One very cool new feature in OS X Lion is AirDrop. It's a way to leverage your home or office Wi-Fi network to send files to others who are also running Lion by just dragging and dropping those files onto an icon representing the other person. In this short post, I'll show you how AirDrop works and point out a few gotchas.
AirDrop is zero-configuration file transfer software; you don't need to really do any setup or configuration, and you don't even need to have a Wi-Fi network as AirDrop uses peer-to-peer Wi-Fi between Macs that want to use it. All it requires is a Mac running Lion, and once a user opens the AirDrop interface (found in the Finder sidebar) his Mac becomes visible to other Macs using AirDrop. One caveat: some Macs capable of running Lion appear to be unable to use AirDrop thanks to an older Wi-Fi card, but Macs after 2009 appear to be working OK as of today. The other Mac appears as a round icon showing the contact photo for that Mac.
If I want to send files from my Mac (the lower icon) to my other Mac (the one at top), all I need to do is drag a file, group of files, or a folder to the upper iCon and drop it. AirDrop responds by verifying that I want to send the file, and when I tell it to send, the recipient gets a request (below).
The recipient can either choose to save the file and open it immediately, or just save it. The file is saved into their Downloads folder. The file transfer is encrypted using TLS and AirDrop sets up a firewall that keeps anyone outside of your connection from accessing your computers.
To take your Mac off of the AirDrop "radar screen," you just close the Finder window or click anywhere outside of AirDrop. If another sender is in your Address Book and has signed in with their Apple ID, their name appears below their AirDrop picture and can be used to validate their identity. You can sign in with your Apple ID in System Preferences > Users & Groups and click Set for your Apple ID.
It's a quick, secure, and -- dare I say it -- fun way to share files with others within Wi-Fi range, and I can see AirDrop being used a lot by Mac users at conferences and in meetings. Although it's not a marquee feature of Lion, AirDrop is one that frequently get used.
The images used in this article are taken from the upcoming Apress book Taking Your OS X Lion to the Max.