Dig Deep Into Lion: 17 of the Best Overlooked and Underrated Features

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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.

Press and hold down a letter key to see its accented options.
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 and 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

Double-tapping a word from the trackpad brings up definitions from the dictionary, synonyms from the thesaurus and related info from Wikipedia.
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.

First, as with iOS, Lion's dictionary will begin to learn new words after you've clicked the X in the autocorrect pop-up three times. Of course, you can also highlight any word and use a contextual menu to make the dictionary learn a word as well.

Author's Note

Most of the multi-finger gestures available in Lion (and Snow Leopard) vary whether you're using a trackpad (be it built into a MacBook or Apple's Magic Trackpad) or Apple's Magic Mouse. In almost every case, the same features and gestures are available, but use one less finger on the Magic Mouse -- for example, swiping back and forward between pages in Safari uses two fingers on a trackpad but just one on the Magic Mouse, and swiping between Spaces uses three fingers on a trackpad but just two on the Magic Mouse.

Speaking of gestures, you can enable/disable many of the gestures using the Trackpad or Mouse panes in System Preferences. You can also select from a handful of alternate actions to be assigned to each gesture.

Second, you can easily view the definition for any word by double-tapping on it with three fingers if you're using a trackpad. The same feature works with Apple's Magic Mouse but uses two fingers.

Safari's New Downloads Menu

A well-known Safari enhancement in Lion is a redesigned Downloads list, which displays as a pop-up menu in the Safari toolbar rather than as a separate window.

That's obvious, but a subtle addition to this new Downloads list is the ability to drag items from the pop-up menu directly to the desktop or a folder of your choosing, moving them out of the Downloads folder. This can be done after items are downloaded or while they are still actively downloading.

New Screen-Sharing Tricks

OS X has offered screen sharing since Leopard. Up till now, you could log into a remote Mac and control its screen as if you were sitting in front of it. The typical vehicle for starting a screen-sharing session was iChat, where you could request permission to control a friend or family member's computer.

Screen shares could also be started via the Finder's sidebar as well as the Screen Sharing application inside the CoreServices folder. (CoreServices contains a number of system-level files that are best left untouched, as well as Screen Sharing. It's located inside the Library folder in the System folder at the root level of your startup drive.)

Previously, when beginning a screen share through the Finder or Screen Sharing, you would share control of the Mac with the active user (if someone was logged in and using the Mac at the time) or log in to the remote Mac by entering the name and password of a local user account on that Mac.

In Lion, however, if both Macs are configured to use the same Apple ID or iCloud account, you can connect without being asked to provide a local user account. This can make things easier for families with multiple Macs since each Mac no longer needs multiple user accounts to support remote connections.

Another change: In Lion, you can opt for a virtual display instead of sharing the screen, in which case you will have a completely separate user session. Both you and the local user can then launch applications, view/edit documents and perform any other tasks as though each of you is the only one currently using the Mac and without interfering with each other. A virtual display also offers a display where the resolution and size of a remote Mac isn't tied to that Mac's physical screen size.

This is a great feature for multi-user Macs if you need to remotely access files. It can also be used to help troubleshoot a problem or install applications and software updates remotely and inconspicuously.

Next: Versatile Window Resizing--At Last! and more

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