OS X Lion: The Joys Of Airdrop, The Perils Of Natural Scrolling

OSX Lion

Over the past few days, I've been testing out the new MacBook Air, putting it through a variety of gaming and multi-media trials. My full impressions will be up tomorrow, but before that I wanted to call your attention to some features of Lion, the new version of OS X, that you may have overlooked. There are tons of additions, but two in particular stand out.

The Joys Of AirDrop

As someone with both a desktop and a laptop in my house, and as someone who does a fair bit of travelling for work, AirDrop is easily my favorite addition of Lion.

Before a long trip, I would often download a bunch of new shows and movies to my desktop and then go through the time-consuming process of transferring those files over to my laptop. Generally this involved finding the biggest memory card I had, waiting for the files to copy to the memory card, bringing the memory card over to the laptop and transferring the files over to that. Transferring 10 gigs could take as long as an hour when you include the need to constantly babysit the process.

AirDrop puts an end to that. Basically it lets you make a direct WiFi connection between two Macs running Lion. There's no need to configure a router or change security settings. You hop into AirDrop (listed in Finder), and you'll instantly see any other computers also in AirDrop within a 30 foot radius. Want to bring a bunch of files from one computer to the other? Just drag and drop. Both computers will need to accept the transfer, and then it's off and running.

Granted it's not going to transfer at speeds nearly as fast as Thunderbolt. In my tests it took around 25 minutes to transfer about 5 gigs. But that's 25 minutes I don't have to sit, hovering over the computers, waiting for a memory stick to fill up. Hell, I don't even need a memory stick. It's the most painless wireless networking I've ever had to do.

The Perils Of Natural Scrolling

As much as I love AirDrop, there's one feature in Lion that I'm not terribly fond of: Natural Scrolling. When you upgrade to Lion from Snow Leopard, your touchpad will switch to Natural Scrolling by default. Before Lion, you scrolled up and down a page by swiping in the opposite direction. It's a little strange, but if you think of it like you're literally swiping a piece of paper on table it made sense. And we were all used to it. After all, that's how the iPad and iPhone scroll through pages as well.

Natural Scrolling turns that on its head. Where you move your finger is where the page moves. Want to move up the page? Move two fingers up. Conceptually that seems to make more sense, but when we've all been taught one way, it's extremely tough to teach our brains something else.

After a few hours attempting to accept the reality of Natural Scrolling, I simply quit. Thankfully it's extremely easy to go back. Just head into your touchpad settings and turn off Natural Scrolling and you're back to normal.

Folks who update to Lion from Snow Leopard will probably find this feature perplexing and frustrating, and hopefully most of them know enough to change the touchpad settings back. If not, here's hoping they know now.