Lions, Scrollbars, and Launchpad, Oh My!

Wednesday, Apple released Mac OS Lion, the newest major release of the Mac operating system. Today, Apple announced that Lion has been downloaded over one million times. After installing, there are several changes that are obvious, like the redesigned Finder windows, the addition of Launchpad and Mission Control in the dock, and the new login window. I wanted to take a little time today and write about scrolling in Lion.

One of the first things I noticed when I opened a Finder window in Lion was that the number of items was not displayed in the bottom of the window. As something I’m very used to seeing, I quickly restored that by clicking the View Menu, and selecting “Show Status Bar.” The second thing that I noticed was not what I was used to was the way the window reacted when I scrolled using two fingers on my trackpad.

I had a flashback to Halo days, when I would sign onto another person’s gamer profile, and up was down and down was up. In Tiger, Leopard, and Snow Leopard, dragging two fingers downward on the trackpad would scroll a window down. In Lion, the same gesture by default tries to scroll up. After getting used to a gesture for 5 years or so, I was very quick to adjust the settings so the behavior I was used to was restored. If you’ve installed Lion and are stuck feeling like your scrolling is reversed, change the behavior here: Go to System Preferences, click “trackpad” (or Mouse if you’re using a Mighty Mouse), then uncheck the “Natural scrolling” option.

After changing the behavior off the the new “Natural” scrolling, I went about my business, scrolling normally until I opened Launchpad. Launchpad is an application launching program that looks and feels like the home screen on an iPad or iPhone. Here’s the rub: On an iPhone or iPad, you “flick” the screen. moving the screen with your fingertips. On the computer, your gesture is affecting the scroll-bar, an interface element that Apple has done away with in Lion. Since we Apple users are so used to using our iPhones and iPads by flicking the screen, but scrolling our windows by moving the scroll bar, Apple tried to give us both, and it turns out, neither works fully.

When I’m in a window, the new, “Natural” scrolling seems reversed, but when I’m in Launchpad, the old, “move the scroll bar” method seems reversed.

While I do like Launchpad, I read a review of Lion that said Apple missed the boat. A real way to bridge the gap between iOS and Mac OS would be to have a beginner level finder (which would be primarily like the iPad/iPhone), and an advanced Finder, which would still feature interaction with the windows, and launching apps from the Applications folder.

I imagine that sort of switch will happen in 10.8, or 11, but it does seem somewhat inevitable.

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