While iOS 5 looks like a bit of a snooze, today's announcement of OS X Lion looks like a productivity geek's playland. Better navigation throughout the OS, improved file management and cool sharing features should make Lion well worth its price tag. Here are five ways it'll make Mac users more efficient.
In the current Mac OS (and the last few versions for that matter), Dashboard was sort of a wasted feature that placed a bunch of widgets on a screen hardly anyone ever accessed. If I had a penny for every time a Mac user asked me what that little "thermometer" icon on their keyboard was for, it might just pay for my Lion upgrade. In Lion, the Dashboard screen has been integrated with Exposé and Spaces into a single interface called Mission Control.
The Mission Control screen brings all of your running apps together into one view, so you can see everything that's going on at once. To get there, you do a three-finger upward swipe on the keyboard. I'm assuming the existing Exposé keyboard button will launch this, too, since the icon looks the same. So one swipe shows you everything, and one tap takes you to the app you want. Not a bad little time saver to start with.
I'm less enthused about Launchpad, the new app menu that completely overtakes your screen. This looks like more like a bit self indulgent move to impose the iOS interface on OS X users than a genuine attempt at making the OS more functional. But we'll see.
Versions & Auto Save
I've always preferred apps to autosave my work as I go. As infrequent as power outages and crashes are, when they do happen, they can take hours of work with them. And while you may be diligent about regularly saving your work throughout the day, I tend to forget. So I'm looking forward to Auto Save adding this feature throughout the operating system.
At the same time, I'm taking a wait and see stance on Versions. File versioning is awesome when you need to recover something you've lost, but I have a feeling Versions is going to blow through hard drive space like nobody's business. Time Machine certainly does. To a 128GB MacBook Air user like me, Versions sounds like potential trouble.
In Lion, all your apps will re-open to the same document or page that you were on when you closed them whenever you restart your Mac. Good.
Full screen apps
Regular readers know I love me some distraction-free apps. Lion's full screen apps look like a great move in that direction.
To share files between OS X Lion users on your Wi-Fi network, you just find them on the network via AirDrop and drag the files to their picture. No more sneakernet.
OS X Lion will ship via the Mac App Store in July. You can bet I'll post a follow-up to this post once I have a chance to reality check my early assumptions.