, Cantonese, Mandarin (China), and Mandarin (Taiwan). In addition, other languages are available for downloads including Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Romanian, Slovak, and Thai, as well as alternative voices with different dialects such as English (UK), English (Australia), English (South Africa), and Spanish (Mexico).

High-quality voices In addition to the built-in voices in Lion, you can download higher-quality versions of the languages from VoiceOver Utility. Choose Customize from the Voice pop-up menu in the Speech pane.

  • This is awesome!
    – Herr
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 6:32

Mission Control supports unique backgrounds per space

The ability to have different desktop backgrounds in different spaces. Set the background, add a space, then set a new background in that space. Not sure if it is a bug or a feature, because it doesn't specify that it is for that space only. When you change it, it changes your default, but not backgrounds on existing spaces. enter image description here

  • It is the feature not bug. But I don't see the reason why don't they mention space/desktop name while changing.
    – palaniraja
    Commented Aug 9, 2011 at 18:24

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.)

  • do you know how to disable it in safari? Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 13:41
  • I checked Safari preference but couldn't find anything. A quick google search though, led me to this.
    – Moshe
    Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 13:52
  • Ok I got it – i want it in some apps, but not safari. The day to do it is to click on any text box in safari (like this one), and the right click, then spelling and grammar -> untick correct automatically. :) Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 13:56
  • 4
    You mean the "way to do it", not the "day to do it", yes? ;-)
    – Moshe
    Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 14:13
  • 2
    How do you enable this? I love apples autocorrect, it completely removed the need for English teachers moaning about spelling.
    – Jonathan.
    Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 1:46

Spell check service is aware of a document's language

The spell checker auto detects what language you're writing it and switches to the correct dictionary!

  • I think this worked in Snow Leopard too... And it rocks!
    – reg
    Commented Aug 9, 2011 at 19:18

Photo Booth now has an option to disable screen flash

Before you could suppress the screen flash by holding Shift but I don't recall there being a persistent option. For those of us with glasses who are sick of taking pictures that look like we're witnessing nuclear weapons testing, this is a welcome feature.


Finder: select items & create a new folder containing them.

Upon having the thought to organize some documents, the workflow is much accelerated. Simply select the items, activate the service to make a new folder and then rename the new folder.

This is so much better than the old, interrupt your thought to make a new folder, find it (if you sort by name), rename it, go back and select the files, and drag it to the new folder.

As a bonus, Undo support (Command-Z) of the "New folder from selection" has a very cool animation like the drag flocking. I spent 10 or 15 minutes just "New folder from selection", command Z, shift command Z.


external keyboard F1/F2 control brightness

Pressing F1 or F2 keys on an external keyboard will brighten or dim the display.

Previously those keys does nothing. This was very un-handy having to reach up to the laptop keyboard to dim its screen.

  • Previously this was on F14/F15 if I remember correctly.
    – MacLemon
    Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 12:38
  • @MacLemon Oh really? My keyboard only goes up to F12 :( shame on apple for not selling full sized keyboards anymore. (Anyway, the F1/F2 keys have the brigthness logo on there!) Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 13:29
  • 2
    I run Snow Leopard 10.6.7 and my F1/F2 keys on the usb keyboard brighten and dim my display.
    – atroon
    Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 12:56
  • If the brightness symbols are already printed on keys, then those keys will usually work that way. F14/F15 will work on other (full sized) keyboards without printed brightness keys. (Like the Apple Pro Keyboard I just tested on Lion and I can confirm this still works.)
    – MacLemon
    Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 14:03
  • it worked on imacs in SL, doesn't work if you plug it into laptops in SL. In Lion it works in both imac and macbooks. Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 14:21

Automator can send a URL to Quick Look rather than a browser.

With automator, you can now make a website open as a web app. You just have to make Automator open a URL as a “Website Popup”. Very nice unadvertised feature.

Andy Ihnatko explains it well - you can make a minimalistic desktop web app with ease.


Unsupported hardware notices

This caught me off guard, but it did not make me smile:

enter image description here

The icon in System Preferences has also been renamed from "Print & Fax" to "Print & Scan".


Wi-Fi Diagnostics are pretty and useful

Option-click the Wi-Fi status menu to reveal options such as Wi-Fi Diagnostics …

Wi-Fi Diagnostics

It's very good for monitoring and testing wireless networks.

If you prefer to not show Wi-Fi status in the menu bar, then to find the app:

  1. Finder
  2. Go
  3. /System/Library/CoreServices

Motion Blur in Mission Control

While Mission Control is open, press +M to enable a motion blur effect.

You can see the effect when application windows gather/disperse to/from Mission Control and, also, when changing desktops (in Mission Control).

To disable it, press +M again.

  • I don't see this in 10.7.3
    – gentmatt
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 14:49
  • I concur, seems to be gone, or they've changed the shortcut.
    – calum_b
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 21:52

Terminal.app now supports 256 colors.

You can test this yourself by running the “Colortest: xterm 256 color test and visual colors list” script.

Before (screenshot taken under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard):

After (screenshot taken under OS X 10.7 Lion):


Launchpad Background Wallpaper Effects

Being able to change the Launchpad background effect with Control + Option + Command + B in 10.7.3 and 10.8, or + B, is pretty cool. You can make any Desktop Wallpaper black and white, blurred, sharp, color, or any combination of those. It only is capable of using your current desktop's wallpaper however, unless any of you know how to specify a different wallpaper just for Launchpad. It's really a nice customization option!

  • In 10.7.3, this has changed to Control+Option+Command+B. (via osxdaily.com/2012/02/06/…) Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 2:55
  • Command-B doesn't work for me in 10.8, but control-option-command-B does. Great find!
    – daGUY
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 14:15

Native support for Microsoft DFS

We use Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS) at work and for years mounting Windows shares has always been a headache because of DFS. With Lion, DFS works like a charm, no more 50 individual mounts now its just smb://server/dfsroot


Calculate all sizes in Finder is ridiculously fast now

I've always avoided using the Calculate all sizes option.

( + J ) It made Finder run so slowly in the past.

enter image description here

It runs now like butter on a hot skillet.


Wireless Internet Sharing supports 5Ghz channels (802.11n)

I use an old Mac Mini in my bedroom as a media center, and have used OS X's built-in Internet Sharing to make it act as a wireless access point and share the ethernet connection.

Up to Snow Leopard, it only supported sharing on the 2.4Ghz frequency, which in my neighborhood is so congested as to be nearly useless. But in Lion there are four 5Ghz frequencies available to share on.

Now if they'd only allow better wireless security than WEP-128, it'd be perfect!

  • 2
    The fact that there is still 40-bit WEP as an option proves that Apple doesn't take security seriously.
    – Kornel
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 16:26

QuickLook in Mission Control

When in Mission Control, you can invoke Quicklook on a certain window that your cursor hovers by pressing space.

enter image description here

  • This is not new in Lion — Exposé in Snow Leopard had the same behavior. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:02
  • @MathiasBynens Really? I did not know that. Thanks!
    – gentmatt
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:06
  • 3
    In Snow Leopard, once you hit space, you could mouse around and it would zoom whatever window your cursor was over. In Lion, this no longer happens. I can't decide if I prefer this or not...
    – daGUY
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 15:42

Rich Text welcome banners for labs or corporate settings

I have to manage Macs at work, and it has always been a challenge to have an acceptable use login banner for people to agree to before logging in. Either editing .plist files, or downloading 3rd-party software was required. However, now Lion lets you put a text or rich-text file in /Library/Security and it will show up at login. Apple even puts a little example for you on this webpage

This is a very welcome development!

  • And it has Comic Sans on it. What a travesty. Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 11:03

Mutitouch Page Turning in iCal

You can move between months in iCal with a 2 finger drag - it has the same page turning animation as iBooks on iPad.


Quick Look to Track Shipments from within Mail.app

I love the ability to track shipments straight from Mail.app without going to a browser...opens it right there in the thread for you with a neat little window (assuming the tracking number doesn't have a crazy format)... :-)


Lion allows you to create user names containing dots.

The lack of this frustrated standardisation with our corporate networks back in Leopard. Now I have the same user name over Mac, Windows and Unix.


OS X Lion comes with Vim 7.3 installed.

Older OS X versions had Vim 7.2.

$ vim --version
VIM - Vi IMproved 7.3 (2010 Aug 15, compiled Jun 24 2011 20:00:09)
Compiled by [email protected]
Normal version without GUI.  Features included (+) or not (-):
-arabic +autocmd -balloon_eval -browse +builtin_terms +byte_offset +cindent 
-clientserver -clipboard +cmdline_compl +cmdline_hist +cmdline_info +comments 
-conceal +cryptv +cscope +cursorbind +cursorshape +dialog_con +diff +digraphs 
-dnd -ebcdic -emacs_tags +eval +ex_extra +extra_search -farsi +file_in_path 
+find_in_path +float +folding -footer +fork() -gettext -hangul_input +iconv 
+insert_expand +jumplist -keymap -langmap +libcall +linebreak +lispindent 
+listcmds +localmap -lua +menu +mksession +modify_fname +mouse -mouseshape 
-mouse_dec -mouse_gpm -mouse_jsbterm -mouse_netterm -mouse_sysmouse 
+mouse_xterm +multi_byte +multi_lang -mzscheme +netbeans_intg -osfiletype 
+path_extra -perl +persistent_undo +postscript +printer -profile -python 
-python3 +quickfix +reltime -rightleft -ruby +scrollbind +signs +smartindent 
-sniff +startuptime +statusline -sun_workshop +syntax +tag_binary 
+tag_old_static -tag_any_white -tcl +terminfo +termresponse +textobjects +title
 -toolbar +user_commands +vertsplit +virtualedit +visual +visualextra +viminfo 
+vreplace +wildignore +wildmenu +windows +writebackup -X11 -xfontset -xim -xsmp
 -xterm_clipboard -xterm_save 
   system vimrc file: "$VIM/vimrc"
     user vimrc file: "$HOME/.vimrc"
      user exrc file: "$HOME/.exrc"
  fall-back for $VIM: "/usr/share/vim"
Compilation: gcc -c -I. -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=0 -Iproto -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -g -Os -pipe
Linking: gcc -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -o vim -lncurses

(That “Compiled by [email protected]” line looks awesome.)


I found that iCal allows you to drag an event (so you can open another one).

Click on any event to get the popup:

enter image description here

Then click on the areas in the green boxes of that popup and drag until it transforms into some sort of "palette".

The truth is that you can drag from any gray piece, but if the popup has a scroll area (because it's too large) then dragging from the scrollable area may not work. Try creating an event and adding a very large note to see the difference.

Once you drag it, it will look like this, so you can click another event and do the same, and you can have as many as you can pile :)

enter image description here

Sorry about the blurring on the images, but there were names there ;)


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.


I don't know whether this is lion exclusive feature or not:

three fingers momentum drag

  1. select three finger dragging in the trackpad gesture panel.

  2. place 3 fingers in the trackpad still on the item you want to drag.(I use forefinger middle and ring finger)

  3. use only one finger( I use forefinger) swipe like nature scrolling, you'll see the item move momentum

L opens the Downloads window in Finder

In Snow Leopard, this key combination was recognised by Safari.

In Lion

Before Lion, I often used the orderly and sizeable downloads window of Safari as a tool for organisation, so the disorderly popover in Lion was a shock to the system. I particularly hate the disorder. Also I often thought to myself … "One day, I'll accidentally click Clear … that button's far too near the scroll bar.".

When eventually that accident occurred I cursed, loudly. It was comparable to losing a list of to-dos.

I no longer hate the popover in Safari, but I haven't learnt to love Finder (it fails to find most folders that I seek), so I'm in limbo, somewhat disorganised.


Mail now displays custom header


Mail->Preferences->Viewing->Show Header Detail->Custom

enter image description here

you can specify custom headers that will be presented to you above the mails: enter image description here


Authentication dialogs shake when you enter your password incorrectly

The "shaking head" animation that has long been used in OS X's login screen to indicate an incorrect password has been added to the authentication dialogs present throughout the OS. I love this! It's so clever and you immediately "get" what it means.


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.

  • 2
    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
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 22:00
  • Yes, I hate this so much. I'm a programmer with so many open tabs while Eclipse is eating my RAM :( Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 13:25
  • This sounds terribly dangerous. You can't just reload some pages. Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 18:52
  • i hate this tab-reloading. Any way disable it?
    – clt60
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 23:13
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 21:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .