So Apple showed off OS X Lion again at WWDC, compared to the last time they talked about it, and the previews we’ve seen since then, they didn’t talk about anything much else - sticking to multi-touch, full screen app’s, mission control, launchpad etc. all of which is exciting to see and a nice refresh to OS X but nothing that we didn’t know already. Since then though they’ve uploaded a new page featuring all of the new features in Lion, here’s some of the small but notable features not addressed in the keynote the really stood out for me as being cool little improvements.
1. Picture-in-picture zoom - The screen zoom feature in Lion features a picture-in-picture view, allowing you to see the zoomed area in a separate window while keeping the rest of the screen at its native size. Choose to have the window follow the cursor, or keep the window in one place to show only areas you navigate.
Although this feature is categorized under Accessibility and is probably targeted at long sighted users, I could actually imagine it being really powerful and probably great for designers and others alike, it will allow you to zoom in on a certain portion of the screen - like you would with a magnifying glass. I could actually imagine myself using this to read when i’m feeling tired or for design, the fact that it will be system wide makes it even better. A feature that probably wasn’t intended to be awesome, but is.
2. Instant messaging availability - See your buddy’s availability while in Address Book.
As issue Joshua Topolsky has discussed about iOS regularly is that it doesn’t feel “alive”, in that app’s don’t interact with each other, by the looks of it though Apple are addressing this in certain areas in a really great way on the desktop. Where they can integrate services and do it in a valuable way for the user they are. I almost never use Address Book on my Mac, with the update to Lion I think it’s going to become a lot more compelling: now in Address Book if you have contacts associated with an IM account it will integrate with iChat and show you their availability. This kind of idea is actually on it’s way to fulfilling the vision from Chris Ziegler of the universal status indicator, once this is ported to iOS as well I think it will become a whole lot more exciting.
3. Social network profiles - Address Book lets you quickly access the social network profiles for your contacts, including Facebook. Press and hold an email address to select the appropriate profile.
Obviously Address Book is going through several changes with Lion to make it a far more compelling application, integrating with social networks like Facebook and from the look of the iOS preview probably Twitter as well. What’s really intriguing about this as they are really bringing Address Book into the modern age making it the hub to find the best way to contact your friends at any given time - be it via phone, email, IM, Facebook or Twitter, you’ll hopefully be able to find links to all of it in Address Book.
4. Group as folder - Instantly create a folder from selected files by choosing the “group as folder” item from the contextual menu.
In Lion it also seems like they’re taking steps to streamline certain processes to make them that little bit easier and quicker. In the past i’ve had to create a folder, highlight the files I want to put into it and drag them over there, now, i’ll simply have to highlight the files and right click select ‘Group as folder’. Little stuff like this shows true attention to detail.
5. Keep both files - When you attempt to add a file to a folder that contains a file of the same name, the Finder now offers to keep both files, appending the word “copy” to the name of the new file.
Another really well thought out little feature which streamlines a process, i’ll often be presented with the option to ‘Stop’ or ‘Replace’, I don’t want to do either. I think this will also be great for new users, not just new to the Mac, but computers in general, people who have been brought over from the halo effect of the iPad where they didn’t even have to deal with a file system and are now confronted with the option to ‘Stop’ or ‘Replace’. They wont have to deal with that anymore.
6. Service plug-ins - Service plug-ins from third-party developers let you add new chat services to iChat. Installing a plug-in is simple. Once it’s downloaded, double-click it. Plug-ins run in a separate process to help ensure that they won’t damage your system.
Although it will probably go unnoticed this is a fundamentally huge feature with so much potential allowing iChat to support protocols other than AIM, Jabber or Gtalk. As long as someone takes the time to create a plug-in. This not only opens up the gate to finally have MSN in iChat but also beyond that any other protocol someone is interested in making a plug-in for. Where I could imagine this would really come into it’s own is with plug-in’s for cross platform messaging services like LiveProfile or PingChat, maybe even iMessage is someone manages to reverse engineer the service so that even if Apple don’t choose to bring it to the Mac we would have access to it. A really exciting prospect.
7. Bind application to a space - You can now bind an application to a particular space or make it available in all spaces right from the Dock. Press and hold the icon in the Dock and make a selection from the contextual menu.
This feature really builds on classic Spaces and goes beyond its functionality to bring it in line with Mission Control, allowing you to pin certain applications to certain spaces. I really think this will be an immensely powerful feature alongside full screen app’s once people figure how to incorporate it into their workflow to make them even more productive and allow them to focus.
8. Capture a region of the screen - QuickTime Player lets you record part of the screen, such as a specific window. It’s perfect for creating a video tutorial of an application.
Although the ‘Apple way’ is typically to add a new feature and do the bare minimum to make it awesome and nothing more1, it’s refreshing to see them build on a small feature like screen recording QuickTime and make it so functional that it will do just fine for the vast majority of people. Saving them a decent amount of money so they don’t have to buy a devoted app.
9. Show clicks on capture - Screen capture in QuickTime lets you show mouse or trackpad clicks, highlighting the pointer each time you click an object on the screen.
Again, a great new feature in QuickTime screen recorder that will go above and beyond what most people need and save them a tonne of money.
10. Improved auto-correction - Auto-correction in Lion displays suggested spellings below the word. Press Return to accept the change or click the X to keep the current spelling.
Another great feature obviously lifted from iOS which i’m really going to appreciate. Listed under Text suggesting it will be a system wide function. I’m terrible at spelling so having the option to correct spelling mistakes in line without having to right click will be useful for me and save me a lot of time. It looks to have been implemented in a really unobtrusive way as well which wont get in your way if you’re just hammering at the keyboard and not paying attention to the screen: Press Return to accept the change or click the X to keep the current spelling.
They’re all tiny little features which probably shouldn’t have been mentioned at the keynote, they wouldn’t have got rounds of applause the way Versioning did. They do though show a precise amount of care that has gone into this OS update, and I highly advise anyone else to read through the other 240 features like I did, because this update is going to be a big one.