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... – Enrico Susatyo Jul 22 '11 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 '11 at 19:03
  • 2
    @CajunLuke me too, only took me 15 minutes to get used to. – Enrico Susatyo Jul 26 '11 at 0:06
  • 4
    Natural Scrolling only makes real sense if you use a trackpad, if you try that with a scroll wheel, it drives you nuts :) – Martin Marconcini Jul 29 '11 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 '12 at 5:42

107 Answers 107


Mission Control + Spaces

You can use Mission Control to easily drag and drop apps from one Space to another.

enter image description here enter image description here

  • 3
    it used to be easier -- in snow leopard, you could drag from a different space to the current one, now you have to switch to the other space and drag it to the one you want :( – Noah Aug 8 '11 at 2:00
  • dang. (i was one of those people who didn't know about spaces before) – gary Aug 8 '11 at 2:43
  • 1
    Yeah... this is definitely a thumbs down when compared to the way Spaces worked. – TheWellington Sep 13 '11 at 16:29
  • 1
    @Noah: hold option and click the space you want - it'll slide that space into view without activating it. Then you can move windows between spaces without having to jump in and out of Mission Control every time you switch spaces. – daGUY May 16 '12 at 15:46
  • @daGUY: cool, that at least makes it less annoying. – Noah May 17 '12 at 1:27

Thumbs up: Display icon in the menu bar has been modernised.

Display Icon in menu bar

Thumbs down: But the grey for Back/Forward button is not dark enough to contrast with the inactive state.

Back button


Use a date in Mail.app to make a quick iCal event

I just saw something while reading TidBITs in Mail. When you hover over a date, a dashed outline appears around it. When clicked, it pops up a window like this, which allows you too add an event to iCal with this date and the email subject. It's pretty useful!

iCal Popup

  • I'm relatively certain this feature was introduced in Leopard... Though the UI for creating the event looks vastly improved! – Dan J Sep 25 '11 at 17:37
  • The improvement in the UI makes this Lion worthy. It's certainly a tiny thing compared to the overall feature as well. – bmike Oct 7 '11 at 15:46

Trackpad scrolling in Stickies Windows

Scrolling with the trackpad now works in Stickies windows, and scroll bars appear. I wish the scroll bars would honor my preference to always be visible, but at least this is an improvement.


Removed Auto-Column Resizing

This tiny change annoyed me yesterday after finishing my first Lion upgrade, auto-column sizing has vanished.

This used to work on any grid/column control, double click the right edge of a column heading and it would size to the widest content of that column.

This WAS a really handy tool in, well... pretty much everywhere. It's a complete mystery why it's been killed off.

  • I suppose this is an oversight. Is it just broken in Finder? It works in Activity Monitor for example. – Andrew Vit Sep 3 '11 at 10:39
  • Interesting, I just assumed TBH that it was the UI control. I did check, and this dbl-click sizing works in Finder's Column Mode. Hopefully it'll get patched. – ocodo Sep 4 '11 at 22:49

Finder gives better feedback when Trash has an error

Specific, actionable feedback. enter image description here



This feature migrated from iOS brings the home screen of iOS to the mac.

I have a few applications that I do not want sitting in the dock as they aren't used often. But I hated having to go through finder to find them. With Launchpad, I can tap a button which opens up a swiping iOS style menu where I can easily find an app I want to use, and open it with just the one click.



Pinch to Zoom

Snow Leopard had this feature, but it didn't work in every application. With Lion, this works in pretty much every application. A major one for me is Final Cut Pro. Being able to pinch to zoom makes video editing so much easier.


Use Keyboard to Control Slideshow Screensaver

In the slideshow screen saver, pressing the space bar or arrow keys pauses and navigates between the pictures in the slideshow.

In Snow Leopard, I can't count the number of times I saw a picture in the screen saver I loved that I wanted to look at more closely or go back to. When I accidentally found this in Lion, it literally made me smile.



In Launchpad, holding down Option makes your icons dance or "jiggle". This also occurs when you click and hold an icon. I don't see the point other than making the user smile.

Edit: JAG2007's comment points out that apps which you've downloaded from the app store can be deleted from launchpad by using the Option key and selecting X.

  • 2
    Neither did I. – Jari Keinänen Sep 4 '11 at 13:13
  • 1
    For apps you've installed from the Mac App store, you'll notice an "X" to delete them from launchpad, just like on iOS. Presumably that uninstalls them from launchpad (though they are saved in your Mac App store account). – Joel Glovier Sep 24 '11 at 13:17

QuickLook now shows the pages of a PDF in scrollable sidebar:

I just found this one and it is really helpful. I don't really need Preview anymore, as Quicklook suffices for almost all my PDF needs.


The three finger drag is confusing

The three-finger-drag gesture does what it says it will, not what I thought it would.

What I expected:

Put three fingers on the trackpad, move them, the window under the cursor moves.

What happens:

Put three fingers on the trackpad, move them, the window under the cursor acts as if you have click-and-dragged. If the cursor was on Mail you might drag an email around. If it was on Safari, you drag some text snippet or image about.

To actually move a window, you need to move the cursor to the title bar and then drag with three fingers.

I thought it would be a nice meta-way to move "a thing I am working on" out of the way like shuffling paper on a desk. It's not, and I find it just as clunky as double-tap-drag. Try moving around in Google Street View with it, for instance.

  • I love this feature, I find it very intuitive – Samantha Catania Mar 4 '12 at 11:12

Mail defaults to date sort by most recent

In Mail, when creating new mailboxes/folders, the emails are now sorted by default by date in descending order, i.e. freshest email first. Previously, you had to switch from ascending to descending, so from reverse chronological order to chronological order, for every new folder/mailbox created. A small change that made me smile and is most welcome!

  • 1
    It's only welcome to people who like to read their email backwards. :-) – zzz Aug 12 '11 at 14:21

Safari being two processes

When a site has some javascript that hangs the web content process, I can still add new tabs, navigate in other tabs, etc.


System Preferences is so much faster when loading a preferences pane. Click on a pane and it loads almost immediately. I'm constantly amazed at this one every time I go into System Preferences.


App Exposé shows all windows of an application even windows in other spaces and full screen apps!


only These Three New Features

made me want Lion, and I've mitigated all of them

so I don't want Lion, nor any subsquent version of Mac OS X,

and neither should any conscientious and responsible admin

(Control is an illusion: ignoring request for one feature per answer. Sue me.)


Generally, OS X has decent memory management. But a minor annoyance that many have noticed is that, when watching in Activity Monitor while using Applications over time, the inactive memory will begin increasing, and while the system will eventually return that memory to free memory, when it does this is arbitrary and not consistent. The result is there are times when Applications need more memory, and while it should be available, instead of the system immediately returning inactive memory to the system, the application will squeeze what ever it is doing in the available memory without doing so.

The purpose of the purge command is detailed in its man page that I linked above, but a side-effect of running it is that all inactive memory will be returned to free memory. So running purge in the Terminal is a manual way for a user to free up that inactive memory.

Technically, the command first appeared in 10.6 Snow Leopard, but only if you installed the Developer Tools (xcode_3.2.6_and_ios_sdk_4.3.dmg), which is what I did to avoid the temptation of upgrading unnecessarily.

realistic New Text-To-Speech Voices

I found them to be quite amazing, especially Emily, Jill, Samantha, and Tom. Samantha, btw, is the same as the voice of Siri. I found upgrading difficult to resist for these alone, until I discovered how to install these new voices in Snow Leopard, which thankfully has entirely quelled this irrational temptation to upgrade.

full-screen Applications

Pretty much System-wide, Lion introduced the ability to take applications full-screen, hiding the Dock, the Menu Bar, and other applications. But there are only two applications that I really wanted to use full-screen.

full-screen Safari

Thankfully, Apple released Safari 5.1 for Snow Leopard, and that was one less temptation to upgrade.

full-screen Terminal

This was the one last temptation to upgrade to Lion, and the strongest one. I was envious for a long time of this single and long-time functionality available to users of Windows and its command prompt (cmd.exe). When this feature was revealed in Lion, I nearly fell out of my chair. I was only able to duplicate this functionality in Snow Leopard after discovering iTerm2. But the MacPorts port of iTerm2 was no longer supported in Snow Leopard, and the build would fail immediately. So I edited the Portfile for the iTerm2 port to allow it to build. I'll explain how I did this for other Snow Leopard lovers below:

How to build iTerm2 on Snow Leopard using MacPorts


MacPorts is a robust, stable, mature and easy to use package management solution, for OS X. It is modeled after FreeBSD's ports system, which has been adopted as the basis of NetBSD's pkgsrc.

install Xcode 3.2.6 for Snow Leopard

MacPorts requires an appropriate version of xcode; xcode_3.2.6_and_ios_sdk_4.3.dmg is the most recent version for Snow Leopard (after registerring for a free developer account, and logging into developer.apple.com, that link will begin your xcode download). Once the download completes, open your Terminal.app and complete the installation:

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ hdiutil attach -quiet -noverify -nobrowse -noautoopen ~/Downloads/xcode_3.2.6_and_ios_sdk_4.3.dmg
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo installer -pkg /Volumes/Xcode\ and\ iOS\ SDK/Xcode\ and\ iOS\ SDK.mpkg -target /
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ hdiutil detach -quiet /Volumes/Xcode\ and\ iOS\ SDK/

build MacPorts 2.1.1 for Snow Leopard

Get to know MacPorts

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ curl -Ok https://distfiles.macports.org/MacPorts/MacPorts-2.1.1.tar.gz
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ tar xzvf MacPorts-2.1.1.tar.gz
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ cd MacPorts-2.1.1
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ ./configure
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ make
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo make install     # *not war!*
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ cd ..
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ rm -rf Macports-*
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo /opt/local/bin/port -v selfupdate
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ diskutil quiet repairPermissions /

add MacPorts to your $PATH:

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ export PATH=/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:$PATH
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ export MANPATH=/opt/local/share/ man:$MANPATH

edit iTerm2 Portfile

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ cd $(port dir iTerm2)
 1337haX0r@snobox:/opt/local/var/macports/sources/rsync.macports.org/release/tarballs/ports/aqua/iTerm2$ sudo cp -p Portfile Portfile.orig
 1337haX0r@snobox:/opt/local/var/macports/sources/rsync.macports.org/release/tarballs/ports/aqua/iTerm2$ cd
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port edit --editor vi iTerm2
 # change original line 36: "if {${os.platform} eq "darwin" && ${os.major} < 11} {"
 #                 to read: "if {${os.platform} eq "darwin" && ${os.major} < 10} {"
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ # or just download this edited Portfile http://pastebin.com/51VWPySF
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ # and replace the original:
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ curl -O  http://pastebin.com/download.php?i=51VWPySF && mv download.php\?i\=51VWPySF Portfile
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ cd $(port dir iTerm2)
 1337haX0r@snobox:/opt/local/var/macports/sources/rsync.macports.org/release/tarballs/ports/aqua/iTerm2$ sudo cp -p Portfile Portfile.orig
 1337haX0r@snobox:/opt/local/var/macports/sources/rsync.macports.org/release/tarballs/ports/aqua/iTerm2$ cd
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo mv Portfile /opt/local/var/macports/sources/rsync.macports.org/release/tarballs/ports/aqua/iTerm/Portfile

build iTerm2

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -vsc install iTerm2
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ # iTerm2 will appear in /Applications/MacPorts/

And you can keep everything updated simply with:

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -vsc selfupdate
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -vsc upgrade installed

If for whatever reason you are unsatisfied and/or need to remove MacPorts:

to completely uninstall MacPorts

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -dfp uninstall --follow-dependencies installed
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -dfp uninstall all
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo rm -rf /opt/local  
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo rm -rf /Library/Tcl/macports*
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ # you can keep the GUI applications you built, or delete them:
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo rm -rf /Applications/MacPorts

and Overcome Your Lion-envy !!

  • The comment about how Inactive Memory keeps increasing reflects the common misperception that this is a Bad Thing. What's actually bad is Free Memory, which is RAM you bought and paid for but is not being used. Yosemite describes Inactive Memory as File Cache, which more accurately describes what it is and why it's a Good Thing. – ganbustein Dec 29 '14 at 1:16

You must log in to answer this question.

protected by Community Aug 8 '11 at 18:17

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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