June 7, 2011 Lion's Lesser Known Features


By now everybody has heard about Lion’s 10 best features.

But in addition to these ten key features Lion has over 200 other features that didn’t make the WWDC keynote. Starting in the order they appear on Apple’s website I give you my selection of Lion’s 20 best lesser known features straight from the WWDC Keynote cutting room floor.

International Voices and Added Localizations

Although less of an important feature for mono-linguists like myself, VoiceOver in Mac OS X Lion now includes built-in voices that speak 23 languages. You can also download higher-quality versions of these languages from the VoiceOver Utility. Finally in addition to these spoken voices Lion brings Arabic, Czech, Turkish, and Hungarian localizations to Mac OS X.

Self-installing actions and Services

If you thought Safari’s ‘open ‚”safe” files after downloading’ preference was dangerous before, wait until you see the next generation of Mac Defender inspired malware that takes advantage of this Lion feature. Automator actions and services can be installed from the desktop by double-clicking their icons and approving the permissions dialog. It doesn’t take much to convince a user to install almost anything from the internet, and this feature makes it easier.

Full Disk Encryption

Lion’s version of FileVault encrypts the entire drive on your Mac, helping keep your data secure. In previous versions of FileVault only a users individual Home folder was encrypted leaving the rest of the drive insecure. This became a real problem for Time Machine which could only backup an encrypted user’s files when that user was logged in. With Lion not only can Time Machine volumes be encrypted separately, but all of your Mac’s Home directories begin backing up the second the first user logs in. FileVault 2 in Lion makes your data more secure, your backup more secure, and in an emergency everything can be wiped from your Mac instantly.

With FileVault 2, instant wipe removes the encryption key from your Mac instantaneously, making the data completely inaccessible. Then your Mac performs an entire wipe of the data from the disk.

Finder Improvements

The Finder saw a major rewrite in Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard that updated its underpinnings but offered few improvements. In Lion the Finder is getting two new file operations.

Merge folders allows you to combine two folders with the same name. The Finder now offers to merge them into a single folder instead of replacing the existing directory.

When you attempt to add a file to a folder that contains a file of the same name, the Finder now offers to keep both files, appending the word ‚Äúcopy‚Äù to the name of the new file. Lion’s Finder is all about keeping and organizing multiple versions of your documents.

iCal’s Heat Map

We have all heard the horror stories of iCal’s new look, and the little town pieces of paper it leaves behind. But who would have thought that Apple’s new paper inspired calendaring applications would include an infrared view. In year view, iCal displays a map using colors to represent availability for each day, so you can see which days have more activities. Apple has brought Predator vision to your agenda.

Yahoo! Integration

Yahoo! has been integrated throughout Lion with Address Book syncing, and auto email account setup in Mail, but nowhere is Yahoo! more apparent than in the new built-in Yahoo! Messenger functionality in iChat.

Use iChat to stay in touch with your Yahoo! buddies. Sign in with your Yahoo! ID, and all your Yahoo! buddies appear in your buddy list. You’ll see contact photos, availability, and chat status.

The best part is that Lion includes Yahoo! Messenger as part of its unified buddy list and status features so no matter which chat service your friends are using you can always stay connected from a single window.

Built-In Restore Partition

With the exception of possibly losing data nothing is more frustrating than a misbehaving computer separated from its restore discs. Lion solves this problem by including a built-in restore partition, allowing you to repair or reinstall OS X without the need for discs.

Desktop Pictures and Colors

In Lion each desktop space can have its own desktop picture, and you can finally put the Mac OS X color picker to good use and select your own desktop color without having to generate an image file first.

Low-Power Wake

In OS X Lion, your Mac can wake up for services such as file sharing, backup, and more without the need to turn on the monitor or attached USB devices.

If you are like me and use your iMac as a home server for family media you might appreciate the reduction in energy costs this feature provides.

Trim, Merge, and Rotate Video Clips

10.6 Snow Leopard allowed you to trim clips directly from QuickTime, and now Lion allows you to create the perfect video clip with the new trim feature in Photo Booth.

If you need to rotate or merge video clips Lion can do that too. Quicktime Player lets you combine multiple clips into a single movie. Simply drag the clips you want into a movie window and QuickTime Player automatically scales or crops them so they match the dimensions of the movie. It may not be Final Cut Pro, but it is nice to see QuickTime regaining some of the functionality it lost after version 7.

Capture a Region of the Screen

Speaking of video editing,

QuickTime Player now lets you record part of the screen, such as a specific window. It’s perfect for creating a video tutorial of an application, or pirating the occasional web video?

Add Your Signature

All of my friends, colleagues, and clients keep buying Adobe Acrobat to add their signature to PDFs. In Lion, Preview makes it easy to add your signature to PDF documents, and you don’t even need a scanner.

Hold your signature up to an iSight or FaceTime camera, and Preview uses sophisticated image processing to turn it into a pen-perfect signature annotation. With a click, the signature is added to your document, which can be saved or sent via email.

iWork and Office Document Support

Don’t have iWork or Office installed and need to open, search, and print a document? In Lion Preview does all three, no additional software required.

Location Privacy

Privacy has always been a big part of iOS, and in Lion when an app requests your location, an icon appears in the menu bar letting you know your whereabouts are being revealed. Lion’s Privacy pane even allows you to enable and disable location services and diagnostic data collection from being collected on a per-app basis.

Per-User Screen Sharing

You can remotely log in to a Mac with any user account on that computer and control it, without interrupting someone else who might be using the computer under a different login.

This has been a long awaited enterprise feature. With Lion you can use a single Mac as a VNC server allowing multiple PC and Linux users simultaneous access to remote Mac applications.

Drag and Drop from Spotlight

Spotlight becomes even more of a LaunchBar alternative now that you can drag items from the Spotlight menu.

Windows Migration

I don’t have a Windows machine to migrate data from, but plenty of my friends, colleagues, and clients are potential switchers.

With OS X Lion, you can migrate all the information from your old PC to your new Mac. Lion automatically transfers your documents, contacts, calendars, email accounts (Outlook and Windows Live Mail), and photos stored in Picasa, and puts them in the appropriate applications.

The list of compatible applications looks pretty limited, but getting data transferred from one machine to another is always the hardest part.

Improved Auto-Correction

Remember when you first started typing on an iPhone and the auto-correction took over where your thumbs left off? At that time didn’t you wish Apple made auto-correction for the Mac? Well in Lion auto-correction is built-in and displays suggested spellings below the word you are trying to type. Press Return to accept the change or click the X to keep your mangled mistype. If only there was Lion style auto-correction for dancing and us geeks would have nothing to worry about at weddings.

Resize from Any Edge

With Lion you can now resize a window from any side or corner just like you can on Windows and the Classic Mac OS.

Interact with Photos in Screen Saver

New onscreen controls let you and your friends pause your iPhoto screen saver and manually flip through the photos in an album without leaving the screen saver. And if that was not bad enough iTunes artwork in screen saver is now interactive turning your Mac into a jukebox anyone can manipulate, no quarters or password required.

Lion still has a lot more to offer, and after developers absorb a week’s worth of WWDC sessions on Lion’s latest features so will the latest updates of our favorite applications.