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Apple has shown off a preview of Lion, the next version of the Mac OS X operating system for MacBook laptops and iMac desktop computers. The lion's share of features are influenced by iOS, the software found on the iPhone and iPad, including new multi-touch gestures, new layouts for apps, and lots of options to ensure you never lose work.

The new gestures, influenced by the iPhone and iPad, include rubber-band scrolling, which sees pages snap back like a rubber band, and double tap or pinch to zoom in and out.

Let's put our head in the lion's mouth to explore the new features. Click through our gallery to see what they'll look like.

Launchpad

Launchpad basically replicates the grid of apps you see on the homescreen of the iPhone and iPad. As on those smaller devices, programs can be arranged into folders for easy access. There's nothing to stop you from just arranging your applications into folders now, of course -- the only real difference is that Launchpad does it all for you. And of course, when you install an application, there's no .dmg files or dragging into the Applications folder. Launchpad is launched with a new grabbing gesture on the keyboard.

Full-screen apps

Apps fill the screen, getting rid of the pesky top toolbar. You can switch to another full-screen app or to the desktop by swiping across the trackpad with three fingers.

Mission Control

Mission Control gives you a bird's-eye view of everything your Mac is running. Thumbnails of all your open apps are arranged together on one screen, with open windows neatly stacked on top of each other. It's essentially Apple's existing Exposé feature, but with a smarter layout.

Auto Save and Versions

If you've ever lost work due to an unexpected loss of power or a cat walking right across CMD + Q -- and who hasn't? -- the auto save will be a welcome feature. If not, documents can be locked to prevent them from auto saving so you can experiment knowing none of your changes need be permanent. You can also revert to the state your document was in when you opened it, if you're not happy with the changes you've made.

If you want to go back to a previous version of your document, Versions gives you a cascading view of the document as it developed. It's like Time Machine, Apple's backup software, for individual documents. Versions are saved every hour and you can grab bits from old files into the current version.

Resume

Lion remembers everything you have open so when you restart, it's all laid out waiting for you. That means you don't have to open your favourite apps every time you start up, or remember where you saved the document you were working on.

Mail 5

The new version of Mail is another app to take cues from the iPhone, expanding the message on the right and keeping the inbox on the left. A new Mailbox bar gives you one-click access to your favorite folders across the top of the app.

Mail 5 also borrows some ideas from Google Mail, including an increased emphasis on search, and Conversations view. This groups together the emails you've exchanged with a particular contact, rather than listing all your messages separately. Unlike Gmail, Mail will keep conversations together even if the subject line changes.

AirDrop

AirDrop is a nifty little app to wirelessly zap files through the air to other Macs. Lion detects people using AirDrop nearby, adding photos if they're in your contacts. To transfer a file, simply drag it to someone's name. Once accepted, the file nips directly into the person's Downloads folder.

Lion adds new gestures, including grabbing, swiping and tapping to zoom.
Launchpad, showing an iPhone-style grid of apps.
Apps can be grouped into folders.
The Mac App Store.
Full-screen photos in iPhoto.
Full-screen calendar with iCal.
The new look for Mail 5 will be familiar to iPad users.
Mail 5 also offers Gmail-style conversations.
Mission Control, a souped-up version of Expose to see all your open apps on one screen.
Resume remembers what you were doing earlier when you start your computer.
Lion Server lets you set up your Mac as a server.
Versions saves previous versions of your document, so you can rescue changes even after they've been saved over.
Lion also introduces pop-ups when you hover over a button, and transparent scroll bars.

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