If you can’t wait to try out some of Lion’s new features, but don’t have access to the developer preview, I’ve got good news: You can get many of Lion’s features in Snow Leopard using third-party apps, tweaks and downloads.
Lion theme and wallpapers
If you want the new look of Lion, there are already several themes for Snow Leopard that mimic it. One from deviantART user Lukeedee has to be my favorite, though. To use it, you’ll need to install ThemePark, a free theme editing app for OS X. You’ll also need to download the theme itself, of course. To apply the theme, open the “Aqua Lion” file in ThemePark and hit the “Apply Theme” button, and then log out and log back in.
To get the old look back, open ThemePark, go to “Theme “in the menu bar and choose “Revert to Aqua.”
You can make the theme even more convincing by downloading Lion’s new wallpapers, courtesy of deviantART user lordalpha1.
Lion’s Launchpad provides an easy way to access every app on your system. The closest thing to this on Snow Leopard is an app called QuickPick. QuickPick also has a few extra things that Launchpad doesn’t, such as the ability to launch files, and the ability to launch apps with keyboard shortcuts.
Lion’s AirDrop integrates into the Finder and makes it easy to share files with other users on your wireless network. There’s a free app called DropCopy which provides much of the same functionality. DropCopy doesn’t integrate with the Finder like AirDrop does; instead, it places a movable “drop zone” on the user’s desktop. The user simply drags a file to the drop zone, where they can choose to share it with any Mac on their network that’s also running DropCopy.
DropCopy has some advantages over the minimalistic AirDrop. There are DropCopy apps available for iOS, so you can share files with your mobile devices. DropCopy doesn’t require a password to transfer files, and it also has the ability to send text messages to each Mac it’s connected to, which is pretty handy.
By default, Lion’s Dock hides the indicator lights that show which apps are running, signaling a shift to the way multitasking works on iOS. Removing the indicators in Snow Leopard is fairly straightforward:
- Open /System/Library/Core Services/ in Finder and find the file named “Dock”.
- Right click on the file and choose “Show Package Contents”.
- Open the Contents folder, and then the Resources folder.
- Copy every file that has “indicator” in its name to another folder for safe keeping, then move them to the Trash. You can do a spotlight search in the Finder window to find them.
- Restart the Dock by opening Terminal (/Applications/Utilities) and running the command “killall Dock”. The Dock will disappear for a second, then come back up with the indicators gone.
If you want the indicators back, select the indicator files from the backup location you copied them to, and copy them back to the location where you first found them, enter your password, and then restart the Dock with the Terminal again.
In Lion, scrolling is reversed, so you push content the way you want it to go, like on iOS. There’s a free app called Scroll Reverser that reverses the scrolling on Snow Leopard, so you can get a feel for this before it arrives. Don’t worry, even if you can’t get used to it, Apple offers a way to reverse it in Lion.
A lot of the improvements in Safari 5.1 are Lion-only, like the new downloads manager and iOS-like gestures. However, a lot of these improvements are also coming to Snow Leopard, including Reading List and many under the hood tweaks. Fair warning, though: Once you install the Safari 5.1 beta, you can’t go back to a previous version.
The beta is available for registered developers at Apple’s dev center, and you can register as a developer for free. Resourceful non-developers can likely find a way to download it, as well, but be forewarned that you do so at your own risk.