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From the boneheaded design file: Browsing Versions in Lion

Mel Martin

I like Lion. I really really do. I can forgive Apple for breaking my Network Area Storage device, but in general it's a nice upgrade.

There is, however, that matter of the "browse versions" feature in iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote), Preview and some other apps designed to work with the Versions feature in Lion. I asked several experienced Mac users if they understood how it all worked and not a one did. While some knew of the feature, and were anxious to use it, they couldn't find it. I would have expected a function that deals with a file to be on the File menu. Nope. Apple has it in the title bar, just where you are sure to miss it. If the document is locked, there's nothing in the File Menu either. You can lock the document from the title bar, but you have to unlock it from the drop down that appears on the word "locked". These are GUI choices from hell.

When you finally do figure out how to browse your versions, your entire desktop changes, and you wind up in the Time Machine GUI (which Apple calls "The Star Field"), even though you never invoked Time Machine. As my colleague Erica Sadun points out, why introduce another system? Apple now offers full screen mode in several applications so you won't be distracted, but browsing versions morphs your desktop into a purple universe with flying stars whizzing by. Talk about distractions.

There's no doubt that you can stumble through Apple documentation and find all this information out, but hey, this is Apple. You know, "it just works." By the way, I searched for "browse versions" in the Pages help document and came up blank.

Lion does have some great features, but it's important that people understand them and that they are easy to use. It seems like these document functions really should be part of the File menu. If Apple wants to hide them in the title bar, that's fine, but give users a fighting chance. Apple should not change its motto to "it just works if you can find the non-intuitive place we've hidden it." If you want a good overview, our Steve Sande has done a nice job of explaining the new document control features.

How are you doing with all this? Did you figure it out, or have you been lost too? I'm sure some of our readers were just fine, but I'll bet a lot of you are in the tall weeds.