What to Look Forward to on OS X Lion

Mac OS X Lion is set to be released next month and you will not be able to get your hands on a copy. That’s right, Lion is going to be released through the Mac App Store so you can purchase and install it without leaving your desk. Here’s a brief rundown of what to look forward to on OS X Lion:

Borrowing a few tips from Apple’s iOS platform, Launchpad displays your installed applications in much the same way as the mobile platform. Apps can be grouped together in folders, easily arranged, and deleted as simply as they are in iOS. When you install a new app, it appears in Launchpad automatically.

There are few things more aggravating than having to save everything, open programs, reload files, and set everything back up after an update-initiated reboot. Resume saves all of this information for you, so when the machine boots back up, everything is where you left it.

Auto Save and Versions
This is one feature that, if it works properly, could make the Mac a frontrunner in the business and productivity market. Auto Save works by saving documents you’re working on every five minutes, in addition to during quick pauses. In theory, this should work in much the same way Google Docs saves your progress, however this one is built in to the OS, so it will be interesting to see how well this integrates.

Versions works hand-in-hand with Auto Save. It functions a like a trimmed-down version of Time Machine, except its functionality is focused on documents rather than your entire system. Every time Auto Save makes a save, it stores just the changes and not entire copies of the file, reducing storage space required and helping Versions keep track of progress.

Mission Control
By bringing your dashboard, full-screen apps, desktop spaces, and open programs all together in a single place, Mission Control appears to be a great solution for users with limited screen real estate and a large amount of windows to keep track of. Dashboard appears in the upper-left corner of Mission Control with full-screen apps running along to top to its right. Your desktop and windows are set up in an Exposé view on the lower portion below.

Full-Screen Apps
OS X Lion introduces systemwide support for full-screen apps, giving you more screen space to work with. Coupled with improvements to multi-touch gestures, switching between full-screen apps can be done with a single swipe of the trackpad. This feature is especially useful for smaller notebook (MacBook, MacBook Air, etc.) users. Almost the entire lineup of Apple’s apps have been updated to work well in the full-screen environment.

Multi-Touch Gestures
Multi-touch gestures have been integrated in Lion to take advantage of the new features and make them easier to use. While this may mean very little to desktop users that are still using a keyboard and mouse to interact with their Mac, owners of multi-touch capable notebooks should be able to take advantage of the update.

This is one feature that likely won’t be for everyone. If you’re within 30 feet of other Lion users, you can transfer files directly to them without having to be connected via a wireless network or physical cable. AirDrop could come in handy in instances where you’re at a coffee shop or another public place with a friend and you want to send them a photo album or file without having to go through the hassle of finding a wireless network to do so. AirDrop will likely be a late bloomer as it depends on each user having Lion and a more current Wi-Fi card for it to work. Where it might take off down the line is in the business and educational sector, where an office or classroom has capabilities across the board. Turning in assignments could be handled more efficiently using AirDrop in these cases.

Other Features
Other features include: picture-in-picture zoom, a renewed Mail app, International braille tables, a high-resolution cursor, new sharing options in Quicktime, and numerous other smaller updates.

OS X Lion is certainly a bigger update than Snow Leopard was to Leopard, but it doesn’t have any absolutely killer features that make it a must-buy for most standard users. Lion offers considerably more for their line of notebooks in terms of usefulness than it does for Mac Mini, iMac, and the Mac Pro. Still, if Apple delivers on everything Lion promises, it will certainly make OS X more tempting to the business and educational sector.