Lion Territory – Learning the lay of the land in OS X 10.7

Dan Frakes & Kirk McElhearn
26 December, 2011
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When we first started using OS X Lion, some of us at Macworld Australia felt as though we were in a different country, where we had to drive on the wrong side of the road and couldn’t understand the signs. Everything from scrolling to arranging files and working in Mail felt oddly foreign.

But now that we’ve been living with Lion for a few months, we’re beginning to feel more at home. Much that was once awkward has become more natural.


So we put together the following guide to the new features in Lion that took us the longest to learn and that may well have stumped you, too. If you’re still trying to do things the old Snow Leopard way, we have some suggestions for making the switch. And for those of you who are determined to stick with established old habits, we have advice on making Lion behave more like Snow Leopard.

Whether you accept the new or pine for the old, you can make Lion work for you.

So you’ve downloaded Lion from the Mac App Store and updated your Mac. You’re delighted by many of the new features, but others rub you the wrong way. In some cases, you wish you could go back to the way things worked in Snow Leopard.

You really should give the new ways of doing things a good try, but if after trying them you still don’t like them, you can go back to the old ways in most cases.

(Editor’s note: Unless we name a specific application, all the preference settings we mention are found in panes in the System Preferences application, which you can access from the Apple menu.)



The first thing you probably saw when launching Lion for the fi rst time was a video explaining that the default scrolling direction has changed. In the past – since the advent of scrolling mice and trackpads, actually – when you scrolled up, the scrollbars in the active window moved up, while the content inside the window actually moved down.

In Lion, that’s changed: If you scroll up, the window content moves up; if there were visible scrollbars they’d be moving down. You can change this scrolling behaviour if you want, but I suggest that you first try to get used to it; it took me only a few hours to adapt to the new setting.

But if you really want to change it back, go to the Scroll & Zoom tab of the Trackpad preference pane (if you use a trackpad) or the Mouse pane (if you use a mouse). In the first, uncheck Scroll Direction: Natural. In the latter, uncheck Move Content In The Direction Of Finger Movement When Scrolling Or Navigating.

If you use a non-Apple pointing device, these instructions might not work. If so, give Scroll Reverser (free; a try – it works the same magic in Lion that it does in Snow Leopard. (More info on gestures below.)

Restore scrollbars and windows. Get Snow Leopard’s visible scrollbars feature back and get rid of Lion’s new Resume feature in the General preference pane.


By default, Lion displays scrollbars only when you start scrolling. (Some applications disregard those settings and display scrollbars all the time.) But having them visible all the time can be useful.

When you’re looking at a webpage in your browser, for example, the length of the scroll button and its position in the scrolling channel tell you how long the page is.

To have scrollbars display all the time, go to the General pane and, in the Show Scroll Bars section, check Always. The default setting, Automatically Based On Input Device, uses the now-you-see-’em-now- you-don’t scrollbars if there’s a touch-capable device connected to your Mac – a built-in trackpad, a Magic Trackpad or a Magic Mouse. If you have just a standard Apple mouse, then you’ll see the scrollbars all the time.


Still on the subject of scrolling, there’s one effect that will be familiar if you’ve used an iPhone or iPad, but it can still be disturbing. (It shows up only if you’re using a trackpad instead of a mouse.)

When you stop scrolling, the content continues moving for a second with  an inertial effect. If you’d prefer that the content stop dead when you stop scrolling, go to the Universal Access pane, click Mouse & Trackpad and then click Trackpad Options. In the Scrolling menu, choose Without Inertia.


If you have a trackpad, you know that there are a number of gestures you can use to switch windows, zoom in or out or access certain features in Lion. Some of these gestures behave differently from the way they worked in Snow Leopard.

You can change or even deactivate some of them in the Trackpad pane, on the More Gestures tab.


One of the design goals in Lion is to make it easier for you to get back to work after restarting your Mac or its apps. When you restart your Mac, the OS relaunches the programs that were open when you last shut down or restarted your machine. It also reopens the windows that were open when you last quit an app.

If you don’t want those windows to reopen, you now need to close them all and then shut down the app. Fortunately, you can change some of these settings.

First, when you shut down or restart your Mac or log out of your account, a dialogue box appears, asking if you want to reopen windows when you log back in. If you uncheck the option in this dialogue box, your applications and windows will not reopen when you restart your Mac or log back in to your account. (The next time you restart or log out, the box will be checked again.)

To prevent windows from opening when you relaunch applications, go to the General pane and uncheck the Restore Windows When Quitting And Reopening Apps option.

You can also control this behaviour on an ad hoc basis. Let’s say you have 10 windows open in Microsoft Word and don’t want them all to open the next time you launch the program. Hold down the Option key before you quit; the Quit command in the application’s menu will become Quit And Discard Windows.

(If you’ve turned off the option for restoring windows in the General pane, holding down Option will change Quit to Quit And Keep Windows, allowing you to save any windows you have open after a restart or login.)

If you forgot to hold down the Option key before quitting, you can hold down the Shift key when opening the app the next time; it’ll launch with no open windows.

TIP: Restore sanity by not restoring

Thanks to Lion’s Restore feature, all the windows you left open in a given application remain open when you relaunch it. That might be helpful in a web browser or a text editor. But in certain apps – particularly those in which you rarely need to revisit the same documents – the feature is more of an annoyance. Window resuming is actually configured on an app-by-app basis. Here, for example, is the Terminal command to disable Resume in Preview:

defaults write

Preview NSQuitAlwaysKeepsWindows -bool false

And here’s the one you’d use to disable Resume in QuickTime:

defaults write

NSQuitAlwaysKeepsWindows -bool false

Quit the apps before you try the commands. To reverse your change, swap true for false.


Apple made a ton of changes in the Finder in Lion and some of them may force you to alter the way you work. Here’s how you can ignore some of those changes altogether.


By default, the Finder’s sidebar displays a new item called All My Files. As the name suggests, it shows you all of the files you can work with: Word processing files, spreadsheets, PDFs, presentations and more. Unfortunately, if you have more than a handful of files, All My Files can be very confusing – and, frankly, not very useful. So, if you’d rather not deal with it, just hold down the Command key and drag this item from the sidebar. If you want to put it back, choose Finder > Preferences and then select Sidebar.

All my files. As the name implies, the Finder’s new All My Files section shows you images, documents, contacts and other things you might want to edit; you can get rid of it if you like.



AirDrop is a useful new way to transfer files from Mac to Mac. However, if you have only one Mac and you don’t exchange files with it or if your Macs don’t support AirDrop, you can remove AirDrop from the Finder’s sidebar: Hold down the Command key and drag it off the sidebar to make it go poof!


You may be accustomed to seeing a status bar at the bottom of Finder windows; it shows you how many items are in a window, how many of them are selected (if any) and how much free space is on your disk. You can display this status bar by choosing View > Show Status Bar; it will then display in all Finder windows in the future.

While you’re at it, you might want to make the path bar visible as well (View > Show Path Bar); it’s a handy way to keep track of where you are in your file hierarchy.


Apple has decided to hide the Library folder that is inside your home folder. In most cases, you won’t need to access this folder, but you may want to get to it from time to time – for example, if you want to install AppleScripts for iTunes or remove specific files when troubleshooting. To fi nd out how, see Page 36.


Snow Leopard’s Finder had a Search For section in the sidebar that contained a number of default searches – Today, Yesterday, All Movies and so on – saved as smart folders. If you created your own smart folders, you may have added them to this list.

In Lion, the Search For section is gone. But you can replicate it if you like.

Saved searches. You can replicate Snow Leopard’s Saved Searches section by re-creating its smart folders and then adding them to the Finder sidebar.


To get the default smart folders back, you need to re-create them; the new Finder’s search tools really help here. To get the Today folder back, for example, type ‘today’ in the search box. A drop-down list will appear; select Today from its Dates section.

You can limit the scope of the search to specify c folders. When you have the search results you want, click on the Save button, give your search a name and leave the Add To Sidebar box checked.

To get smart folders that you saved in Snow Leopard back into the Finder’s sidebar, go to the Library folder in your home folder and find the Saved Searches folder. You can add this entire Saved Searches folder to the Finder’s sidebar by selecting it and pressing Command-T or you can open the folder and add selected smart folders to the sidebar one at a time. They’ll display in the sidebar with gear icons, so you can tell them apart from regular folders.

TIP: Can you repeat that?

As part of Lion’s iOS-style autocorrection, pressing and holding down certain keys on your keyboard now brings up a palette that lets you choose an accented or alternate character. Because of this change, you can no longer press and hold keys to make them repeat. That makes it a lot tougher to type something like Noooooooohooooooooo!

If you want to get repeating keys back, you can. To do so, fire up Terminal and type in the following:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false

Press Return and then log out and back in to your account. That done, letters will repeat just as they once did. To go back to Lion’s default key-holding behaviour, replace false with truein that Terminal command.



By default, there are two new icons in the Dock: one for Launchpad and another for Mission Control. If you aren’t going to use these features and don’t want their icons cluttering up your Dock, you can drag one or both of them out of the Dock; you can still use keyboard shortcuts or hot corners to access those two features, if you wish. You may not be able to go back to Snow Leopard’s Exposé, but you can use the same shortcuts and hot corners you used with Exposé in Lion’s Mission Control. To adjust settings for those shortcuts and hot corners, go to the Mission Control pane.

Anchor an app. To make an app appear in a specific desktop, open its Dock contextual menu in that space.



Previously, Dashboard displayed over your currently open windows. In the new Mission Control, it behaves like any other virtual desktop. So if you invoke a Dashboard keyboard shortcut or use a hot corner to activate it, your windows will slide to the side as Dashboard comes into view. To make Dashboard overlay windows as it did before, uncheck Show Dashboard As Space in the Mission Control pane.

Dashboard. To make the Dashboard behave as it did in Snow Leopard, select this option in the Mission Control preference pane.



In Snow Leopard, you used the Spaces pane to choose the number of workspaces you wanted. To add or remove spaces, you used the same pane. In Lion, adding spaces (now called desktops) requires activating Mission Control and then pressing and holding the Option key. (To access Mission Control, either click its icon or use a keyboard shortcut or hot corner.)

You’ll see a plus sign (+) at the top right of your screen. Click it to create a new desktop and then move the windows you want to that desktop. Or just drag a window up toward the other desktops and the plus sign will appear.


Under Snow Leopard, you could assign applications to specific spaces in the Spaces pane. In Lion, you need to use the Dock. Move to a desktop that contains a specific application that you want to pin to that desktop. Click and hold that program’s Dock icon select Options, choose Assign To, then choose This Desktop. In the future, whenever you launch the application, it will be pinned to that desktop.

If you use a lot of applications and multiple desktops, you’ll want to do this for all your applications right away so that they launch in the correct desktop.



I loathe Lion’s new three-column layout: I like to see my messages in a list; I don’t want to see one column of mailboxes, a second column with a list of messages and a third column for message contents.

To go back to the old way, open Mail’s preferences (Mail > Preferences), click Viewing and then select Use Classic Layout.


As it did in Snow Leopard, the Finder has four views in Lion: List, Icon, Column and Cover Flow. But Lion also gives you three different ways to arrange fi les within those views: Arrange By, Sort By and Clean Up By.

Unfortunately, those three options are not as straightforward as you might think (or wish). They aren’t available in all Finder views. Sometimes you can combine them and sometimes you can’t. And there are multiple ways of invoking them. In other words, they aren’t Apple’s smoothest bit of interface design.


Arrange By, Sort By and Clean Up By are easiest to explain in Icon view, so let’s start there even if you don’t normally use this view. To get to it, choose View > As Icons in the Finder. Start by Control-clicking (or right-clicking) in an open space in the Finder window. In the resulting contextual menu, you’ll see the three options: Clean Up, Clean Up By and Arrange By.

Let’s start with the last one. In this view – and in others where it’s available – Arrange By sorts files and folders into groups. You can arrange by Name, Kind, Application, Date Last Opened, Date Added, Date Modified, Date Created, Size, Label or None.

The Name option simply sorts the files and folders in alphabetical order by filename. The None option does what it says. But if you select one of the other options, the window breaks into sections and files and folders move to the sections where they belong.

Choose Arrange By Kind, for example and you get sections for Folders, Images, Spreadsheets, Documents and so on. Choose Arrange By Size and files and folders are grouped into size ranges – 100MB to 10GB, 1MB to 100MB and more.

Within each group, files and folders display in a single horizontal row; if you have a lot of items in a group, scroll right and more will appear.

View options. In the View Options palette, you can set Arrange By and Sort By criteria; you can also choose default settings for views and folders.


Once you’ve organised files into groups with Arrange By, hold down the Option key and Control-click in the Finder window again. The Arrange By submenu now changes to Sort By, which lets you set a sort order for items within each group. So if you’ve arranged files by Kind, you can then sort them within each group by Name. If you arrange by None, you can still use Sort By to sort files by Kind, Date Added, etc, but you can’t sort by Application.

You can’t always combine Arrange By and Sort By: If you arrange by Date or by Size, you can’t then use Sort By at all. If you arrange by Name, you can’t sort them by some other criterion, because Name doesn’t move fi les into groups. There are many ways to invoke Arrange By and Sort By.

In addition to using the contextual menu, you can also select View > Arrange By; click on the Arrange By button in the Finder toolbar; select Arrange By from the Action menu in the toolbar; press Command-J; use one of the keyboard shortcuts listed in the Arrange By menu (Command-Control-1 to arrange by name, for example); or open the View Options palette (which itself can be done in several ways). In many cases, the Option-key trick still works, changing Arrange By to Sort By.

Arrange By. The contextual menu in the Finder’s Icon view is only one way to access Arrange By options; you can also use the View menu, toolbar buttons or the View Options palette.


If you arrange by Name or None, you also get a Clean Up By option in the contextual menu (and elsewhere). This sorts your icons by whatever criteria you like (Name, Kind, Date Modified, Date Created, Size or Label), but it also then lets you move the icons around after they’ve been arranged.

When you choose Arrange By, you can’t move the icons. If you add new files to the folder, their icons won’t follow your Clean Up By arrangement; when you choose Arrange By, new files are automatically placed into the appropriate group.

The simple Clean Up option just moves file icons into a grid, with no organisation.


As in Icon view, in List and Column views you can use the Arrange By command to sort files and folders into groups. But those groups are more compact and easier to use than they are in Icon view – files appear in vertical columns, not horizontal rows. However, if a list or column extends below the bottom of the window, you can’t use the contextual menu; you’ll have to use one of the other options.

The Arrange By Kind option can be especially useful in List and Column views, because it displays folders at the top, making for easy navigation up and down a directory tree. As in Icon view, you can use the Arrange By and Sort By commands together – at least some of the time.

Cover Flow view is a hybrid: At the top of a window you see files and their contents and below that is a list. The options for this view are similar to those for List view: you can use Arrange By and Sort By the same ways.


When you’ve organised files just the way you want them in a window in a view of your choice, you can tell OS X to always use those options any time you use that view: Open the View Options palette and click on Use As Defaults at the bottom. (You can’t do this in Column view.)

The settings in your current window should then be applied in all windows opened in Icon view, for example. (You can undo this by pressing the Option key in View Options; doing so changes Use As Defaults to Restore To Defaults.) However, in my testing these settings didn’t always stick.

You can also choose a specific view for certain folders. To do this, open the folder, choose the view you want and then, in the View Options palette, select Always Open In viewname View. Again, this works most of the time, but not always.


Gestures – tapping and swiping fingers on a Multi-Touch trackpad to interact with your Mac – aren’t new. OS X has supported them in some form for a while now. But many of us still don’t use them.

Maybe we don’t have the right hardware. Or maybe we’ve seen no compelling reason to switch from the familiar mouse-and-keyboard interface that’s burned deeply into our muscle memory.

But if Lion is any measure, gestures are becoming an increasingly important part of the Mac interface; someday, they might replace the mouse entirely. So Lion’s launch is a perfect opportunity to make the switch – or at least to become conversant in this interactive language. And even if you’ve been swiping and tapping for years, you’ll still need to adjust to Lion’s new vocabulary.


To people who’ve never used a trackpad, Lion’s use of gestures might seem point less. Why swap something that works – the trusty combination of mouse and keyboard – for something just because it’s new?

To be honest, you don’t need to switch at all. Almost everything you can do with gestures in Lion can be done with a keyboard and mouse.

But as I said before, Apple seems intent on making gestures an important part of the Mac interface. You could stubbornly refuse to learn gestures or even to acknowledge their existence. But eventually you’ll become like one of those people who’s still using OS 9.

The first step in learning gestures is to fix in your mind the benefi ts you will accrue from learning them. I’ve spelled out one of them already – they’re the future and you’ll be a fossil without them. But there are more practical reasons, too.

Believe it or not, some of us have grown to like gestures – particularly when they do as much as they do in Lion. Gestures often let you do with one tool things that required two (a mouse and a keyboard) before. And if you commonly switch between a laptop and a desktop, you can use the same interface for both. In other words, a trackpad could actually make you more productive.


The next key to learning to use gestures is to be purposeful about it. You might pick up gestures eventually by using them haphazardly – but you’ll learn more quickly if you do so deliberately.

For example: Choose a gesture you want to learn and a pick a day when you’ll start learning it. Then, on your chosen day, stop whatever you’re doing once every hour or so and spend a minute or two repeating the gesture. Repetition is important. So is a consistent context: If you practise for a while at the office and then a while at home, it won’t be as effective as if you do it all at work. Repeat as necessary.


Now that you’re clear about why you’re learning to use gestures and committed to taking the time to do so, the next step is to divide them into two groups, each of which demands a slightly different learning strategy.

The first group contains those that you might call ‘natural’: The effect of the gesture mimics the gesture itself. Put another way, such gestures embody clear and simple metaphors.

The most obvious of these is the two-finger scroll – especially now that the scrolling direction has changed. You can imagine that you’re pushing the page up higher on the screen when you slide your two fingers up the trackpad.

The three- or four-finger sideways swipe to move from one virtual desktop to another is similar: You can imagine that you’re moving one desktop aside and pulling another one onto your screen. In each case, there’s a connection between what your fingers do and what happens on the screen. The more you keep those metaphors in mind, the easier it’ll be for you to learn.

Among the gestures that I’d put in the ‘natural’ class are the two-finger pinch and the reverse pinch to zoom in and out (think of stretching and compressing whatever you’re looking at); rotating images with two fingers; swiping between pages (the pages are on a horizontal band, you’re pushing one to the side to see the next); swiping between full-screen apps (same here, only with apps and desktops); and spreading the thumb and three fingers apart to expose your desktop (you’re flinging aside open windows to see what’s underneath).

Some people might also include the pinch-withthumb- and-three-fingers that summons Launchpad and the three- or four-finger swipes up and down to see Mission Control and App Exposé, respectively. I haven’t been able to come up with a good working metaphor for those; maybe you can.


That leaves a bunch of gestures that don’t have any metaphorical match between action and effect. Fortunately, several of them correspond to things you’ve traditionally done with the mouse.

For example, to click on an on-screen button with a mouse, you move the cursor over it and click with a mouse button; on the trackpad, you move the cursor over the button and click or tap with one finger. To summon contextual menus with a mouse, you Control-click (or right-click); using the trackpad, clicking or tapping with two fingers (or clicking one of the trackpad’s lower corners) does the same thing. To drag something on screen with a mouse, you click, hold and drag; a three-finger drag can do the same thing.

In these cases, you’re remapping a single on-screen result from a mouse movement to a trackpad gesture. As with gestures you already know, such remapping is easier than learning something entirely new. To learn these mouse-like gestures, again you just need to practice purposefully; but instead of keeping a metaphor in mind, think of the mouse gesture you’re replacing.

Finally, there are those Lion gestures that have no good metaphors and no mouse equivalents: Double-tapping with three fingers to do a dictionary lookup, double-tapping with two fi ngers to zoom and (for some) those three- or four-finger up and down swipes to invoke Mission Control and App Exposé.

To learn those, you’ll have to rely on rote practise. They just might take a little longer to learn than the other gestures. But if you want to learn them, you can.

That’s actually an important thing to keep in mind when you’re learning gestures in general: It takes time to retrain your fi ngers and hands and you’ll feel clumsy in the process. But if you learned to use a mouse, you can learn to use gestures, too.

For a downloadable PDF illustrating and explaining Lion’s Multi-Touch gestures, go to


Go to recent folders. If you’ve opened the Library folder by any method recently, you can go back to it by opening the Finder’s Go menu and selecting Recent Folders.

Inside your home folder is a Library folder that stores your personal application-support files and, in some cases, data. The files and folders in this Library folder are generally meant to be left alone, but if you’ve been using Mac OS X for some time, the chances are you’ve delved into it at some point.

Perhaps you wanted to tweak a setting. Or maybe a developer asked you to delete a preference file or grab a log file while troubleshooting a program. Whatever the reason may have been, accessing your Library folder was simple: You just navigated to it in the Finder (youruserfolder/Library).

But if you’ve upgraded to Lion, accessing your personal Library folder isn’t so simple. The folder is still there, but Apple has hidden it – presumably so people unfamiliar with the inner workings of Mac OS X wouldn’t muck about in there and then require tech support to make things right. It’s the same reason Apple has always hidden the folders containing OS X’s Unix underpinnings – /bin, /sbin, /usr and the like.

While I understand Apple’s motives – I’ve had to troubleshoot many problems in which an inexperienced user had messed with the contents of their Library folder on their Mac – there are plenty of valid reasons you might need to access yours. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to access and unhide it. The way(s) you choose will depend largely on how often you’ll need access. And note: The techniques described here can be used for all kinds of different troubleshooting jobs.


If you’ll only need to visit your Library folder once in a while – just when the need arises – try the following:


In the Finder, select Go > Go To Folder (or Command-Shift-G), type ~/Library and click Go.

Go to folder. You can type the path to your Library folder in the Go To Folder dialogue box.



Hold down the Option key and then open the Go menu; your Library folder magically appears in the menu.


Launch Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities), type open ~/Library and press Return.


Some applications that store files in the Library folder (usually in youruserfolder/Library/Application Support) provide ways to open those support folders. For example, you can do this through AppleScript Editor’s preferences.

Launch AppleScript (in /Applications/Utilities), choose AppleScript Editor > Preferences and then activate the Scripts menu. Then, from the scripts menu-bar item, select Open User Scripts Folder.

Once that folder is open in the Finder, you can navigate up the folder tree to your Library folder (by Control-clicking or right-clicking the icon next to a filename in the Finder window’s title bar, by pressing Command-Up Arrow or, in Column view, by scrolling to the left).


Launch AppleScript Editor, create a new script document and enter the command do shell script “open ~/Library”. Save the script in Script fi le format in your Scripts folder (youruserfolder/ Library/Scripts – ironically, you’ll need to use the Go To Folder shortcut (Command-Shift-G) to get to that folder).


Most launcher utilities – including Alfred (free;, Butler  (US$20; and LaunchBar (US$35; – let you quickly open folders. For example, LaunchBar will let you assign a keyboard shortcut to open the Library folder; then press the shortcut to open the folder.


There are ways to make accessing the Library folder easy without making it permanently visible. In some cases, you must first access the Library folder by using one of the techniques mentioned earlier – you can’t keep the folder accessible until you’ve accessed it at least once.


If you’ve accessed the Library folder recently, open Go > Recent Folders.


Once you’ve opened the Library folder in the Finder, drag its icon from the Finder window’s title bar (or from the Finder window in Column view) to the Dock.


Once you’ve opened the Library folder in the Finder, make sure Finder toolbars are enabled (View > Show Toolbar) and then drag the Library folder’s icon onto the window’s toolbar. You may need to hold the icon over the toolbar for a moment before the plus-sign (+) icon appears.

Put it in the toolbar. Once you’ve made the Library folder visible, drag it up to the toolbar for future access.



Once you’ve opened the Library folder in the Finder, make sure the Finder Sidebar is enabled (View > Show Sidebar) and then drag the Library folder’s icon to the Favorites section.


Once you’ve opened the Library folder in the Finder, hold down Command-Option and drag the Library-folder icon from the Finder window’s title bar to your desktop. (If you’re in the Finder’s Column view, you can Command-Option-drag it from inside the Finder window to your desktop.) This creates an alias to your Library folder; you can place this alias anywhere you like.


Launch Terminal, type ln -s ~/Library ~/ Desktop/Library and then press Return. This creates a symbolic link on your desktop to your Library folder. You can place this link anywhere you like.


A number of third-party file browsers and Finder substitutes, including Path Finder (US$39.95; include the option to show invisible files in their file listings.


Launch System Preferences and click the Keyboard pane. Select Application Shortcuts in the left column. Click the plus-sign (+) button below the list of shortcuts on the right. In the resulting dialogue box, choose from the Application pop-up menu. Type Library in the Menu Title field, click in the Keyboard Shortcut fi eld, type your preferred shortcut (I use Command-Shift-L) and then click Add. You can now access your Library folder by pressing your keyboard shortcut.


If you’re saying, “Show me the Library folder all the time,” here’s how to make that happen.


Launch Terminal, type chflags nohidden ~/Library and press Return. If you want to hide it again, use chflags hidden ~/Library.


Many third-party file browsers and Finder substitutes that let you view invisible files and folders also let you change their visibility status permanently.

So you could, for example, browse to your invisible Library folder in Path Finder, use Path Finder’s Get Info command and uncheck the Invisible attribute. Another utility that will do much the same thing is the free Invisiblix ( Many third-party ‘tweaking’ utilities, such as TinkerTool System (€10;, have been updated for Lion and include a checkbox for making the Library folder visible. There are also some Lion-specific utilities, such as Lion Tweaks (donationware; that will do the same.


Open AppleScript Editor, type (all on one line) tell application “System Events” to set visible of folder “~/Library/” to true and click the Run button in the toolbar.

To make the folder invisible again, use the same command, changing true to false. You can, of course, save these scripts and run them anytime.


Even better, create an AppleScript that toggles the invisibility of the Library folder:

tell application “System Events” 

set libvis to (get visible of folder “~/Library”) 

end tell 

if libvis = false then 

tell application “System Events” to set visible of folder “~/Library/” to true 


tell application “System Events” to set visible of folder “~/Library/” to false end if

Nowhere to hide. This AppleScript toggles the invisibility of the Library folder.



This is the nuclear option: By enabling this option, the Library folder will always be visible – along with thousands of other hidden files. Launch Terminal, type  defaults write AppleShowAllFiles true and press Return. Relaunch the Finder by typing killall Finder in Terminal. (Or hold down the Option key and Control-click on the Finder icon in the Dock; choose Relaunch from the Dock menu that appears.) To reverse this, do the same thing, but replace true in the Terminal command with false.


Whichever method you use to reveal your personal Library folder, remember to be careful once it’s visible. Deleting or moving the wrong file(s) inside this folder could cause an application to misbehave (or, in the case of things like panes in System Preferences, to disappear altogether), lose its settings or even lose its data.

TIP: An animated discussion

When a new window opens in Lion, it has a zooming animation effect that looks like it came straight out of iOS. If you hate the animation – whether for the real or perceived delay it may cause, stylistic concerns or something else – you can turn it off.

Type the following command in Terminal (type it all on one line):

defaults write

NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool


You guessed it: Swap true for false to go back to zooming.


One Comment

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  1. Ted says:

    A very thorough article. Thanks for that, but as far as old ways go, how do we go about with Boot Camp-ing Windows XP? Still there are many many old software that run on XP to this day and thus….

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