Katherine Boehret

Courage for Lion Users

Apple’s Lion has roared onto Macs, with one million downloads of the new operating system in the first day it was available. IPhone or iPad users will be familiar with Lion’s nod toward navigating with gestures. But for others, Lion could be uncharted territory. I’ve compiled some helpful shortcuts and tips for using Lion and some of its less-obvious yet useful features.

For those people frustrated by Lion, I’ll also include instructions on how to revert some features to work the way they did in Apple’s previous operating system, Snow Leopard. If all else fails, I’ll tell you how to uninstall Lion altogether. But all new operating systems require an adjustment period, so give yourself some time with Lion before giving up.

Heads or Tails of Scrolling

Probably the one feature that will take the most getting used to is Lion’s new way of scrolling. Rather than placing two fingers on the touch pad and moving them down together to navigate down in a Web page, list or document, Lion does the opposite. Think of reading a real piece of paper: As you read down, your eyes would move down and you’d push the paper up. So now, scrolling down happens by putting two fingers on the touch pad and moving up. Scrolling up works by moving two fingers down the touch pad. The scroll bar disappears when you aren’t scrolling.

If you’d rather switch back to the classic way of scrolling, go to System Preferences, Trackpad, Scroll & Zoom and uncheck “Scroll direction: natural.” Also go into System Preferences, Mouse, Point & Click and uncheck “Scroll direction: natural.” If you desperately miss seeing your scrollbar, go to System Preferences, General, Show scroll bars and choose “Always” in the top of the middle section.

Uncovering Exposé

If you’re like me, you loved using Snow Leopard’s Exposé, which took a four-finger downward swipe to expose all running apps. Lion has a more robust way of viewing all the things on a Mac, called Mission Control. A feature called App Exposé uses a three-finger downward swipe to expose all windows running in an app. This isn’t on by default, so go to System Preferences, Trackpad, select the More Gesture section (top right) and check the box for App Exposé.

To use a four-finger-swipe for this, I selected the tiny arrow in this command’s description and chose “Swipe Down with four fingers.”

Several new gestures are built into Lion for navigating to things like the Desktop, Launchpad and Mission Control. But if you don’t want to learn a bunch of new gestures, you can try Hot Corners. These let you navigate to these features by just moving the cursor to any corner of the computer screen.

Set up Hot Corners by going to System Preferences, Desktop & Screen Saver, select Screen Saver and then click on Hot Corners in the lower left. Here, you can use drop-down menus to designate how each corner will function.

You’ve Got New Mail

Apple Mail has been updated in Lion to look better and work better. Rather than displaying all messages in a top section with the body of one message shown in a window below, emails are displayed in a left-hand column with bodies of those emails displayed on the right.

If you’re yearning for the way things used to be, select Mail, Preferences, Viewing and check the box labeled “Use classic layout.” If you’d like to see icons representing folders and mailboxes on the left, like the old Mail, click “Show (or Hide to hide this)” in the Favorites Bar of Mail.

Another change in mail is conversation view, which is on by default. It numbers messages in an email back-and-forth so you know what order they go in, rather than wondering which message was most recently received. To turn off conversation view, click on the View menu in Mail and uncheck “Organize by Conversation.”

Full Screen—Finally

At last, getting a full-screen view of an opened window on a Mac doesn’t have to be done by dragging out corners of the window.

Clicking on a full-screen button (two outward-facing arrows) built into many programs in the top-right corner lets the window truly take over the entire screen, like it’s the only thing that works on the whole computer.

Several apps can run in full-screen mode at once, and swiping three fingers left or right on a laptop’s touch pad will switch between these running apps.

Clean Up Launchpad

A new gesture—pinching with your thumb and three fingers—pulls up Launchpad. This resembles the iPhone or iPad home screen, with everything on the Mac represented by small icons. Some icons are already grouped into folders, like Microsoft Office programs, if you have Office installed. Others can be grouped into folders just like on an iOS device: by dragging and dropping them onto one another to create a folder and then naming that folder.

To delete these icons, click on one and hold down until all icons start jiggling. Those icons for apps downloaded from the App Store can be deleted right here, just click on the small “x” that appears to the top left of each app icon. Other programs can be deleted only by opening the Applications folder in Finder and moving unwanted things to Trash.

Give Up?

If you absolutely give up on the Lion upgrade you downloaded and want to revert back to the Snow Leopard operating system, you’ll need to erase your drive and reinstall Snow Leopard from the original installation discs.

Before you do this, back up your data in Time Machine so it can later be moved back onto the machine.

Write to Katherine Boehret at katherine.boehret@wsj.com


You’ve Come a Long Way, Silicon Valley

December 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm PT

Oh, the Places Your Phone Will Find

December 03, 2013 at 3:14 pm PT

Xbox One: Digital Home Base for the Living Room

November 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm PT

An iPad That’s Mini in Screen Size Only

November 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm PT

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

Walt Mossberg’s Product Guides

Desktop PC’s and Laptops

The Laptops to Buy


Digital Cameras

Digital Cameras Improve Zooms, HD Function