Part three of my initial impressions of Lion covers Finder, the new spelling auto-correct feature, and some miscellaneous settings. Make sure to read parts one, two, and four of this series as well!

Finder

I haven’t found many changes in Finder, so I don’t have too many things to say about it (yet?).

The Negative

  • For some reason, the upgrade unset my “Snap to Grid” preference on the Desktop.  I just realized it apparently also reset my grid spacing. Just an annoyance, and easily fixed.
  • The default view when opening a new Finder window is something called “All My Files”.  Really? What a useless view. It shows you six or seven files of various formats in the window, and if you scroll down there is a “More” icon. Hardly all my files. Maybe I’m now just one of the few people left in the world who actually remembers where I put my files for whom this new view is worthless, but I doubt it. Besides, what was wrong with Spotlight? Or search? Whatever. At least you can change the default back to opening your home folder–or any other folder for that matter.
  • The status bar at the bottom of Finder windows is not shown by default.  I can only think that perhaps Apple took a page out of Microsoft’s book by hiding this by default. Again, whatever–it’s easy to un-hide it.

The Positive

  • You can change the default search behavior from “search my entire friggin’ Mac” to “just search the folder I’m in and its subfolders”. Somehow I missed that in previous iterations of OS X. That would have been a handy option to change.

Spelling Auto-Correction

If I had left auto-correct enabled, it probably would have been the death of me–or at least a contributing factor. If you’ve ever used an iDevice, it’s the same sort of cutesy little pop-up window-thing as in iOS. And for iPhones and iPads it seems to work well enough, because typically most people could probably race a snail trying to type out a sentence on an iDevice…and lose. But it does give the user time to realize that the auto-correct box has popped up.

Contrast this with a real computer. I’m not a super-fast typist or anything, but I can probably roll at about 70-80 words per minute when I get going. On the downside, I do make a decent amount of mistakes while typing. The “problem” is that when I’m typing and make a mistake or misspell something, I don’t wait before hitting the space bar to see if Lion would like to suggest an alternate spelling.  No, I just cruise right along like I’ve done since that typing class I took in the 7th grade, and therein lies the problem: instead of only marking words as misspelled, by default Lion will just auto-correct the word for you (because you did after all press that convenient space bar to accept whatever inane word Lion suggested).

The example I wrote down for reference was a reply to an email I was trying to type dealing with the website www.vascan.org. Got help me, but I almost punched my iMac trying to get that thing written. Every time I tried to type “vascan.org”, as soon as I hit the period separating the domain from the TLD, Lion would helpfully change it to “va scan.org” (adding a space between “va” and “scan”). That is not useful, it’s detrimental.

Fortunately disabling auto-correct is as easy as opening System Preferences, clicking on the “Language & Text” icon, choosing the “Text” tab, and unchecking the box next to “correct spelling automatically”. Pro-tip: be sure you close and reopen whatever applications you have open in order for the autocorrect changes to take effect.  I had issues with this and restarting the application seemed to help.

Miscellaneous Preferences

  • The new “natural” scroll direction is anything but natural.  Let me explain this one. If you haven’t read about it, Lion reverses the direction you’ve been scrolling on a PC since 1993.  When I use a scroll wheel–or the two-finger swipe on a trackpad–my brain has been conditioned to believe that I am manipulating the scroll bar, not the window contents. When I’m reading a web page and I get to the bottom of the window, I know I need to move the scroll bar towards the bottom to view the rest of the page. Contrast this to how a tablet works: when I am reading a web page in Safari on my iPad, it’s supposed to feel like I’m reading a book or real page, and thus I put my finger on the screen and “push” the document in the direction I want it to go, just like I would a piece of paper on my desk. This is not how I interact with my iMac, or any other real computer.  Fortunately this is easy to disable by unchecking the “Scroll direction: natural” on the “Scroll & Zoom” tab of the Trackpad preference pane. (I believe it’s the same for mice, except under the Mouse preference pane. I don’t have a mouse connected to my laptop to verify this, though.) This even affects scrolling left and right, such as going backwards or forwards through browser history. When I want to go “back,” I swipe to the left because that’s the direction “back” has always been. Apparently Apple would like you to believe that “back” is now somewhere off to the right side of your Mac.
  • The new mouse and trackpad gestures seem mostly useful, but are almost overdone.  You owe it to yourself to take at least a cursory look at all the gestures under the Mouse and/or Trackpad preference panes, so that when you accidentally trigger something, you’ll have a good idea what just happened. Also, the gestures feel weird on a Magic Mouse, but I blame that on the hardware and not the software. For a company that used to specialize in human interface design, their peripherals sure do destroy my wrists and hands after eight hours of non-stop use.
  • Speaking of gestures, the new “Smart Zoom” gesture is magnificent.  One of my complaints lately is that the size of text on the screen seems to go down as pixel density goes up. You’d think OS developers would be able to compensate for this automatically and make rendered text more pixel-dense but still be the same height as before, instead of making users jack up their font sizes to compensate. Anyway, the point here is that two-finger double-tapping will zoom a window to where it thinks the content is, just like on an iDevice. It makes reading web pages with tiny fonts so much easier.
  • There is an “Advanced Options” pane by right-clicking on a user in the “Users & Groups” preference pane.  From here you can change the user’s uidNumber, gidNumber, loginShell, and various other things. I haven’t verified whether this existed before or not, and it wouldn’t be useful 99% of the time, but for that 1% of the time where you really have to change your uidNumber, you can do it from here.
  • The “About This Mac” / “More Info…” button opens a pared-down version of the System Information application.  It shows the following tabs: Overview, Displays, Storage, and Memory. The Memory tab will even tell you how many slots you have, which ones are filled, and has a link at the bottom for “Memory Upgrade Instructions” that takes you to an Apple KB article on upgrading memory for whichever type of Mac you’re using. That’s kind of nice. And of course you can still get to the full System Information application as well.
  • LaunchPad doesn’t need to exist.  Another one of those “Top New Features” with Lion, you can read about it here. I have no idea why the Dock, Spotlight, and the friggin’ Applications folder weren’t good enough for finding and displaying applications. I will not acknowledge its presence any further than to say that my MBP and iMac are not iPads!
  • Suspending my MacBook Pro with a  full-screen application in the foreground will not resume to the full-screened app.  This is something I’ve noticed while typing up these notes. I’m using Safari in full-screen mode, which I guess means that it gets its own desktop(-ish). Anyway, when I close the lid of the MacBook Pro to read over my notes, then open it back up, it always wants to switch away from Safari to another application on the original desktop Safari was on before I full-screened it. It’s a little annoying–probably a bug–but nothing I can’t cope with.
  • Scroll bars are hidden most of the time.  To tell the truth, I haven’t noticed the scroll bars being absent that much. I purposely left the setting at the default to see how much I actually look at them for feedback. It turns out I use the scroll bars for two very important things. First, it gives me feedback on document length. Second, it shows me exactly how far I’ve gotten in that document, and how much farther I have to go to hit the end. So far it hasn’t been a big deal to have them only show up when I scroll, but I confess I did re-enable them on the iMac at work.
  • What’s the point of rubber-band scrolling?  It’s cute on an iDevice, but it’s distracting on a real computer and slows down real work.
  • I would like for Apple to show me that DFS support actually exists in Finder.  This feature excited me when I first read about it. Apple says, “Lion supports DFS URLs, drill-down, failover, and reconnects when connecting to Windows file servers.” Sweet! So I click on the desktop, Cmd-K to connect to a server, type cifs://server/dfsshare, wait for a while, get a list of top-level folders. Awesome! Wait…we use access-based enumeration, so I really shouldn’t see all these folders. Oh well, I guess that still doesn’t work. Click on my department’s top-level share, and get…nothing. An empty folder, a.k.a. the DFS root folder that should have triggered a DFS referral. #@$&%!

Summary

It may seem like I have a lot of negative things to say about Lion–and guess I do–but by and large I haven’t found too many things that I cannot disable, reset, or otherwise ignore to make the Lion experience a useful one. Coming up tomorrow I plan to finish this series with a post about changes to a couple of miscellaneous applications and weigh in with my thoughts on Auto Save and App/System Resume.