Apple has recently made the developer’s preview of OS X Lion available to the masses (or at least those masses with a developer account). Now that we’ve had a chance to install it and spend a little bit of quality time, we’d like to share with you a few of our favorite things about the developer release.
We apologize in advance for not providing pictures or video for your enjoyment, but that would be against Apple’s NDA, which we acknowledged when we signed the release. We may not agree completely with Apple’s NDA, but we must nevertheless respect it.
1. New Window Controls And Scroll Bars
Lion features some seemingly small, yet quite welcome improvements in the way window controls are handled. Rather than being able to resize most windows by only a single corner, now it is possible to resize a window from any corner or side of that window – something I personally have been hoping would happen for the past few years.
In addition, instead of having constant scroll bars in Lion, the scroll bars are of the overlay style, meaning they fade away when they aren’t currently being used (similar to in iOS.)
2. Enhanced Finder Features
The Finder is perhaps the most central aspect of OS X, being the core of most users’ abilities to be productive and remain efficient. Now Apple has added some great new features to the Finder to make it even better. These features include a revised source list with more attractive monochromatic icons (similar in look to the iPad). The “Places” feature in Finder has been replaced with “Favorites”, and search queries are now included in a gear-shaped icon underneath the favorites list.
Further (and I really love this), source icons no longer disappear in a poof of smoke if you drag them away (I have accidentally removed things from the Finder lists many times, to my frustration). Instead, they require a right click and menu selection to remove the item. Also included in much enhanced “Quick View” functionality, which greatly improves the way file previews are displayed (they can be displayed much larger, and in a vanishing sub-window).
3. Gestures Galore
Perhaps one of the most useful optimizations to Lion is its widely enhances support for gestures. While we found gesture support to be slightly buggy, it was nevertheless apparent that new and more profound gestures are in place, and that OS X Lion was truly designed with multi-touch at the forefront of thought. There are new gestures for new features like Mission Control, and enhanced features for many of the things you could do before.
4. Podcast Publisher
Clearly giving a nod to their growing base of content creators, Apple has included a great tool from their Server platform to help users create and publish podcasts – Podcast Pubisher. This joins an already impressive array of content creation and management tools included standard with OS X (GarageBand, iPhoto, iMovie, etc.)
The app is a combination of Apple’s previous Podcast Producer and Podcast Publisher tools previously only available on the Server version of OS X. Now, in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple will introduce a new application called ‘Podcast Publisher’ and it’s the consumer version of ‘Podcast Producer‘. The newly available tool allows you to create and manage as many shows as you want, allowing for episodes of each one. It also includes some audio/video capture and editing tools.
5. Improved iChat
Apple’s iChat also includes several interesting new features. First, the application has added support for the popular Yahoo chat protocol, and supports both video and text-based chat over that protocol. It also includes some general functionality improvements, such as enhance live view of web pages, so you can see what’s at a shared link before clicking on it.
6. Remote Login
Similar to the once Mobile-Me Exclusive Back To My Mac feature, which allows remote access to all your web-connected Macs (as well as screen sharing abilities and so forth), Apple has now included built-in functionality into Mac OS to allow this same level of usage.
Apple has long had a feature in MobileMe called Back to my Mac, which allows you to remotely access all your internet-connected computers’ files. Additionally, you could ever screenshare with your own computers over the internet. This feature has been very handy for me as a MobileMe user but what about Mac users who aren’t. Back to my Mac seems like the kind of feature that should have been integrated for everyone in Mac OS X from the beginning. Well now with Lion, it appears that Apple, too, has had the realization.
Also, instead of using Finder’s left panel to access this functionality, In 10.7 Lion a new option has appeared and that is to login to remote computers with your Apple ID. The option is specifically your Apple ID (which anyone can get for free) and not your MobileMe credentials. Basically, it seems as though anyone with an Apple ID should be able to use this functionality. Could this be another sign of an impending free MobileMe release?
7. Signature Capture in Preview
The Preview application within 10.7 Lion also has a tremendous new feature: signature capture by way of the built-in FaceTime camera. Essentially, it allows you to sign a document from within preview by simply writing your signature in black ink on a piece of white paper, and holding it up to the camera. The feature works very well, in in our experience has been very, very accurate.
This new feature in Mac OS X 10.7, discovered by reader Mime454, really wows us. It’s called ‘Signature Capture’ and it allows you to write your signature with a black pen on a piece of paper, hold it up to your Mac’s built-in camera, and place it on a document in Preview. The feature works as advertised and is very seamless.
We certainly hope that Apple will integrate this into iWork, and Microsoft will see fit to update Office 2k11 for Mac to include this awesome functionality. Personally, I can see myself using this on an almost daily basis.
8. Included Media Encoder
The updated Finder also includes something we’ve really never seen before – a built-in video and media encoder! By simply right-clicking on a video file, you can find a menu option called “Encode Selected Video Files.” From there, you can set encoding to 480p, 720p, 1080p, or audio only. These options cover the full spectrum of existing iOS hardware. Sure, we’ve already mentioned Finder in our list, be we feel this feature is awesome enough to merit it’s own entry into our list.
9. About This Mac
Another really awesome feature (that you wouldn’t tend to ordinarily think about) is the About This Mac screen. Rather than the usual panel from Leopard, the new About This Mac screen is much more comprehensive, and features 7 separate informational tabs: Overview, Displays, Storage, Memory, Battery, Support, and Service. This makes it much easier to get basic information about your Mac without having to delve into the sometimes daunting System Profiler.
There are pictures of this floating around (such as these ones at 9t05Mac), and it might be worth taking a look at.
10. New Looks For Dashboard, Mail, Address Book and iCal
And now, for our tenth and final (for now) new item that we love from OS X Lion, the new interface layouts. Dashboard is sporting a new, cleaner interface (and is now viewed as separate rather than overlapping on top of your desktop), Mail is looking more and more like iPad’s mail client every day (and supporting the ease of use and interface features that we’ve come to love there, iCal is sporting a cleaner, slicker, simpler interface, and Address Book has found it’s inner beauty, now featuring a book-like interface that you can “flip” through.
And So Much More
We’ve reached our 10 things – and it wasn’t even hard! We reached our list of 10 features without even beginning to talk about Lion’s new landmark features such as Launch Pad, Full Screen Apps, Mission Control, Spaces, and so forth. You’ll be hearing much more from us about Lion in the coming days, weeks, and even months, but suffice it to say that this list could have been twice as long without even posing a challenge. This summer will be an exciting time for everyone on the Mac community as we await what is sure to be Apple most fantastic release BY FAR.
Now its your turn. Are you using the new Developer Preview? Have you seen or heard of a new feature that you want us to explore more and talk about? Do you have any questions about the new Developer Beta that you’d like us to address? Sound off in the comments.