Apple’s released the latest developer’s build of Mac OS X Lion into the wild and the final version will be available this July — but that’s not today. If you can’t wait to get the many cool features in the next best version of Apple’s desktop operating system, here’s how to get them right now.
When Apple added autosave to TextEdit, people were both happy and confused. On one hand it was a very welcome and appreciate feature. On the other hand, why leave it out of other applications? It seems like Apple might have been using TextEdit as a test case before introducing autosave into the entire operating system. It’s a welcome addition, but you can get the exact same thing right now with ForeverSave ($US20). In addition to autosaving your documents and offering plenty of control of how it’s done, ForeverSave has a really attractive user interface so you can browse through previous saves and restore them as needed. This functionality actually replaces Lion’s Versions feature as well, but we’ll get to that next.
It’s really handy being able to revert to past versions of your files when the need arises, but storing tons of copies of the same file on your hard drive can take up a lot of space. One alternative is simply using Time Machine, as it saves multiple versions of your files on an external drive. Another is using ForeverSave, as we mentioned above. If you don’t want to mess with drives at all, you should look into Dropbox Pack-Rat ($US39/year). Pack-Rat is a service that can be added to any Dropbox account and, when enabled, will store every version of every file in your Dropbox. Yes — all of them. Better yet, none of these versions are actually stored on your computer but rather on the Dropbox server. When you need an old version you just need to log in to dropbox.com and ask for it. It’ll be added right back to your Dropbox where it once was. It doesn’t have a fancy user interface like Versions, but it isn’t encumbered by the size of your hard drive either.
AirDrop is definitely a zero-setup, remarkably simple way to share files, but it isn’t that far off from DropCopy (Free). With DropCopy, you can share files between OS X machines on your local network. All you need to do is install DropCopy on both computers and you’ll be able to drag and drop files across computers just like with AirDrop. It won’t be hiding out in the sidebar of every window, but you will have a nice little sphere on your desktop that does the same thing.
You don’t have to wait for Apple to provide you with new gestures. You can just make your own with Multiclutch (Free). It’s designed to take further advantage of Apple’s multitouch hardware (mainly the trackpads) so you can alter existing gestures as well as add some new ones. If you have any sort of multitouch input for your Mac it’s a must-have, and it also solves the problem of getting fancy new gestures before Lion’s release.
If you like the idea of organising launching your apps from an iOS-like home screen, there really is no perfect replacement for Launchpad. That said, visual app launchers Bevy ($US10) and Overflow ($US15) are both different approaches to the same problem. If you’re really desperate for an iOS homescreen, however, check out this featured desktop.
You can’t truly get the same full-screen app support promised in Lion because it requires that developers build their apps with full screen usage in mind in order for the possibility. That said, OS X has always been terrible at maximising windows and that’s basically the same thing. To fix that problem, check out SizeWell (free) and Megazoomer (free). Both will make full screen windows a possibility, but it just won’t be as elegant as Lion’s implementation.
New Mail Client
The new Apple Mail client is pretty great, but it’s also pretty much the same thing as Sparrow ($13) – which already exists. Sparrow’s more geared towards Gmail and integrates a bit less with the operating system than the new Apple Mail, but that’s not really a bad thing. Sparrow also has a ton of other great features, like pulling contact photos from your Facebook account, providing customisable global shortcuts, and more. While it’s not actually identical to Apple Mail, it’s really not much different. You might even prefer to keep using it after you upgrade to Lion.