Monday, 1 August 2011

How to make OS X Snow Leopard look and feel like Lion

To be honest, I don't intend on upgrading to Lion until it works seamlessly with my current setup. From what I can tell for now, with a visit to, it seems like there quite a few kinks to iron out with third party apps. I'm sure many things work, but why take the chance when most of the 250 new things seem to be UI elements and other "frivolous things". Don't get me wrong, I think Lion is cool, but there's nothing exceptional it has to offer when I compare it with Snow Leopard, which is probably why Apple decided on the $29.99 price tag (although I reckon that they could have priced it at $99.99, and I'm sure people would have still bought it...). So, I figured, why not make my Snow Leopard install look a little like Lion, while I wait for things to get a little more stable. As it turns out, it's not too hard to put some lion skin on a leopard for some temporary coolness.

Step 1: Skin the UI and Grab the Wallpapers

To make the the Leopard's skin look like a Lion, all you need to do is grab a copy of ThemePark, and install a Lion theme (like this one) from deviant art. This will change the default widgets (buttons, progress bars, dropdown menus etc. to make it more lion like). One thing you'll notice though is that the scrollbars may look a little out of place, since they can't really be "hidden".

Also, you can find a ton of OS X lion wallpapers on the net. Grab one that you like, and set it as your wallpaper, if you really want to copy the default look of Lion.

Step 2: Tweak the apps

Apple Mail
One of the newly touted features in Apple Mail is the (dare I say "Outlook" like) column on the left hand side. You can somewhat emulate this using Dane Harnett's Widemail plugin.

Also, you can turn on message threading (View > Organize by thread) which also groups together messages that have the same subject lines, although not quite as elegantly as the new mail.

Finally, if you want something that looks a little more like the new mail and you tend to mainly use IMAP, you may want to give Sparrow a try.

Step 3: Mouse/Multitouch and Keyboard Settings
Who says Snow Leopard can't have the Multitouch pizzazz of Lion? Just grab BetterTouchTool and you'll find that it's powerful enough to emulate quite a few features like going back and forth in Safari, activating Expose or Spaces and much more (you can even do things like Play/Pause!). Yes, there is quite a bit of configuration to do, but just follow Apple's footsteps on the actions they've mapped to certain gestures and I'm sure you'll have most of the multitouch features down in no time. As an added bonus, you can also turn on Windows Snap like features, which is quite awesome IMHO.

Also, one of the "new" (if not cool) things about Lion is that up is down, and down is up, when it comes to scrolling, when you compare it to the usual way of scrolling anyway. You can emulate this using Scroll Reverser.  While this works great with the iPhone and iPad because there is a "direct relationship" between the content and your finger, I don't think it works all too well when you're using a mouse/trackpad mainly because most people have associated scrolling with scrollbars. When you scroll down, the content goes up. But since Apple has hidden the scrollbars in Lion, it's probably easier to switch your normal ways. I haven't figured out how to make them disappear on Snow Leopard though, so you can only switch scroll directions for now. However, by the looks of it Google Chrome does seem to have this trick up it's sleeve, because when I try to use the new blogger UI, it show me scroll bars that look much like Lion's. Interesting.

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