15 tweaks to make when moving to OS X Lion or Mountain Lion

“In the last two iterations of OS X — Lion and Mountain Lion — Apple has been making some bold moves in respect to the way the computer operator interacts with the machine,” Johnny Winter writes for Mactuts+. “Bold in the sense that the changes are quite a departure to the way in which people have been used to using OS X in the past.”

“While change can often be positive, some of us take a little time to adapt and are perhaps more resistant to change,” Winter writes. “This article examines some quick fixes to help you make Lion and/or Mountain Lion a little more familiar.”

MacDailyNews Take: Our advice, as always, when it comes to Apple, it’s best to suck it up and commit the time to get used to new things (i.e. scrolling direction, etc.). It usually takes less time that you think. The longer you resist, the farther you’ll fall behind, and the more painful it will be to catch up. That said…

Winter continues, “The reason for Apple making some major changes in Lion and Mountain Lion is likely a result of the success of their mobile devices. The iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad all sell in huge numbers and are often the first experience of an Apple product for many consumers. Apple wants to make the transition from iOS to OS X as intuitive as possible for the new Mac owner, but the jury is still out on whether natural scrolling on iOS is right for OS X, so let’s start with that as our first tweak.”

Full article here.


  1. After adopting it when it appeared, I find natural scrolling just natural. Before the natural scrolling, I was always forced to think what device is in front of me before pushing up / down to scroll, and often first got it wrong, since the “un-natural” scrolling simply wasn’t intuitive. Apparently, we have all learned to accept the unnatural scrolling direction (and both Windows and Mac OS are to blame for that), and developed muscle memory to execute it consistently. However, when we started using touch devices, there was absolutely no sense to use anything but natural scrolling on them. And this immediately introduced the problem; the unintuitive quality of the “unnatural” scrolling immediately became apparent.

    Having switched to the natural scrolling, my only problem now is with the Windows machine in my office, which still runs XP and refuses to allow me to switch the scrolling direction to the natural setting. In my home environment, between an iMac, a MBA and an iPad, there is no confusion anymore.

    1. Here’s the thing though, and you yourself pointed it out: “when we started using touch devices”.

      I have a Magic Mouse as well as the trackpad on my MBP. On those it’s absolutely natural to swipe up to go down.

      On an old, mechanical scroll wheel mouse though, that doesn’t make sense. You’re now conceptually scrolling up (not swiping up) to go down.

      You might argue, Well, it should be consistent regardless of device. Except it’s already inconsistent. As soon as a mechanical scroll wheel stops moving, the page movement stops without residual movement like true swiping has.

      Ideally, Apple should’ve made OSX detect whether a mouse is swipe-capable and behave appropriately. The simple setting in System Prefs isn’t good enough; when I still used a mech scroll mouse, I still used my laptop trackpad half the time (for side scrolling), and scroll direction between Mouse and Trackpad settings were linked (uncheck in one, it’s unchecked in the other).

      And of course, the computers at work use mech scroll mice. Thankfully I mentally switch between the two platforms as easily as I switch between command- and control-key shortcuts, but most people don’t.

      1. I’m still not convinced. In my office, I have a mechanical scrolling-wheel mouse, and after using natural scrolling for a few months, it is just plain unintuitive. The finger still wants to push forward to “slide the paper” up, but it in fact slides down.

        I don’t think there is any fundamental difference between the Magic Mouse’s touch surface and a mechanical scroll wheel. To me, natural scrolling is just much more natural.

        1. To me there is a definite difference. I have some carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, and scrolling up on a mech wheel puts a small but noticeable extra strain on my index finger. The muscles to extend the finger are fewer/weaker than those that curl/pull it in. You’re much more likely to want to go down a page than up, so whatever motion is tied to that gets used more often.

          This isn’t an issue (for me) on the Magic Mouse because of the residual motion after you “flick” your finger.

          Don’t feel that I’m trying to convince you, we all have different and valid reasons why something works better for us and not others. I can even comfortably mouse around with either hand (to distribute load and hopefully avoid CTS that was starting to creep into my right hand a mere month after starting to use the crappy PC mice at work a decade ago), so it’s not like I have a problem mentally switching between concepts depending on platform or device.

          1. You have a very different (and valid) reason that the others who resist for reasons of a strong habit. I can’t imagine how it is living with CTS, but I have a few colleagues who struggle with it (one has even switched to a head-worn contraption that has gyro sensors that move mouse pointer, and he blows into a tube for the left-click, all this to avoid strain on hand muscles!). I guess I should count myself fortunate for never experiencing any of it, even after 25 years of computer-based desk job (perhaps having actively played the piano from age 6 developed those muscles in a different, more resilient way…).

            RSI is certainly one of the most uncomfortable consequences of our daily interactions with keyboard and mouse. Perhaps the interfaces of the future will reduce this repetitive nature of the stress (if not eliminate it outright).

  2. This is mostly terrible advice. The best, smartest, most talented designers and programmers on earth are improving our OS, and you’re advising users that you know better. Do not be frightened… Move forward into the future… 🙂

    Natural scrolling is correct. The way we’ve been doing it for 20 years is incorrect. It takes a few minutes to get used to it then you’ll never go back. Try it. You’ll see.

  3. My advice is this – if you use a lot of programs or open gobs of tabs in your browser, then you definitely need the utility FreeMemory (No – I have no financial connection with them.)

    4 – 12 times a day I need to run it to free up memory. ~I am running a late 2010 MBP with 2.66 GHz i7 and 8 GB mem.

    To me it sucks that the OS will not clean up properly.

    I love a lot of the features, however. Esp how notes auto-magically sync to iDevices.

    But it can also be a pain in the neck. This memory issue is constant and it has been crashing – yes “blue screen of death type – almost once per week for 3 months. Reminds me od win 98. 🙁

    1. I think you might want to look elsewhere to find what’s causing instability in your machine. I regularly run with dozens of open tabs in several Safari windows and have no such problems. My machine was built from scratch as a Mountain Lion machine and inherited no legacy “issues” from Lion or Snow Leopard. My usual list of open applications are not light on memory, either: Photoshop CS5, Illustrator CS5, Xcode, iOS Simulator, Mail, Safari, iTunes, Address Book, Keychain Access, Calendar, etc. My machine does have 16GB of RAM.

      1. I upgraded from Lion to Mountain Lion and have zero memory issues with my Safari browser, no matter how many tabs I have open simultaneously. I didn’t do a clean install (don’t know how to – sorry, I’m not a geek and I’m worried about corrupting my data from a backup). Before Lion, I installed Snow Leopard on my MBP. Running perfectly from day one.

    2. The cure to a Safari freeze/crash when doing large sessions on the Internet is to download Chromium- the version of Chrome that doesn’t phone home to Google every time you scratch your ass.

        1. Chromium is the version of Chrome not filled to the brim with Google. If you have Little Snitch or some other app that monitors outgoing connections, you will find that Chrome, Google Earth and other apps from Mountain View phone home on a very, very , very regular basis.

          Chromium does not and supports Chrome extensions, plug-ins and the rest.

  4. The MDN take is the height of hypocrisy, especially considering it normally lampoons Microsoft for every change it attempts.

    Sure, we all know that Clippy, the Ribbon, and Tiles are complete disasters, but Apple’s last two Mac OS iterations made no interface changes for the better. If we wanted social network crap on our machines, we would install the apps ourselves. And we don’t need you to keep attempting to sell your highly limiting server services (the #$%$^& “cloud”) at every turn. And the monochromatic look of ML is hardly appealing.

    Stop watering down a good OS with bloat and fluff, Apple! Leave all the iOS work interruption “features” for mobile devices, and leave the desktop machine an uncluttered productivity tool!

    1. I guess “different strokes for different folks” still applies.

      I was thoroughly pleased last night when I looked up a frequent flier number on my iPhone, applied it on the airline website only to learn they had changed numbering schemes and hence what my new one is; I changed it in Contacts on my Mac (cut and paste from Safari to Contacts) and the next time I looked at my iPhone it had changed there. That’s iCloud at it’s best.

      And for me, personally, I think the notification stuff on Mountain Lion is handled quite deftly with little interruption to my productivity. Maybe that’s because I have two external monitors attached to my iMac 😉

      1. I’m in agreement with Mike’s comment about the monochromatic look of Mountain Lion. They have drained all color from the sidebar and everywhere else that makes sense having colors as that makes it easier for the eye to distinguish features on the app.

      2. The one issue I have with Notifications is that there’s no way to suppress them entirely when certain programs (video players) are front and center. If I’m Airplay-Mirroring video to my TV to watch with others, I don’t want alerts or even temporary banners to show. The System Update alert is especially obnoxious, you can’t dismiss it without it launching the App Store update panel.

  5. Scrolling is a preference. The behavior of your computer should be YOUR preference. There is nothing “natural about natural scrolling, or the lack of visible scroll bars, or the skeumorphism, unless YOU decide that that is the way you want it.

    And the best engineers work for the government.

  6. There is nothing “natural” about natural scrolling apart from the name that was attached to it.

    If my fingers move down my trackpad (using non-natural scrolling), I move further down the page I’m scrolling. That’s what I call natural.

    It’s the same with my Magic Mice. If my finger from the front of the mouse to the back of the mouse, the page in front of me moves from beginning to end.

    Just because Steve Jobs came along and decided to change the name we use for an activity doesn’t make it right.

    And I have an iPod Touch and an iPad. It causes zero difficulty keeping my scrolling on my Macs UNnatural and using iOS devices. In fact, I never even think about it.

    Sorry…but MDN is wrong about their advice when it comes to scrolling.

        1. It is because you are resisting it. You should have given it a chance. Apparantly you didn’t even try.
          It only takes a few minutes, say max half an hour (if you’re slow) to completely forget about unnatural scrolling. Finally horizontal and vertical scrolling behave the same.
          I was first against it, until I tried. Now there is no going back, because I don’t want to bother again with backward.

          1. The representation of a pointer on a Mac OS X screen is a pointer that you manipulate through actions on your trackpad.

            The representation of a pointer on an iOS device is your finger which is in direct contact with the screen.

            When you move a pointer on a screen on a Mac you expect it to follow certain behavioural patterns, not least of which when I move my finger in a downward sweep, I expect to see the pointer shadow the movement of my finger on the trackpad.

            I use two fingers to scroll up & down a webpage. Therefore, when my fingers sweep in a downward motion the page should move down in tandem with my fingers. That’s how my brain works.

            1. You’re just fighting it! What you’re saying is exactly backwards of what happens! Stop fighting and arguing, and actually give it a try, and look with your eyes at what’s happening.

              You’ve been conditioned by these many years to accept what has been backwards. Its like a magic trick. Your brain has been converting the backwards action for you.

              Please try it!!!

        2. Scroll direction as personal preference? Absolutely.

          Disabling it in the Apple Stores you visit? That is absolutely not your call to make.

          Thankfully they all reset to the store’s default configurations every night.

  7. Before mice had scroll wheels, the only way to scroll the text was to grab the scroll bar and move it. The scrollbar goes up, the content goes down. The scrollbar goes down, the content goes up.

    With the innovation of the mouse wheel before the turn of the century, people stopped using the mouse to grab and move scrollbars, but the UI still behaved as if they did. People put the mouse over the content and scrolled directly with a gesture or a mouse wheel. They scroll up, the content moves down. They scroll down and the content moves up. It’s backwards.

    Now OS X moves the content in the same direction as we scroll. This perplexes the geeks who are set in their ways and stuck in the 20th century. They still want to scroll as if they were using a scrollbar to scroll, even though they are not using a scrollbar to scroll. The want to content to move in the opposite direction of the way they scroll, in other words, they want to scroll backwards.

    It’s hard to believe that computer geeks could be luddites, but they exist. They should use natural scrolling for a month or two. They will find that not doing things backwards becomes natural after a while.

    1. Looks like I was writing my comment before yours posted. 100% agreement, obviously. It’s sad that people get so entrenched in their ways that they don’t allow themselves to progress… And they get so angry about it!

      Anyone who gives natural scrolling a chance–and gets it–knows it’s the right way to do it.

    2. No. The scrolling motion on the page you’re looking at onscreen on a Mac should correspond to the movement of your finger on the trackpad. If your finger moves in a downward motion, you would expect the movement on the page to follow suit. If it moves in the opposite direction, then it’s unnatural.

      1. Okay, I’m confused by your responses. It sounds like you are describing the “Scroll direction: Natural” setting in System Preferences -> Trackpad : Scroll & Zoom …. but at the very same time you’re saying “natural” is backwards. I have the setting set to Natural and pushing two fingertips upwards on the trackpad pushes the webpage upwards. Isn’t that exactly what you want?

        1. That’s precisely correct, Jim. This is such a funny experience. People are so conditioned by the backwards behavior that they are refusing to see that they are describing exactly the reverse of what is actually occurring. And they are stubbornly refusing to look at the screen carefully to see what’s happening.

          There are going to be some great big Homer Simpson “doh’s” as they realize that they’ve been duped by their own perception.

    3. Geeks are the ones most able to mentally switch between PCs at work and Macs at home. I have a mech scroll mouse at work, I scroll down to go down, and I use control-key shortcuts. I have a Magic Mouse on my MBP at home, I swipe up to go down and I use command-key shortcuts.

      But if my Magic Mouse is out of action and I plug in a mech scroll mouse, it’s not a touch input device, it doesn’t behave like one (no residual motion after wheel stops), so I want it to scroll down to go down. I can’t do that though, without also reversing the trackpad’s swipe behaviour.

      You missed part of the reason why it’s still more natural on a mech scroll that wheel down moves the page down. For a short time, there were mice with actual up/down buttons instead of scroll wheels. Scroll wheel down was a natural progression, and still is–*when using a physical scroll wheel*.

  8. Natural scrolling is called natural because it is. You’re moving the document, the data. You’re moving what you see on the device; you’re not moving the device.

    The old way made sense when we first had mice, and there were no scroll wheels, track pads, touch screens, etc. We had to grab that little box in the scroll bar, which represented the portion of the document that we were seeing in the window. We were moving a representation of the window, viewing a portion of the document in that window.

    We don’t do that anymore. Now we move the document that is in the window, which is a much more natural representation of what we do with a real document in our hands. We move the actual document, we don’t move our desk or our body. Therefore, we move the digital document not the window around it.

    Give it some thought, give it a chance. It really is natural and fantastic once you get used to it. I’ve been using and programming computers for over 30 years, and I will never go back.

    1. Moving the document has a long established history- but it uses a cursor in the shape of a hand. I’m used to that, used to using it in graphics apps and with PDFs, and I’m used to moving things with a mouse when I see it, as if I’m actually touching the document. Nothing about having scroll bars and their interaction with the document, which is what is used when the arrow cursor is on the screen, is consistent with actually handling the document. ‘Natural’ scrolling is bogus.

      1. “Nothing about having scroll bars and their interaction with the document, which is what is used when the arrow cursor is on the screen, is consistent with actually handling the document.”

        That’s right. But if you allow yourself to get used to natural scrolling, you will find you have a much more realistic connection with the documents you’re working with. That’s exactly why Apple is doing it, and exactly why it’s called natural.

        “I’m used to moving things with a mouse when I see it, as if I’m actually touching the document.”

        I’m not sure what you mean by this. Natural scrolling works as if you’re actually touching the document. Give it a chance. Think about it. Visualize it. It truly is the right way to do it.

    2. No. The scrolling motion on the page should follow the movement of your fingers on the trackpad. If your finger moves downwards, the page should scroll downwards.

      You’re not grabbing the screen. You’re moving your fingers in an upward or downward motion. When grab a golf club, do you expect to swing downwards and hit the ball or swing upwards to hit the ball? Same logic.

      1. I’m not sure how better to describe this but what you’re saying is exactly why Apple made this change. With natural scrolling, when you move down on the trackpad, the document moves down, and vice versa. Try it. Switch to natural scrolling, move your fingers down on the trackpad. You will witness the document moving down.

        With the old way, when you move down, the page moves up. Exactly backwards.

        Instead of just saying “no,” give it a try.

        1. Except I’m not moving the “page” or “document” or “content”, I’m moving my view thereof. And I expect scroll down to map to page down and cursor down on the keyboard (which it does when I disable the infernal “natural” scrolling).

          1. That’s exactly my point. You are not, in fact, moving the view, you are actually moving the data, the document. Just watch the computer screen as you scroll. The window stays still, the document in the window is what moves.

            That is why this is called natural scrolling, and why most people who give it a chance end up preferring it and never want to go back. The old way is a vestige of limitations of the past. Limitations on graphics realism and input devices. Or just a bad decision by Xerox and Apple 30 years ago,

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