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os x lion tipsThe user interface changes of Apple’s new operating system, Lion, are obvious to experienced Mac users. But some of the changes might have you scratching your head, when you don’t for example see traditional scroll bars, the mailbox and folder list, or large enough icons in the Finder sidebar.

You might also be annoyed by the new “reverse scrolling” feature, and the reappearance of that ping sound when you receive new mail messages. Plus, you may be wondering what the “Arrange” button and the extra items in the Finder sidebar are all about.

If you’re a veteran Mac user, you probably have figured out how to change a few things in Lion to get them back the way you like. But if you’re still confused, read on.

Scroll Bars and Sidebar

Probably the first thing you see missing in Lion are the traditional scroll bars in Finder windows. The newly designed, leaner grey scroll bars appear by default when you move your cursor over to the edge of a window. This might be okay for some users, but if you want scroll bars back, open System Preferences and click General.
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Where it says, “Show scroll bars”, you get the other two options to show scroll bars “Always,” or “When scrolling.”

While we’re in this General section, you might also want to change the size of the icons in the Sidebar of the Finder, from the default small size to larger. On my MacBook Air, the icons by default were too small.

Trackpad Gestures

While we have System Preferences open, you might want to click on the Trackpad settings and see what new multi-touch gestures are available in Lion. The new gestures are great, but they are still not as advanced as what you will find in BetterTouchTool How To Use Your Trackpad To Powerfully Navigate Any App [Mac] How To Use Your Trackpad To Powerfully Navigate Any App [Mac] Read More .
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If you like using BTT or a similar multi-touch application, deselecting “Three finger drag,” under Point & Drag might provide you better functionality in BTT.

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Also, if the reverse scrolling direction of the scroll bars is not your cup of tea, simply deselect “Scroll direction: natural” and you can scroll the way you always have on your Mac.
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Finder Preferences

There are additional items in the Finder Sidebar, and most of them you probably want to keep there. But if you don’t need something like  AirDrop or any other item, you can select Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and deselect any items you don’t want visible.
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Also notice that by default, status information is missing at the bottom of Finder windows. If you click View > Show Status Bar in the Finder menu bar, you get back useful information like the number of files in a folder, or the amount of memory space you have available in the internal drive of your computer.

All My Files

You will also notice a new sidebar item labeled, “All My Files”, which shows and sorts all your files by Kind, Contacts, Images, PDF Documents, etc. This is a great idea, but you might be overwhelmed by too many files displayed at once.
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So you could us the Arrange drop-down menu, described below, to sort your files by a particular category. Or you may consider changing the settings for All My Files. You can control-click on it and select, “Show Search Criteria.” From there, you might add a criteria (by clicking the + button) to limit the files that show up. For instance, you may only want to see files created in the week or few days.
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Arrange Button

While we’re talking about the Finder, you might have noticed that there’s a new item in the toolbar labeled, “Arrange.” If you find your Desktop or any Finder window of items in chaos with files having no semblance of order, the drop-down menu in Arrange can quickly help you tidy things up. You can order items by Kind, Date Modified, Size, etc.
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Mail Under Lion

The new Mail interface is probably the most noticeable of all changes in Lion, which provides a widescreen display of your messages and neatly arranges and groups your messages—conversation style—in a single column.
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However, when you open Mail you might wonder what happened to the sidebar that includes your list of mailboxes and folders. It’s not there by default, but simply click View > Show Mailbox List to get the sidebar back. There’s also an icon in the upper-left of Mail in which you can hide and show the sidebar.

Also, Apple by default turned back on the Ping sound for new Mail messages. If that sound annoys you, open the Mail’s Preferences > General and select “None” under “New messages sound.”

New Folder with Selections

One great little feature new to Lion is the ability to Control-select items on your desktop or in any Finder window, and then  choose “New Folder with Selection (…Items)” to have those items put into a folder.
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I’ve been using a AppleScript action that does the same thing, but now it’s available as part of the operating system. You will find this nifty feature a small boost in your productivity for organizing files into folders.

Though there are many interface changes in Lion, Apple has kept the option open for you to do some customizing to get things back the way you like. Let us know what changes you have made to tame Lion.

For other MUO articles about Lion, start with these posts:

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