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... 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
    Jul 25, 2011 at 19:03
  • 2
    @CajunLuke me too, only took me 15 minutes to get used to. 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 :) 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
    Feb 8, 2012 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.


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.

  • Why, oh why did we have to wait until 2011 for this :-)
    – bmike
    Aug 8, 2011 at 16:46
  • @bmike a guess, maybe it couldn't be done easily without file coordination. Aug 9, 2011 at 16:08

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

  • oh man, this is so neat. I wish I could up vote this twice!
    – Eimantas
    Aug 6, 2011 at 10:05
  • 1
    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, 2012 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.

  • 5
    That is so cool! I can't believe they put that in - wow!
    – bmike
    Aug 2, 2011 at 20:58
  • I've always wondered why it sometimes loops like crazy. is it really my key got stuck or was it a software bug? Aug 4, 2011 at 2:58
  • @the_great_monkey do you have that behavior in Lion? Aug 4, 2011 at 9:22
  • sometimes yeah. Maybe a key is stuck? Aug 4, 2011 at 9:23
  • 1
    You can always still use CMD SHIFT TAB to reverse the direction if you pass up what you were looking for.
    – styfle
    Dec 12, 2011 at 6:31

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.

  • 4
    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, 2011 at 12:30
  • @maclemon - you are correct it's not whole disk - I edited the "title" to still let new users think all their stuff is encrypted while not being "technically wrong".
    – bmike
    Aug 1, 2011 at 15:35
  • Title is much improved now, thanks. Still implies that the user's home resides on the system boot volume but it is safe to assume that this is the case for most users.
    – MacLemon
    Aug 2, 2011 at 13:59
  • 1
    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? Aug 8, 2011 at 5:54

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.

  • Anything else would be quite a bit dangerous.
    – Debilski
    Aug 1, 2011 at 7:39
  • 2
    This isn't new at all...
    – Tim Büthe
    Aug 3, 2011 at 7:53
  • 1
    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, 2011 at 9:55
  • 4
    @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.
    – ocodo
    Sep 5, 2011 at 1:47
  • 2
    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.
    – ocodo
    Sep 5, 2011 at 1:54

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

  • Winner winner, chicken dinner! (or 👫, 🐔🍲) Great pictures!
    – bmike
    Jul 25, 2011 at 13:41
  • Is it true (as on the iPhone) that others (like Windows users) won't see your lovely characters you send to them?
    – GEdgar
    Jul 29, 2011 at 14:40
  • 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 Jul 31, 2011 at 8:26
  • I wonder what I get if I "look up 'chicken'"? i.imgur.com/R17dx.png Jul 31, 2011 at 19:21
  • One word: 💩 ;-) Aug 1, 2011 at 20:46

No scrollbars!

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

  • 5
    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.
    – calum_b
    Oct 7, 2011 at 16:47
  • 1
    @scottishwildcat just touch whatever device you use to scroll and they briefly appear Mar 22, 2012 at 2:18
  • I'm often just using the keyboard with PgUp/PgDn to scroll, so that's not very efficient as I have to take my hands off the keyboard.
    – calum_b
    Mar 22, 2012 at 10:21

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.

  • This feature caught me by surprise too and made me smile! :) Just like your post. Apple Exchange question inside Apple Exchange question? Questionseption? :P
    – kevin9794
    Sep 4, 2011 at 14:45
  • 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.
    – calum_b
    Oct 7, 2011 at 16:46

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

  • The initial build of Lion has a bug where if you customize a second time, you can't tell which are hidden, but I expect that to be resolved in the next patch.
    – bmike
    Aug 2, 2011 at 19:40
  • 1
    Please, how do you present the checkboxes? Aug 8, 2011 at 6:05
  • 3
    @Graham Perrin - System Preferences > View > Customize...
    – ocodo
    Sep 5, 2011 at 1:59

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.

  • Although it won't save me from a hard drive failure, it sure is nice to be saved from myself or (my nephew) when I'm away from my second drive. This is a delightful addition alone and together with versions for narrowing my ability to lose work done on a mac.
    – bmike
    Aug 1, 2011 at 15:47
  • This will finally get me to use TM
    – r00fus
    Aug 5, 2011 at 23:21
  • Oddly enough, this wasn't turned on by default for me when I upgraded... I had to turn it on myself via the command line (sudo tmutil enablelocal).
    – calum_b
    Oct 7, 2011 at 16:44
  • 1
    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, 2013 at 13:42

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.


  • I couldn't get to three finger double tap for dictionary. can you? Jul 22, 2011 at 14:19
  • I'm the opposite. I really don't want the bounce. It's Ok in safari, but it's enormously obnoxious in Finder, and there is no way to turn it off.
    – Fake Name
    Jul 22, 2011 at 21:43
  • @the_great_monkey Three finger tap works for me. Just make sure you are using a Magic Trackpad (Not sure if it works with a Magic Mouse) and a Cocoa app (like Safari). Jul 22, 2011 at 23:26
  • @steve ok, kinda works for me, i wonder if I have to select the text first or not. command-shift-d is still easier and faster for me. Jul 22, 2011 at 23:43
  • @the_great_monkey my answer not my comment is correct it is a double three finger tap not a single three finger tap. Jul 22, 2011 at 23:52

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

  • 1
    Nice, I didn't know about this one! There goes Handbrake...
    – Steve Hill
    Sep 2, 2011 at 11:30
  • Handbrake still has a place. Namely, working with terribly source codecs/formats. Oct 10, 2011 at 8:26
  • I don't have this option when I right click a video. What file type does it have to be?
    – styfle
    Dec 12, 2011 at 6:38
  • .MP4 and also .avi are the only options I've noticed
    – Slick
    Dec 13, 2011 at 11:07

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.


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! :)


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.

  • This is in list view, I suppose. In icon view (also on Leopard, I believe), you can drag a "lasso" with the mouse to select, then hold cmd or shift and drag another lasso to select more.
    – Henrik N
    Aug 1, 2011 at 17:35

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.


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.

  • It looks as if touching/tapping (no clicking) MacBook's built-in trackpad doesn't seem to wake the display either. Preferred it when it did.
    – Michal M
    Jul 29, 2011 at 11:06
  • 1
    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. Aug 1, 2011 at 14:08
  • Clicking on the Magic Trackpad / Magic Mouse will wake the machine up. It probably is a design decision like the_great_monkey suggests.
    – Bryant Luk
    Aug 1, 2011 at 14:35
  • I see, I was inaccurate. I have now corrected my answer. It applies to all mice and will still wake for a click/tap.
    – John
    Aug 3, 2011 at 5:08
  • 7
    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, 2011 at 23:30


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 Ask Different?

  • Now that I can see imgur images, this post suddenly makes a lot more sense... Aug 4, 2011 at 3:56

Terminal is more keyboard accessible

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

And so on …

  • What does this do?
    – styfle
    Dec 12, 2011 at 7:00
  • @Lri if these are new to Lion, feel free to edit the answer :-) Dec 12, 2011 at 17:58

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


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!)


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

  • If you can't see those menu items, be aware that they are only visible when you actually have multiple desktops (spaces). Jul 25, 2011 at 18:16
  • Indeed - that is also a thing of beauty (to me). There is no need for options until there are more than one desktop defined!
    – bmike
    Jul 25, 2011 at 18:38
  • 2
    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, 2011 at 12:35
  • @MacLemon I added a comment to apple.stackexchange.com/q/18995/8546 encouraging more answers … Aug 8, 2011 at 6:16

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.

  • The face recognition is cool too. (Choose the "Dizzy" or "Lovestruck" effects then move your head and see how the effect follows your head around the screen.) Aug 1, 2011 at 21:06

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

  • The counter point to this: if you use "tap with two fingers" for secondary clicking disabling Smart Zoom will speed up response time. With Smart Zoom enabled there is a short delay before the secondary click is registered. Sep 12, 2011 at 15:11
  • @Samuel: Yep, I asked if anyone had any tips on that over on super user, though I ended up answering my own question. I should probably have asked it here instead... superuser.com/questions/319229/…
    – Douglas
    Sep 13, 2011 at 13:06

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

  • 4
    you can also swipe with 3 or 4 fingers to switch space in Mission Control
    – Jonathan.
    Jul 25, 2011 at 6:51
  • 2
    ohh +1 for that trick with “option”
    – Agos
    Jul 28, 2011 at 17:42
  • Jonathan you don't get it, try it and see what i mean. Open mission control and option click on another space, instead of activating that space as the current one, it just shows you it allowing u to manipulate it's windows in one mission control operation
    – Alexander
    Jul 29, 2011 at 21:09
  • 1
    I didn't like this, use defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool NO to disable.
    – joerick
    Jul 31, 2011 at 16:58
  • 1
    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, 2011 at 12:37

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

  • Oh god this. I actually rolled back to snow leopard just because I find mission control unusable for managing lots of windows.
    – Fake Name
    Jul 22, 2011 at 21:41
  • Like any big UI change - Mission Control can be hard for people not wanting change or interfering with long-held habits. What about Mission Control makes your wife smile - why have it in this list? How is it better (if at least for her case)
    – bmike
    Jul 25, 2011 at 18:52
  • I strongly disagree that MissionControl helps workflow. It takes away spacial orientation in spaces for linearly lined up spaces. It takes away to have a spaces overview AND Exposé at the same time. All the windows are now stacked (similar to Window's Flip-3D) which obstructs all windows instead of giving you a good overview. It changes Focus (and applications) when entering and leaving. I personally consider MC the worst UI Apple has forced upon us in years. A HUGE productivity hindrance for me.
    – MacLemon
    Aug 1, 2011 at 12:34
  • I prefer the way apps are stacked - it is much more visually organized than the grid if you have many windows. Also App Exposé is still there, as a hot corner or shortcut. Aug 1, 2011 at 14:40
  • I think MC will take getting used to but I discovered that control + ↓ displays all open application windows.
    – mark
    Aug 15, 2011 at 9:33

TextEdit got a serious facelift

  • What's changed?
    – John
    Jul 29, 2011 at 10:59
  • It has a Toolbar much like Pages. Jul 29, 2011 at 11:50

Disconnecting an iPhone doesn't wake display anymore.

With Leopard, I would often put the computer to sleep only to realize I hadn't disconnected my iPhone. Disconnecting my iPhone would wake the computer back up.

With Lion, unplugging the iPhone does seem to wake the computer up, but the screen stays asleep. And it seems to fall back asleep in a minute or so if left untouched.


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.

  • what? How did you find this one?
    – Tim Büthe
    Aug 3, 2011 at 7:56
  • Good job finding that out!!
    – reg
    Aug 9, 2011 at 19:20
  • Very, very, very cool!
    – daviesgeek
    Jul 8, 2012 at 22:25

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