Apple giving Snow Leopard to MobileMe customers for free

Apple has sent an email to MobileMe customers [1. So I’m told. My Apple email hasn’t worked for almost two days.] explaining how they can request a free Snow Leopard installer DVD, according to Macgasm. Installing Snow Leopard will let stragglers upgrade to Lion and then install iCloud.

It’s unclear if Snow Leopard will be made available for free for everyone or just select MobileMe customers.

[Via Macgasm]

Loving Lion’s Resume feature

Mac OS X Lion introduced Resume, a feature that restores a compatible app’s most recent window location(s) and save state with each launch. Today I experienced just how helpful Resume can be.

I was working on an article earlier this afternoon. As usual, I had several Safari tabs open as well as iTunes and TextEdit. A few minutes into working I had to leave to meet my kids at the bus stop. My Mac’s battery was low, so I shut it down and plugged it in to charge while I was gone.

About an hour later, when the kids were home and we had unpacked their things and chatted about the day, I re-started the Mac and it was like I never stepped away. Safari re-launched my tabs, iTunes opened and TextEdit was ready to go, with the cursor blinking where I had left it.

All I had to do to accomplish this was choose Shut Down from the Apple Menu. No more juggling startup items, running AppleScripts at startup or even hitting Save. I love it.

Note: to prevent Resume from restoring an app’s state the next time you launch it, hold down the Option key when quitting or just hit Command-Option-Q.

Defending Launchpad

Launchpad is one of the marquee features of Mac OS X Lion. It’s an app launcher that closely resembles an iOS device’s home screen. You can even create folders and arrange your icons, much as you do on an iPhone, iPod touch or an iPad. I like it, but many Mac veterans do not, dismissing it as a beginner’s tool.

I’d wager that “home users” get more use out of it than Mac veterans. I also feel that it does so spectacularly well. Apple has done a great job with Launchpad, and it’s easy to see how it benefits a huge number of users [1. Remember, geeks like you and me are the minority of Mac customers.]. Here are a few things Launchpad gets right.

Beyond alphabetical order

For years, the Applications folder has stored apps in alphabetical order. Other sort options are available, like modification date, size, kind and label. That’s great, but one very useful criteria has never been available: frequency. Launchpad lets you sort your app icons by frequency. For example, you can put your most frequently-used apps right on the first page or even in a folder. Likewise, move the apps you rarely use out of the way. For many users, “swipe-click” will be much faster than clicking through several folders to find an app.

A cluttered desktop without the clutter

I’ve met many computer users whose desktops are scattered with icons. Most of them aliases to applications and other files buried within the hard drive. Why do they keep these things scattered about the desktop? Convenience. Each is reachable with a click. Now, they can invoke a screen littered with app icons when it’s needed and dismiss it when it’s not.

No Applications folder

If you’ve worked with as many novice users as I have, you’ve probably heard this question: “Where is my Applications folder?” Remember, this stuff isn’t second nature to a huge number of people. Launchpad provides a simple answer: “It’s a swipe away.” No matter where you are, what application is open or what you’re looking at, you are a single gesture away from the contents of your Applications folder.

Simple because it should be

Many of you pine for a more robust Launchpad. Documents would be nice, maybe folders, or even Dropbox integration. If you need those things, check out LaunchBar or my beloved Alfred. Launchpad is an introduction to the idea of an app launcher for those who aren’t used to one. Apple will add to it when it’s darn good and ready. For now, it’s just what it should be. Effective and simple.

My favorite Mission Control trick

Earlier today I was lucky enough to recored an episode of Mac Voices with Chuck Joiner. We talked about Mac OS X Lion and its new features. During the discussion I shared my favorite Mission Control trick, which lets you quickly shuffle trough a stack of windows within a single app. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Invoke Mission Control. [1. By default, Mission Control is opened by a bottom-to-top, three-finger swipe. However, I’ve assigned it to a hot corner. Old habits die hard.]
  2. Identify the app with several windows open (in the image above, it’s Microsoft Word).
  3. Mouse over each window in the stack. You’ll notice a blue focus ring appears on the window the cursor is “touching.”
  4. Hit the Space Bar.

As you do, a preview of each window will move to the front. When you’ve found the one you’re after, hit Return to return to the desktop with that window front-and-center.

This has been possible in the Finder with Command-Tab (to bring the target application up front) and Command-tilde (to cycle through an app’s open windows), but I’d argue that the Mission Control method takes exactly the same amount of time, if not a little bit less. Try it and see.

Loving Mac OS X Lion’s Dictionary

Dictionary apps aren’t sexy. Even Apple’s Mac app “Dictionary” doesn’t get stage time during press events. Yet, Dictionary is among the top reasons to buy Mac OS X Lion. Features like Wikipedia integration, multiple dictionaries, gesture support and multiple word views make Dictionary a pleasure to use. Here’s why you ought to get excited about a dictionary application.

Multiple Dictionary Options

With Lion, Apple has updated Dictionary’s “New Oxford American English” dictionary to the third edition of 2010 (previous versions used an edition from 2005). There are two thesauruses and six dictionaries to choose from:

  1. New Oxford American Dictionary
  2. Apple Dictionary
  3. Japanese Synonyms
  4. Japanese-English
  5. Japanese
  6. British Oxford Dictionary of English (also 2010 3rd edition)

Select the ones you’d like to use via the app’s preferences, and re-order them to determine how they’ll appear in the app’s toolbar.

Once you’ve made your choices and gotten the order just so, you can re-name each label in the app’s toolbar:

  1. Control-click (or right-click) the dictionary’s name.
  2. A contextual menu appears. Select “Edit Label.”
  3. A new sheet appears. Enter your custom label and click OK.

That’s it! If you change your mind, Control-click the label again and select “Revert to Original.”

New Two-Pane Display

Apple has given Dictionary a sidebar, similar to that in iPhoto and iTunes. Now, you can see the word you looked up as well as a list of similar and derivative words. Also, Lion’s dictionary shows every reference to your target word across all resources at once. Snow Leopard made you click between dictionaries, etc. one at a time. Below is a look at Dictionary in Lion (top) and Snow Leopard (bottom).

Gesture Support

Hover your cursor over a word and double-tap with three fingers to reveal the dictionary entry for that word. I use this feature often.

Lion’s Dictionary is a huge upgrade from its predecessors. Check it out if you haven’t.


Preview bug in Mac OS X Lion

I’ve found an annoying bug in Lion’s Preview. If you open an image and select “Export” to save it as a new file format, you must change the file’s name after you select your target format from the drop-down menu. If you don’t, your custom name will revert to the default when you choose the new format.

For example, let’s say I take a screenshot. My Mac names it “Screen shot 2011-09-20 at 10.57.50 PM.”  Next, I open the image in Preview and select “Export” from the File Menu. Then I change the name to something like “safari_screenshot,” and finally select “JPEG” from the format drop-down menu. The name will then revert to “Screen shot 2011-09-20 at 10.57.50 PM.” This was not the case with Snow Leopard.

I hope this gets fixed soon, as I use Preview a lot for simple image editing.

AirDrop’s problem

Ryan Cash points out the trouble with AirDrop. Unlike file sharing with iChat via Bonjour or even popping something in a shared Dropbox folder, you can’t share something via AirDrop unless your recipient has AirDrop up and running.

 “With AirDrop, you’d have to either:

  • ping them on iChat (or another messaging client) and ask them to go on AirDrop
  • yell out loud “Go on AirDrop!!!”
  • fly a paper plane or carrier pigeon their way with the same message

AirDrop adds an unnecessary step to the file-sharing process that could be eliminated if people within 30 feet of you just showed up without needing AirDrop open.”

Hadn’t thought of that, but it’s a problem.

Taking Your OS X Lion to the Max now available

I’m pleased to announce that my latest book, Taking Your Mac OS X Lion To The Max, is now available. It was co-authored by myself, Mike Grothaus and Steve Sande.

Our book walks you through the awesome features and apps standard on the Mac and the new OS X 10.7 Lion to help you become a true power user. You’ll discover keyboard shortcuts and gestures to help save time–whether you’re on a iMac, Mac mini, Macbook Pro, Air, or other Mac computer.

Beginning with the core of OS X – the Finder – Taking Your OS X Lion to the Max outlines many of the new features and powerful revisions that make Lion the best version of OS X yet. My colleagues and I spent countless hours with Lion to show you how to fully leverage your Mac and the new OS X.

Check it out, and see what Lion can do.

Add custom flag labels to Mail in Lion

Mail, Apple’s email client that ships with Mac OS X Lion, features colored flags that can be used to highlight and group messages. There are seven to choose from: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple and Grey. To assign a flag to a message, simply open the message and click the flag button in the toolbar. By default it will apply the currently-displayed color to that message. To select a different color, click the black disclosure triangle on the right (see below).

That’s great, but labels like “Red” and “Green” aren’t very descriptive. It would be better to apply a custom label, like “Soccer” or “Budget.” Fortunately, you can! Here’s how.

First, you must assign at least two different flags to (at least) two messages. Once that’s done, a “Reminders” area will appear among the mailboxes list on the left [1. If it’s not there already.]. Click the disclosure triangle to reveal a list of the message you’ve flagged (see below).

Next, right-click (or Control-click) on one of the flags and select “Rename Mailbox…” from the contextual menu. The flag’s name will then be ready to accept your edit! Type the new name, hit Return and you’re done.

Note that the message count depicted next to my green flag above (“4”) represents the number of messages with a green flag, not their read/unread state.