10 things you need to know before upgrading to Mac OS X Lion

By John Walton, July 21 2011
10 things you need to know before upgrading to Mac OS X Lion

Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" has been released by Apple today. While it's not the operating system installed on most corporate laptops, we're willing to bet there's a higher than average number of people in the ranks of business travellers using Apple's ultra-light MacBook Airs (also updated today!).

Here are some tips on what you need to know before you take the plunge with the installation (and of course, it goes without saying... make sure you have a full backup of your system before you do).

Before you install

Export your Quicken data first

If you use any of Quicken's accounting software that's earlier than Quicken Essentials, you absolutely must export your Quicken data before upgrading to Lion. Quicken doesn't run on Lion, and you won't be able to access your old data with your new app unless you export it before upgrading.

Leave enough time

The 3.74GB file you have to download from the App Store is pretty large, so make sure you have enough time. For about three quarters of the installation time, you'll be able to use your computer, but when the installer auto-runs you'll need to save everything and your computer won't be usable for the rest of the install.

If you want to check on the download's progress, go to the Mac App Store and click on the Purchased icon at the top of the window.

Here's a rough guide for timings of the download file:

An 8 Mbps line took us about an hour and a half.
A 10 Mbps line should take just under an hour.
A 50 Mbps line should take about 15 minutes.

We found that on an 8 Mbps line we were unable to use the computer while the final parts of the installation are taking place.

Consider popping into an Apple Store

Apple Stores around the world have special Lion wireless networks where you can bring your laptop and install quickly. Since they use N-speed Wi-Fi (the fastest standard), it should take around 15 minutes provided your laptop is also N-enabled.

So if you're somewhere where your speed is under 10 Mbps, consider nipping down to your local store.

Don't forget to save the installer

If you want to save yourself the time (and the data) of downloading Lion for each computer where you want to install it, quit the Install app that autoruns.

If you don't copy it over beforehand, the installer auto-deletes itself and you'll have to re-download it.

After quitting the installer, find the file in your Applications folder (it's pretty obviously named) and copy it to another drive (flash drive, backup drive, and so on) before you run the installer. Follow CNet's instructions on how to burn an installation DVD

Changes after installing

There are a few things that you may want to change in Lion.

Swap scrolling around

In Lion, the direction of two-fingered scrolling has changed to what Apple calls "natural" scrolling. If you don't have the time to retrain your muscle memory right now, you can disable reverse scrolling both for your mouse and for your trackpad.

Head on over to preferences and choose Trackpad > Scroll direction:natural > disable or uncheck Mouse > Move content in the direction of finger movement when scrolling or navigating. Both options return your Mac to its traditional "down-means-down" scrolling behaviour.

Get the two-fingered forward/back swiping gesture back

If you're used to using a two-fingered swipe to go back and forward in Safari, you'll find that the swipes are reversed. (So forward is now back, and back is now forward.) It's associated with the "natural" scrolling feature above, so if you don't like it then turn off natural scrolling.

Changes in Mail.app

Mail.app has changed too, which means that you'll have a few minutes to wait while all your data is migrated. There are also new greyscale icons. Hover over each of them to figure out what they are.

You'll also find the new "Conversations" feature -- which is a bit reminiscent of Gmail -- that automatically groups related messages. You'll also have the option of using more than one set of flags to group messages that are important, which you need to reply to, or that you want together for some other reason.

There's also a much-improved search function.

If you're a fan of using mailboxes to sort mail, it's a bit of a hunt to find out how to add them to the toolbar. Just click the "Show" button on the far left to bring up the mailboxes bar, then drag the mailbox to the toolbar (next to the Inbox button, perhaps).

Turn off AutoCorrect

By default, AutoCorrect is now activated in applications. That's pretty frustrating, especially if you work in an industry that uses jargon Apple hasn't added to the dictionary.

Preferences > Language & Text > Text tab > un-check "Correct spelling automatically".

Things you'll have to live with

No more Save As

Unfortunately, some apps have lost the "Save As" function. (Check out TextEdit, for example.) We reckon that this is now a mixture of "Duplicate" and "Export", but we don't think that's an improvement.

No more Command-D for "Don't Save"

In previous versions, you could hit command-D to select "Don't Save". This doesn't work in Lion.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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