Flexing Workflows for Lion

July 26, 2011

LionI popped out of bed last Wednesday knowing Lion was set to show up in the App store at any minute. You might think me a nerd or a fanboy, but I’m going to go with “early adopting cutting edge trendsetter”. My (im)patience was rewarded as it showed up right after I showered and dressed.

I’m now on my sixth day of using Lion, and it is causing me to flex some of my workflows. Some for the better, and some not as much. What follows is not a comprehensive review of Lion, plenty of those have been written. (Andy Ihnatko’s was my favorite.) I’m more interested in how it effects my day to day workflows, and in learning how you and I can best put the expanded features to work.


The most common gripe I hear is the change in scrolling direction. It is jarring the first time you use it, and I’m sure many figured out how to go into the prefs and change it back to what they were used to. Others might not have discovered that’s an option, and curse Steve Jobs under their breath with each misdirected flick.

I decided to commit to it, and I’m adjusting quickly. By the end of my second day, I was often scrolling the right direction on the first try. And now I’m about about 90%. I do find that it seems more natural in some contexts than others. For example, it seems natural in a web browser, and I wonder if that is because my brain is engaging with what I’ve already been doing for a year on my iPad. I’m almost there and have yet to mutter any private suggestions about the character of Mr. Jobs mother.


The first significant change for me was a switch from Sparrow back to Mail. I love the new layout, which captures much of what I liked about Sparrow, and it’s nice to run it in full screen. The main motive to move back was that I could again use some of my Mail Act-On commands to toss emails over to Yojimbo or OmniFocus.

Mission Control

The most significant change for me has been, and will be, Mission Control. The best description I’ve seen is that it is a mash-up of Spaces and Expose, two features I used more often than Don Draper used women.

I had four different spaces assigned for various processes in my workflow, so it was a natural reflex to jump to my “communication” space, or my “reference” space. But these spaces are no longer available in Lion, so the last six days have been marked by the process of reflex obliteration. (Yes, that is as painful as it sounds.)

I’m adjusting to Mission Control, and seeing a few of the benefits of it. I was already used to the handy three finger swipe to move between apps on my iPad, so that is a natural transition. It’s crazy convenient for sliding back and forth between two apps in a complementary workflow.

But Mission Control, with a few tweaks, could be so much more. It’s silly that there is no way for me re-order my desktops with a simple drag and drop. Is there really now way to do this? Instead, I’m forced to swipe back and forth to grab apps and reorder them between desktops. And full screen apps can’t be re-ordered at all.

On top of that, why do all my full-screen apps need to be stacked at the end of Mission Control, and not sprinkled as I see fit between desktops? This leads to extra swipes as sometimes I can’t place a full-screen app right next to a few apps on a desktop.

Full Screen

Even with the above gripes about full screen apps in Mission Control, I like full screen apps. A lot. Especially on my 11” Air. But I like them enough that even the impractical use of space for full screen mail on my iMac is now my preferred state for Mail.

So far, I’ve dabbled with OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and Scrivener in full screen, and seeing great possibilities for what is to come. I’ve even using iTunes in full screen because, as long as it’s placed at the end of my Mission Control stack, it’s easy to jump over to it with Launchbar for a playlist adjustent.

I’ve not yet adapted to using Safari as a full screen app. I think that is because my use of it is often sensitive to what context of my workflow I’m in, and I find it convenient to have it sharing a screen, or right next to, an app related to that particular context.


Not using it, and don’t have plans to. Launchbar (and Spotlight for that matter) make Launchpad seem like clutter. Foraging through columns of icons to launch an app gives me trauma inducing flashbacks to Windows 3.0, and that closet converted to an office that I shared in those days.


Lion is faster, and Safari has been among the most noticeable instances of this. My favorite eye candy in Safari is the two finger swipe to go back and forward in my history. I’m amazed with how responsive it is, though it does cause an annoying jiggle if your two finger scrolling up and down goes askew and starts pulling to the side.

Overall, I’m happy with Lion, but I still want more. I want a few adjustments to how mission control works so that I have more command over it. And I want more, more, more apps from all those great indy developers that are going to take advantage of full screen and other features.

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