Getting Around in Mac OS X Lion

OS X Lion, the most recent update to Apple Macintosh’s operating software has been hyped as one of the more radical updates to the OS X software since its original release. Overall, its biggest change is that it’s beginning to look more and more like iOS, the mobile operating software that runs iPhones and iPads.

Multi-Touch Gestures


The first big change is Multi-Touch Gestures. This is a feature that definitely seems like it was ported directly from iOS. More often than not, people own laptops instead of desktop computers, and because of that, people are more apt to be using a trackpad than a mouse. For people who use the iPhone and iPad, doing Multi-Touch Gestures is an easier adjustment. For me, I still struggle going back and forth between the iPad and MacBook, automatically expecting both to be Touch Screen. This just seems to have me getting it mixed up even more.


Two fingers can be used to scroll through documents and websites, and scrollbars only appear when necessary. Tapping the screen will zoom, as will pinching. Swiping with two fingers will flip through pages. Swiping up with three fingers will take you to Mission Control, and going side to side with three fingers will allow you to switch between full-screen apps. The scrolling works in the opposite direction – the way you normally do in iPhone and iPad (you can revert the scrolling direction in the settings). I will also add that in trying to upload this article in Firefox, the multi-touch gestures wouldn’t work to add the images in. I had to go back and add the article with Safari instead.



There seems to be a big press in the computing world to do things big and full-screen. For some time, they have been making apps that promise to block everything out to allow you to focus on the task at hand. Now the apps built specially for Lions all have that in mind. These apps have a double diagonal arrow in the top right corner. Toggling that double arrow adjusts the display to full-screen and back. Not only does it eliminate distractions, but it also gives you larger pictures and type, which is almost always appreciated on smaller laptop screens.

Mission Control


One of the better aspects of using a mobile device is the easy interface. Lion works to put that ease into Mac OS X as well. This is done with the Mission Control screen. Everything you are doing on your Mac is seen in Mission Control. All your open applications and windows, as well as your desktop, are available here. As basic as it is, it can also be a little bit confusing at first to make your way around. The best part is that you can create multiple desktop views.


You can have a different desktop view for each one of your projects. I plan to have one just for my Make Tech Easier writing that stays open to the site, and also includes my photo editing software. This way, whenever I upload an article, I don’t have to navigate to that website, open the software, etc. This way, I just open up the desktop that already has it all ready.



Launchpad works exactly like it does on an iPhone or iPad. All the apps are lined up by icon in an orderly fashion. I love nothing more than apps, so I have four pages of them on here. It could take forever to find the one I want. However, you can organize them into folders, which is just what I’ve done with my iPhone and iPad.


For instance, I have been using Postbox for all my emailing, as I like the calendar function it uses. However, I do want to give the new version of the native Mail application a chance. I want to keep them both in the same place for better organization. I create a folder by dragging the two apps on top of each other. I can set a name for the folder as well, so I’m just calling it “Email.” I can set any number of folders I want to have everything easily accessible, and probably condense it down to just one page. I have multiple writing apps. Why not put them all in the same folder?



Now that I have my mail organized, I’m going to try out that Mail app. The first time you open it, providing you have upgraded from an earlier OS to Lion, it migrates all your data over and cleans it up to get it ready for you. It offers up an email experience very similar to that of the iPad. It offers it up in a simple two columns, a listing in one and a view in another, and has a Favorites bar just like a browser. The listing has a two line preview for each message, and the messages have a conversational view. It’s all very simple and clean.

Auto-Save and Versions


This certainly isn’t the only way to control this function, yet it is another option. Auto-Save and Versions help control your work so that you don’t lose it. It automatically saves all your work for you every five minutes. You don’t need to worry about it. Additionally, it saves all the different versions at the five minute increment. If you want to go back to a previous version, it’s no problem. It also allows you to lock down a certain version so that it can’t be changed, and duplicate a document from within, instead of having to do it from the finder, so that you have two working copies.


Lion is definitely on the right track. It’s far from being the perfect operating system, but it certainly makes a lot of necessary improvements. If you have not noticed, the more time you spent on your mobile devices, the more you want to turn your computer into mobile-like device; and as can be seen in OS X Lion, Apple is trying to make that process as seamless as possible.

Laura Tucker
Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

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