MacBook Air, OS X Lion match made in heaven

The new MacBook Air is an example of industrial design that is both practical and beautiful.

I’ve been a fan of the design aesthetic since the “Air” line launched in 2008. As much as I liked the design, Apple’s MacBook Air line has always been underpowered and overpriced, more of a status symbol than a practical computer, until now.

Mac Book Air - Mac OS X Lion

Mac Book Air - Mac OS X Lion

The latest version of the Mac desktop OS X Lion, boasting some 250 new features, is installed on the new MacBook Airs. Some of the key features include the Mac App Store, multi-touch gestures, full-screen applications, Launchpad and Mission Control, a custom dashboard.

Other Lion goodies:

Resume, which conveniently brings your apps back exactly how you left them when you restart or quit your Mac or relaunch an app.

Auto Save, which automatically and continuously saves your documents as you work.

Mac OS X Lion feels a lot like a desktop version of Apples mobile iOS. Instead of interacting with a touch screen, you interact with the OS using gestures on the trackpad. This change will be welcomed by some and loathed by others and will require some retraining for experienced and novice users alike.

There are several basic application and system swipes that simplify interacting with the OS. In general, two finger swipes are application level gestures, three finger swipes are system level gestures.

For example, within the Safari web browser, a two-finger swipe left or right will move you forward or back a page. A two-finger swipe up will scroll down the page, two finger swipe down will scroll up the Web page.

With this swipe gesture, Apple is fundamentally changing how we interact with a page on our computers.

Before Lion, when we scrolled down a page, we typically used the mouse scroll wheel and rolled it down or dragged the scroll bars down the page. With Lion the scroll bars are gone until you use the function and the operating system uses a physical metaphor of how you would move a piece of paper on your desk. Push the page up, away from you to see the bottom of the page. Pull the page down to see the top of the page. It’s going to take me awhile to get used to this.

I like many of the new features Lion offers but there are enough that are different that I currently feel a little less productive when using it.

Apple’s ability to tightly integrate the hardware with the software is what makes the new MacBook Airs more than just a sum of its parts.

Use three fingers to swipe up and you enter mission control, an overview of all your active windows. Three fingers down and you’re back to the desktop. Click on any preview window within mission control and you’re instantly taken to that window.

Launchpad shows all of your installed apps in one place. Just like iOS you can drag and drop one application onto another to organize the applications into virtual folders. The folders show previews of the apps contained within that you can click on to see the contents of the folder.

With all the new OS features as well as updated versions of Safari, mail, address book and calendar, Lion is a bargain.

osx-lion-features-shortcuts

osx-lion-features-shortcuts

  • AirDrop, which finds nearby Macs and automatically sets up a peer-to-peer wireless connection to make transferring files quick and easy.
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