Lion’s out and there’s a lot of new stuff to explore. Apple tells you about most of it on its website, but there are still some secret features you’ll want to know about. Here’s a look at our top 10 favourites.
10. Add New, High-Quality Text-to-Speech Voices
Over the years, Apple has been working incrementally to improve the quality of the text-to-speech voices offered with its operating system. For a while we just had Alex, the only somewhat natural-sounding computer voice in the collection. While that hasn’t changed much, as far as the defaults go, you can add a bunch of new voices directly from OS X’s VoiceOver Utility (in Hard Drive -> Applications -> Utilities). Just click the Speech pane and then select “Customize” from the voice selection menu. This will let you choose from all the options – including a lot of the fun novelty voices you might have thought went missing.[imgclear]
9. Look Up a Word in the Dictionary with Two Taps
Lion comes with a lot of new multitouch gestures, and hidden in the new set is the ability to look up a word with two taps. All you have to do is place your cursor over a word you want to look up, then tap the word twice with three fingers. This will highlight it in yellow and show you a heads up display with the word’s definition. Of course, you’ll need to turn this on in System Preferences -> Trackpad -> Point & Click first.[imgclear]
8. Create Search Tokens When Searching for Files
You’ll find this functionality throughout applications in Lion, but it’s especially useful when looking for files in the Finder. Basically, when searching you type in something like “Text” and are given some options in a drop-down menu. You might be looking for a file with “Text” in the file name or just a file that is made up of text. You can choose which one from this menu and it’ll create a search token. Once a token is created, you’ll start to get results. You can keep creating more and more tokens this way to refine your search, making it really easy to quickly locate the file (or files) you’re looking for.
7. Group a Bunch of Items into a Folder
The Finder has a handy new trick hidden in the contextual menu, and that’s the ability to select a bunch of files, right- or control-click them, and choose “New folder from X items”. What this does is groups all the files together and throws them in a new folder. Sure you could just make a new folder and drag them all in, but this saves you a step. Want to do this with a keyboard shortcut? Just press Command+Control+N.[imgclear]
6. Add an Event to iCal by Typing a Phrase
Known as “Quick Add”, iCal now lets you just type a human-readable phrase to add a new item to your calendar. To do this, just click the + button in iCal and choose a calendar. You’ll get a little pop up that’ll let you enter whatever you want. Type something like “Movie this Friday at 7pm” and iCal will translate it into a new event.
Bonus iCal feature: Enter year view and you’ll see a heat map over the calendar. The warmer the colour, the more you have going on that day.
5. Share the Screen of an Inactive User
Screen sharing is great when you want to take control of whatever’s currently on the screen, but what happens when someone’s logged in to another account and you want to access yours remotely? Screen sharing now lets you share the screen of any user, even when their account is running in the background.
Bonus Screen Sharing feature: If you want to allow people to share your screen but you don’t want to create a new account for them, you can just add their Apple ID as an authorised user in the Screen Sharing section of the Sharing pane in System Preferences.[imgclear]
4. Manage Privacy Settings for Any App
Lion now includes some privacy settings, letting you control which apps are allowed to use your location and collect usage data. To access it, just go to the top row in System Preferences and select Security & Privacy. From there, click the Privacy tab and you can make any changes you want.[imgclear]
3. Automatically Restart When the Computer Freezes
Sometimes your computer freezes only to become unfrozen seconds later. Other times you stare at the screen for several minutes, wondering if that’s going to happen, and then eventually restart when you’re convinced you’re wasting your time. With resuming capabilities it isn’t so awful if a freeze does take place and requires a restart, but you no longer have to decide in Lion. HIdden away in the Energy Saver pane in System Preferences is a little checkbox called “Restart automatically if the computer freezes”. Check it and you won’t ever have to worry about it again.[imgclear]
2. Fully Migrate from Windows to Mac OS X Automatically
If you’re moving from a Windows PC to a Mac, Lion can help ease that transition by migrating all your files to the proper places in OS X. This means everything from documents to mail accounts in Outlook to even your photos in Picasa (not sure why they picked Picasa, but they did). The transfer happens over the network, either wirelessly or wired – totally up to you. You need to first download a copy of Migration Assistant for Windows and then open the copy that’s already on your Mac (Hard Drive -> Utilities -> Migration Assistant). From there you can select the information you want to transfer and let the fun begin. It’ll probably take a while, but when it finishes your Mac will now have the same data as your old Windows machine.[imgclear]
1. Easily Add a Signature to a PDF Document in Preview
Preview has a lot of neat new features, but one of the best is its ability to digitally sign a document. You might think this happens with your finger and trackpad, but you’d be wrong – that wouldn’t include everybody. Instead, you sign a piece of paper and hold it up to your iSight/Facetime camera while Preview snaps a photo. It’ll then detect the signature and allow you to add it to your document. To do this, just open the PDF document you want to sign, click “Annotate” in the toolbar (if the annotations bar isn’t already showing), and then click the Signature drop-down menu. That will display two options. The first will let you take a photo of your signature with your Mac’s built-in camera and the second will allow you to manage the signatures you’ve already saved using this process. Pretty awesome.