First Look: Apple's new Mac OS X 10.7 Lion
With the number of apps Mac users are likely to download, the conventional Mac OS X Dock needs a replacement. Already, many users have grown past the limited capacity inherent in the Dock, something Apple addressed with Leopard's Dock Folders and enhanced in Snow Leopard with a large-window icon display.
In Lion, Apple is expanding that concept with LaunchPad, which acts as a dedicated Dock icon that expands to present a large array of selected app icons. Like the iOS 4 Home Screen, these apps can be combined to form Folders of related apps. Also like the Home Screen, the page of apps can be flicked forward and back to reveal multiple pages of apps, using multitouch gestures on the trackpad or new Magic Mouse.
A new Zoom to full screen mode
Also new in Lion is expanded use of full screen displays within apps. The green Zoom button on the conventional Mac window title bar is now associated with going full screen; previously, the Zoom button set a Mac window to be as large as it needed to be, either accommodating the current document or taking up most of the screen.
This new behavior is more like that of the comparable button on Windows, albeit rather than only making the window as large as possible, it actually enters a full screen mode where the app takes over the entire screen and loses its window borders, controls and customary scroll bars entirely.
This full screen mode brings Mac apps into the world of the iPad, where there's no menu bar, no windows to manage, controls are simple and sparse, and activity is focused on the task at hand, as demonstrated by the new iPhoto 11, below.
Mission Control: Unified Expose, Dashboard, Spaces, and full screen apps
Another rethinking slated for Lion is a combination of tools Apple has invented to support window and app selection and organization. Expose has evolved as a way to present all the running app's windows in a view that makes it easier to jump between apps and to a specific window in an app.
With Lion's new Mission Control, its easier to move between apps that present individual windows (such as Safari) and apps that present a full screen workspace (such as the new iPhoto 11). When invoked, Mission Control presents a series of the currently running, full screen apps at the top of the window along with the Dashboard and the Desktop, and collections of apps and their windows in the middle.
Individual groups of apps can be highlighted, which spreads out the app's windows for easy viewing.
Similar to the iOS, users can also swipe to the left to bring up Dashboard widgets, a step that more tightly integrates Dashboard into the desktop environment rather than making it a separate world.
Spaces, which was a difficult concept for many uses and didn't always work flawlessly, is now integrated almost transparently, allowing full screen apps to live in their own virtual desktop so that users can switch between windows on the desktop to a full screen app such as Preview or iPhoto, and back without minimizing the full screen app.
Apple said it would continue to unveil new features of Mac OS X Lion as the target release date of summer 2011 nears.