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11 Things You Didn't Know About Mountain Lion

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This post is part of a series called Mastering Mountain Lion.
Quick Tip: Create a Bootable Mountain Lion Flash Drive or DVD

OS X Mountain Lion includes over 200 new features for your Mac, but some of the major ones aren’t mentioned on the official webpage. If you go looking around in nooks and crannies, you might just find some valuable minor features that you’d never even thought of. I’ve been using the operating system since its first developer preview was released and there are a few nifty features that lie tucked away and out of plain sight. Read on to see what they are!


Chess is Multiplayer via Game Center

Selecting a match with a human over the Internet.
Selecting a match with a human over the Internet.

Do you like a good game of chess? How about one with friends instead of the computer? Yep, Macs do that now right out of the box. All you have to do is sign in to Game Center and a new game either by clicking Game > New or using the shortcut Command+N. Then click the “Players” drop-down menu and select “GameCenter Match”. Find a friend you’d like to play with and invite him to the match.


Time Machine Supports Backing Up to Multiple Destinations

One of my favorite features of OS X is Time Machine. It keeps a backup of every single thing on your computer’s hard drive and automatically backs up whatever takes place during your daily routine. I love this system, but what if my external hard drive breaks and there’s no way to recover the backups that have been made?

Mountain Lion provides a solution to this issue by giving you the option to back up data to more than one destination using Time Machine. This means that you’ll have as many backups of all your important files as you’d like, whether they’re at your home or office.


You Can Finally Search in Launchpad

Searching for
Searching for "midi" in Launchpad.

When the iOS springboard came to the Mac in the form of Launchpad, I’ll admit that I wasn’t very impressed. Not only was there no easy way to reorganize things, but there also wasn’t a search function.

Thankfully, Apple added the latter in OS X 10.8. It’s a feature that should have been there from the start and in my experience, it works as it should. Just think of Launchpad search as Spotlight for your app launcher overlay. There’s still no simple method of automatically organizing your icons by name or date, but I’m sure Apple will add that in OS X 10.9 next year, if not in a 10.8.x update.


Progress Bars for Transfers or Downloads

The progress on a transfer shows right below it.
The progress on a transfer shows right below it.

One of my favorite new features in Mountain Lion’s edition of Finder is that it will provide you with a live preview of the progress on a transfer or download. Instead of the simple transparent appearance of an item that’s being transferred, there’s a little progress bar on the bottom of the icon. If you want detail on how fast it’s copying or the exact amount that has been transferred so far, just refer to the browser/Finder copy window.


Bouncing Dock Icons Can Muted with a Hover

You know how all Mac apps bounce when they want to alert you of something that’s going on? It can get a little annoying and in all previous versions of OS X, you had to click the icon to get the app to stop. Now, however, you can simply hover over any annoying app to silence it from disturbing you.


Rename or Move Files from within an App

I can edit the name of a document right from within the editor.
I can edit the name of a document right from within the editor.

OS X Lion introduced Versions, which autosaved copies of a document that you were editing. In Mountain Lion, Apple took things in the title bar of an app a bit further, adding rename capability, the ability to move the document to a different folder or iCloud, a duplicate option, and locking. You can access these features by hovering over the title of what you’re editing and clicking the downward arrow beside it.


Finder Allows Video Encoding

Finder's hidden media encoding window.
Finder's hidden media encoding window.

If you have a video file that’s not the correct format for QuickTime or something, the old solution was to use a converter like Handbrake to re-encode it for playback universally. Now, however, Finder includes this functionality along with a few advanced options. Just right click (Control+click) the video file and click “Encode Selected Video Files”. You can even encode multiple files at once with this method.

You’ll be presented with an “Encode Media” window that asks you what resolution you’d like to convert to and whether you’d like the result to be higher quality or more compatible with different players and devices. Higher quality will result in a better bitrate and sample rate, but if you want the file to be playable in more locations, quality is sacrificed.

You can even see the progress of the encode in your menu bar.
You can even see the progress of the encode in your menu bar.

I really liked how there’s an audio option in case I want to listen to the video instead. The Apple ProRes setting is great for uncompressed video, but only if your source is good enough to create this; you can’t simply up-convert.

Once you’ve figured out exactly how you want your video to appear after encoding, you can set a destination and choose whether you’d like to delete the source file or not. Click “Continue” and you’re off!


Two-Finger Swipe for Navigating the Mac App Store

Gesture support in the App Store helps you hop around faster.
Gesture support in the App Store helps you hop around faster.

In OS X Lion, Apple brought some very useful gestures to Safari. One of the most used, and my personal favorite, is two-finger swipe with a trackpad. (If you’re using a Magic Mouse, this is simply a one-finger swipe.) I’ve been using a MacBook since last October and enjoy navigating back and forth in Safari using gestures as opposed to shortcuts (Command+left arrow) or clicking buttons.

If you’re an avid user of these gestures, then you’ll be glad to know that Apple has brought them to the Mac App Store in Mountain Lion. You can swipe right or left with two fingers to navigate the store quicker than before. My only complaint about this is things sometimes need to re-render when I return to the previous page. It can be annoying and I think the store should keep a cache of the page instead of reloading it every time I go back.


Open Quick Look with Three-Finger Tap

Just tap something with three fingers in Finder (trackpad only) to bring up Quick Look.
Just tap something with three fingers in Finder (trackpad only) to bring up Quick Look.

In text-heavy areas of OS X, a three-finger tap will define the word that you’re hovering over. But when you’re in Finder, why not find a different purpose for the shortcut? Apple did just that; you can now open Quick Look for an item by taping it with three fingers. It’s a much faster way of accessing the preview interface than clicking the item and pressing the spacebar.


Share Media to Twitter or Another Supported Photo Sharing Service from Quick Look

Mountain Lion makes it very easy to share things.
Mountain Lion makes it very easy to share things.

I used to open up a Twitter client to share a screenshot or photo from my Mac, but now things have gotten a lot easier. All you have to do in Mountain Lion is connect your Twitter account in System Preferences > Mail, Contacts & Calendars, open up Quick Look on a photo that you’d like to share, and click which service you’d like to share it to.

Then, just like in iOS 5, you’ll be presented with a sharing overlay that allows you to add location data to the Tweet or say something about the picture you’re sharing. Just click “Send” when you’re done and you’ll have published a picture to Twitter.

You can also use Flickr to share photos, or Vimeo if you have a video you’d like to upload. Alternatively, you can access the share menu by right-clicking media and navigating to the “Share” pop-out.


Rename a Bookmark in Safari Quicker by Clicking and Holding

Just click and hold to rename something in Safari.
Just click and hold to rename something in Safari.

In the old days of Safari you had to right click a bookmark in the bookmarks bar and click “Rename Bookmark…” to change its title. But in Safari 6.0 for Mountain Lion, clicking and holding for two seconds will do the trick.


What Have You Found?

Those are all my tricks for you today, but I’m sure you’ve managed to find some of your own. What minor features have you found in Mountain Lion?

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