How Mac OS X Works

Mac OS X Features

With Mac OS X Lion, Apple introduced some new features. Mac OS X supports multi-touch gestures. That means if you're using a Mac computer with either a touchpad or a Magic Mouse, you can execute certain commands using multiple touch points and performing a particular motion. The typical example is using a pinching motion to zoom out of a photo. Moving two fingers toward each other on a touchpad or Magic Mouse will cause a selected image to shrink on the screen. There are several different gestures preset in the Mac OS X system.

Another recent feature is the use of full-screen apps originally intended for Apple's mobile devices running iOS. Apple has increased the awareness of apps in the market with products like the iPhone and iPad. The company now allows Mac owners to purchase apps online through the Mac App Store. Mac OS X Lion can display these apps as full-screen applications, giving the user the maximum amount of screen real estate. You can run multiple apps this way and switch between them as often as you like.


Want to see all the applications running on your Mac? You can use Mission Control to get a quick glimpse at every application that's currently running on your computer. It's sort of a graphical version of Windows task manager -- instead of a list of programs you'll see each application represented as its own window. Similarly, the Launchpad feature lets you see all of your apps laid out in a grid with each app represented by an icon. If you had another application open at the time you open Launchpad, the program's window will fade away while you decide which app to launch next.

For those of you who may be a little absent minded, Mac OS X Lion has a feature that might save your skin. There's an auto-save feature that will help prevent you from losing work. There's also a feature called Versions that will display the history of the documents you worked on. If you decide your work is heading in the wrong direction, you can go back to an earlier version and start from there without having to throw out the whole document.

If you want to use a Mac computer as a server for your home network, Mac OS X Lion includes a feature that simplifies the setup process. And the AirDrop feature is useful for sharing. When you run AirDrop, your Mac can connect wirelessly to any other computer also running AirDrop. You don't have to be on a Wi-Fi network together. This means you'll be able to share files across Mac computers whether there's a larger network in place or not.

As far as accessibility goes, Mac OS X Lion's VoiceOver feature allows visually impaired people to access their computers more easily. For example, the computer can read documents out loud. The operating system includes voices that speak in 22 different languages. There's also a Braille verbosity setting that lets visually impaired users define exactly how much information they get back when using various applications on the Mac.

There are hundreds of features on the Mac. Some, like the video chat service Facetime, Apple first introduced on platforms like the iPhone. Others are unique to Mac computers. But to go through them all would require a book's worth of space!

One thing you can do with a Mac is change your computer's IP address. We'll learn how and why you might want to do that in the next section.