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Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: new multitouch gestures, Dock integration for Exposť, Launchpad, Mission Control

Apple has already demonstrated a variety of changes on the way for Mac OS X Lion's Dock, Dashboard, Exposé, and Spaces, but there are a variety of interesting details about how these components will work together, and how new multitouch gestures will make them effortlessly available.

One of the biggest new features of Mac OS X Lion is the rethinking of how Dashboard, Exposé and Spaces work. These features, originally added to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard, respectively, are now being freshly presented in Lion with a direct influence from iOS.

A previous report on the new Dock, Finder and Desktop outlined some of the iOS-influenced changes Apple will be making in Lion, which mirror the upward borrowing of features that has occurred between iPhoto and Aperture, as well as iMovie 6 and the new Final Cut Pro X.

The iOS redesign of Mac OS X

In particular, Dashboard is being transformed from a nebulous widget layer that appears above the Mac desktop into a utility area that slides in from the left of the desktop, much like the iOS controls that slide in from the left of the multitasking bar to present volume, brightness, audio playback controls, and a screen orientation lock.

Secondly, Exposé is being made more accessible. Rather than having four Exposé modes (tile all windows, tile windows of one app, hide all windows to show desktop, and show Dashboard) invoked by key commands or mouse buttons, Lion improves upon Snow Leopard's multitouch gestures to make tapping into Exposé even easier.

In Snow Leopard, Apple made Exposé's F9 "all windows" mode accessible with a 'four fingers down' trackpad gesture, and the F11 "hide all windows, show desktop" mode available with 'four fingers up.' The same gesture when made right or left invokes the App Switcher. The company is experimenting with similar gestures for iOS.

Lion takes this a step further by renaming and enhancing Expose's F9 "all windows" mode under the new moniker Mission Control, which further integrates Spaces and Dashboard, showing both all open windows and all alternative desktops (including Dashboard) within any parallel Spaces being used.

Changes in Lion System Preferences

As part of a trend that appears to feature multitouch gestures over mouse button clicks, the Exposé panel of System Preferences now presents a single hot key menu for each function (set by default to F9, F10, F11 and F12), with a list of options that no longer include invoking the various Exposé modes with the secondary or middle mouse button. Gestures for invoking Exposé features can be configured from the Trackpad pane.

An additional option has been added to the Active Screen Corner menus which now lets users invoke Launchpad from one of the corner hotspots.

Additionally, Spaces is no longer an "expert" feature that must be turned on manually. In Lion, it's always on, and made more accessible to novice users though the iOS-like use of Full Screen Apps, which take up an entire Space. So rather than juggling a variety of virtual desktops (an idea that is often confusingly complex, particularly for less technical users), Spaces is now a very visual tool for moving between a number of Full Screen Apps, much more akin to the iPad.

Power users can continue to manage multiple Spaces configured with specific apps, and more easily switch between them using Mission Control. But even users who have a hard time conceptualizing different virtual desktops can now take multiple apps (such as Mail, Safari, Preview, iCal, and so on) Full Screen and easily swap between them, just as one might jump between iOS apps running in the background.

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