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Dig deep into Lion: The best overlooked, underrated features

Ryan Faas | Jan. 30, 2012
Apple billed this summer's release of Mac OS X Lion as having more than 200 new features, but most coverage of Lion in the intervening months has focused on only a handful of them. While iOS-like navigation and app-launching interfaces, autosave/restore capabilities, AirDrop file sharing and an emergency restore partition are by all means important, there are a lot of helpful tweaks and enhancements that can easily be missed.

This is a powerful and useful option for external hard drives, particularly slim models designed for travel, as it maintains data security if a drive is lost or stolen.

New tricks for Finder and Trash

There are a handful of helpful new tools for working with files in the Finder in Lion, including when you send them to the Trash.

For starters, you can select multiple items (documents, folders, aliases) and use a contextual menu (right-click or double-tap) to create a new folder containing those items.

Next, you now have the option of multiple undo operations when moving files into the Trash for deletion. Previously, you could undo or undelete just the last file placed in the Trash. Now you can undo moving file after file until your Trash is empty, if you'd like.

Along the same lines, Lion introduces a restore option when you select one or more items in the Trash. This contextual menu item will place any items back into their previous location, whether they were added to the Trash today or six months ago. The only limitation is that you won't be able to restore items if the folder that contained them has been deleted, moved, renamed or is otherwise unavailable (such as an external drive or network share that isn't connected).

International languages and other keyboard features

If you need to work with languages other than English, you'll be pleased to discover that Apple has added some features to make typing in other languages easier. Rather than having to use special key combinations to type accented or other non-English characters, you can simply press and hold down the nearest English equivalent for a few seconds.

A pop-up will display the various options above the English letter you just typed, each with a number above it. Type the number for a character or click on it to insert it.

You can also create your own auto-replace shortcuts for symbols using the Language & Text pane of System Preferences. This feature isn't new, but it has become more useful because it works well with Lion's new iOS-like autocorrect and autocomplete capabilities.

Enhanced Desktop & Screensaver preferences

The Desktop & Screensaver pane in System Preferences allows you to select images in your iPhoto library as desktop backgrounds or slideshow-style screensavers. This isn't a new feature in itself, but it is something that's been enhanced in Lion.

Now, in addition to seeing just iPhoto albums, you can also pick specific events, people and locations as sources for either desktop images (which can be set to change at regular intervals) or screensavers.

The dictionary and autocorrect

It's well known that Lion inherited the autocorrect and autocomplete features common (and sometimes maligned) in iOS. Here are a couple of lesser-known tips around these features.


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