Photo: Mara 1 via Flickr
It’s the eve of Apple’s much anticipated iPad event, and we know it’s been hard to concentrate on much else — but not us. We’ve been hard at work putting the latest developer preview of Mac OS X Lion 10.7 through it’s paces, and so far, there’s lots to like. Although Lion is still months from release, we’ve compiled a modest list of Apple’s 10 most promising features — some big, some small. Read on, and see for yourself.
It's an aesthetic change, but a nice one, and makes it much easier to interpret information about your Mac that wasn't always as clear via the usual System Report. Hard drives and removable media have been given the iTunes treatment, with a visual breakdown of music, movies, photos and apps on each drive. Meanwhile, the Memory tab displays exactly how much RAM you have installed -- and more importantly, the physical distribution of each stick between banks -- with a helpful link to upgrade instructions as well.
This is a small change, but makes a huge difference. We're not sure why it took so long, but Finder windows, and other applications that support resizing, can now be stretched or shrunk from any corner. The functionality is a little hard to see in a screenshot, but it's much handier in practice than it sounds. Trust us.
This is one of Apple's numerous iPad-inspired features making its way into Snow Leopard. The above is an example of the revamped Mail UI running in full-screen mode, and we'll admit, it's kind of nice. In practice, however, power-users might not favour Apple's tablet-style system; additional windows slide up from the bottom, and the application itself is actually treated as one giant Space -- more or less forcing you to use Spaces if you're not already.
We haven't seen this feature mentioned in any of the official PR, but we sure hope it makes the final build. It seems that, under certain circumstances, applications can essentially sidestep errors or exceptions, allowing them to continue running in an 'inconsistent' state. That might not sound like a good idea, but if it gives us the chance to save or copy any unfinished work, it could prove to be an incredibly useful solution -- especially considering the alternative.
Expose, Spaces and Dashboard still exist, but they've been rolled into their own, unified hub called Mission Control. The advantage here is that all of your active windows, applications and workspaces are easier to view at a glance. Of note, however, is that it's not just windows and Spaces that gather in this hub, but full-screen applications too -- which, as we previously mentioned, essentially act as their own Space.
Naturally, Mission Control is navigable using gestures, with Expose's old four-finger swipe acting as the hub's trigger. A big addition however, is gesture interaction with Spaces -- all it takes is a three-finger swipe from the left or right to move between active Spaces and full-screen applications. It's also worth noting that pinch-zooming within Safari is now near-identical to the iPad experience.
The nice thing about sleep and hibernation is that everything is persistent -- your files, folders and applications are preserved exactly as you left them, ready to spring into action on a whim. That same option is now available when restarting, logging off or shutting down. This seems to be part of a larger plan to allow applications to 'freeze' their current state, freeing up RAM for other uses while preserving the frozen application for later use -- a process near-invisible to the user.
Simply put, this is Time Machine for files. Developers will have to write in support on their own, of course, but the benefit is a snazzy, visual archive of file modifications through history. For now, TextEdit is the only developer preview application with Versions, though we expect that to change in the near future. After all, it only takes a superfluous UI to make a relatively ancient concept popular again.
Some longtime Mac users are no doubt fearful of the potential 'iPadification' of OS X -- this author included. But Launchpad's desktop debut isn't all that bad. In fact, it's just about as fast as keeping an Application folder in your dock, and easier to glance at too. It's a feature geared towards casual users, sure, but at least offers a reasonable alternative to cluttering up your Dock.
Without another Lion-endowed Mac nearby, we can't quite test Apple's newest file-sharing feature -- but in practice, it sounds pretty sweet. Nearby Macs with Airdrop enabled can transfer files with one another by simply dropping files onto the desired Mac (hence the name). We can only assume there's some ad-hoc magic involved here, though it's bound to be far more effective than Bluetooth ever was.
We may be months away from release, but based on early impressions, is there anything about OS X Lion you love, hate, or hope to see included? Discuss below.