OS X Mountain Lion was released this week and we’ve told you everything you need to know about Apple’s new operating system—except one thing: the secret features. With over 200 small changes, a few of them were bound to be awesome. Here are our top ten favorites.
10. Encrypted Time Machine Backups
Time Machine is a great, simple backup service that’s been a part of OS X for a few years now. One of the primary complaints, however, is its lack of options. While Mountain Lion didn’t bring a ton of configurability—and Apple is unlikely to add too many options in favor of simplicity—it did bring encrypted backups. If you’ve got some sensitive materials on your hard drive, you no longer need to worry. Enabling encrypted backups is simple: go into the Time Machine section of System Preferences, click on Select Disk, choose a disk, and check the box beside Encrypt Backups.
9. Organize Your Dashboard Widgets into Folders
In addition to offering a much simpler Dashboard where your available widgets are presented like apps, you can now organize them into folders. This works much like you’d expect. Just drag one widget onto another and a folder will be created. You can name it whatever you like and start keeping your widgets tidier so it’s simple to find what you want. And if that’s not enough, you can now search your widgets as well. You’ll find a search box up at the top of the screen when adding a new widget.
8. Pin Notes to the Desktop
It seems Apple hasn’t forgotten that people still love Stickies, an old little notes app from the days os Mac OS 9. Stickies is notably missing from Mountain Lion, likely because the Notes app has replaced it. It may seem like you can’t have desktop-friendly notes, but if you double click on any note in your notes list you can open it separately just like the sticky notes of old. It’ll stick around even if you close the primary notes window, too. Even better, your notes will now sync with iCloud so you can have all your important text on every Mac you own.
7. Tweet from Notification Center
If you like to tweet, Mountain Lion has plenty of ways you can do it with Twitter integration throughout the OS. Anywhere you see the share icon, you can share it on Twitter (if you’re signed in via the Mail, Contacts, & Calendars section of System Preferences). Doing so ends up composing a message containing a file or URL, however, so it’s not that convenient if you just want to tweet some text. That’s where Notification Center comes in. Open it up, and you’ll find a link that says “Click to Tweet” at the top. It does exactly what you’d expect.
6. Single Sign-On
Since Lion, OS X has allowed you to sign into many of your accounts from the Mail, Contacts, & Calendars section of System Preferences. Mountain Lion now uses this information more effectively by keeping you signed into these services whenever you need to log in. This way you don’t have to enter your username and password constantly, and that information is stored securely on your computer. Right now your options are fairly limited, but Apple intends to add Facebook access in the Fall so we may be able to expect incremental updates that add single sign-on integration in the future.
5. Quiet Notification Center for a Day
Notification Center does a pretty good job of staying out of your way, but if your want your notifications to shut up for awhile you can do that pretty easily. All you have to do is option-click the Notification Center icon in the top right corner of your menubar. Alternative, you can open Notification Center, scroll up in the list, and you’ll find a toggle switch to turn “Do Not Disturb” mode on and off.
4. Rename Files in the Document Header
Working on a document and want to change its name? Prior to Mountain Lion you’d have to save it, close it, change the name in the Finder, and then open the document back up again. Now you can just click its name and choose Rename from a list of drop-down options. This is much easier and less time-consuming.
3. Share Images (and Other Stuff) from QuickLook
Mountain Lion makes every effort to make sharing easy, and one of the best implementations is through QuickLook. Say you’re browsing photos on your camera using QuickLook and you want to share one, all you have to do is click the share icon and send it over to Flickr, Twitter, an email, or, in the Fall, Facebook. This is a pretty simple way to just get your photos where you want them at a moment’s notice.
2. Insert a Page into a PDF Document Using Your Scanner
Let’s say you have a PDF document and it’s missing a page, or you just want to add a new page easily. In Mountain Lion, you can insert pages easily by opening the Edit menu and visiting the Insert submenu. Here you’ll find options to insert a page from a file or by scanning it in. Both are cool, helpful, and a welcome edition to Preview—OS X’s most underrated app.
1. Copy Files in Screen Sharing
When you’re remotely accessing another computer with Screen Sharing, you’re generally doing this to control that computer. Sometimes you’ll find yourself without a file you need on that machine, but happen to have sitting on your primary computer’s desktop. In Mountain Lion, you can just drag the file onto the shared screen, drop it where you want it, and it’ll be copied over the network. This feature has actually been around in Apple’s Remote Desktop software for several years, but it’s nice to finally see it on the consumer side. Note: to use this feature, both the shared and primary computer need to be running Mountain Lion.
Photo by Mopic.