First take: Mac OS X Lion

Steve Jobs delivers keynote address at 2011 Apple developer conference, June 6, 2011. Getty Images

Amid the fanfare of Steve Jobs' return to the stage for the WWDC 2011 conference, Apple went into plenty of detail on how the latest big-cat OS will integrate with iOS devices, mimic iOS features, work with iCloud, and much more. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion introduces a big shift toward centralizing all your content, whether it's on your desktop, your iOS device, or in the newly launched iCloud.

Many of the features in Mac OS X Lion have been made public in the past and all point toward an integration of data across multiple platforms.

Apple executive Philip Schiller started off talking about multitouch gestures are the standard interface for iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads, and some gestures can already be used on Mac laptops and Apple's Magic Mouse and Magic TrackPad. But with Lion, Apple says it's adding even more gestures and fine-tuning existing swipes and pinches with a much smoother, more realistic feel.

Next came full screen apps. For a long time now, many Mac users have complained about Mac apps not having the ability to go full screen (Windows switchers are particularly aware of this). Thankfully, with OS X Lion, Mac users will now have the ability to view any app full screen, so they can get to work without all the usual distractions. To switch to a different app or return to the desktop, users can simply swipe the Trackpad. Craig Federighi came on stge to show how full screen apps and multitouch gestures work together.

Mission Control is another long-awaited OS X feature that will become available with OS X Lion. With a swipe on the Trackpad, users will be able to see, at a glance, everything that's running on their Mac, from apps to their associated open windows along with what's running in Spaces. With a centralized location to see everything running on their Mac, users will be able to get where they want to go immediately, without having to dig through menus, switch between Expose views, or long-click Dock icons.

The recently released Mac App Store, Apple seems to be continuing on the path of what the company views as a safer environment for distributing apps. While some look at the Mac App Store and see a closed garden like the iTunes App Store, the setup does ensure that apps will work seamlessly on Apple's devices. Schiller went into detail of how Developers will be able to take advantage of several new features to make development easier.

LaunchPad is another new feature coming in Mac OS X Lion, letting Mac desktop and laptop users quickly launch apps just like they would using an iOS device. Along with the quick access afforded by the gridlike app layout, users will be able to create folders for better organization, and when they buy apps at the Mac App Store, those apps will automatically show up on LaunchPad. Craig came back on stage to show how buying an app at the Mac App Store automatically makes it show up on LaunchPad. He also demonstrated how you can drag newly purchased apps wherever you want in LaunchPad.

Next, Schiller showed how File management will be easier in Mac OS X Lion owing to a few new features that help users save their work, track previous changes, and pick up where they left off after a shutdown. With Versions and new autosaving features, Lion automatically creates a version each time users open it and every hour they work on it. Just like the interface in Time Machine, users will be able to cycle back through versions if they just want to retrieve a previously deleted item, for example. They can then cut and paste work from an earlier version of their document to the current version.

Mac OS X Lion's new Resume feature lets users get back to where they left off after a shutdown or restart, bringing them back to exactly where they were when they closed out. This means they won't need to reopen all their apps and set everything up after a restart--all will be ready right from where they left off. In the demo, Craig showed off how quitting an app doesn't prompt you with a save dialog because Lion has not only autosaved your work, but also will save all your settings and how each window was laid out in the app.

Next up was AirDrop. Schiller showed how using AirDrop will let you drag and drop documents to nearby users. Simply open the peer-to-peer Wi-Fi based network, drag the document to your chosen user, and the AirDrop automatically saves it to that users Downloads folder.

Apple's Mail program will receive a face-lift as well, using much the same layout found on the iPad's Mail app. Now with Mail 5, users will be able to quickly browse through messages on the left and get a full screen preview of every e-mail on the right. The addition of a new Mailbox bar will let users quickly access most-used mail folders, letting them get where they want to go quickly. Schiller demoed the improved searching in Mail 5, showing how the app automatically gives you contacts and content from actual e-mails through the dropdown so you can find what you want quickly.

Mail 5 also offers a new conversation view, much like an organization system found in the latest versions of Microsoft Outlook. With Conversation view, users will be able to group an entire thread of e-mails by conversation so they can quickly get to everything said about a subject. From there they can either save or delete entire conversations with only a couple of clicks. You can also drag-and-drop entire conversations to your favorites bar in Mail.

Schiller pointed out that they were only demonstrating the main features, but there was plenty more to look at.

As expected, Lion will only be available in the Mac App Store and will be 4GB in size. It installs right in place, and when you purchase it, you can use it on all your authorized Macs. Mac OS X Lion will retail at only $29.99.

Comments