August 15, 2011, 9:42 AM — Lion's support for gestures—tapping and swiping fingers on a Multi-Touch trackpad—isn't entirely new. OS X has supported gestures in some form for several years. Even so, many of us still haven't adopted gestures as a way of interacting with our Macs. Maybe we don't have the right Multi-Touch hardware. Or maybe the mouse-plus-keyboard interface is burned so deeply into our muscle memory, we've seen no reason to switch.
But if Lion is any measure, gestures are becoming an important part of OS X; someday, they might replace the mouse entirely. So Lion's launch is a perfect opportunity to make the switch—or, at minimum, to become conversant in this interactive language. And even if swiping and tapping on a trackpad is already familiar to you, you'll still need to adjust to Lion's new vocabulary. Here are some tips for doing both.
If you use gestures now
Learning to use gestures in Lion will obviously be a lot easier if you've already been using them in Snow Leopard. To make things even easier, several of them haven't changed.
It can also help if you use an iPhone or iPad: Several of the gestures in Lion—including the single-finger tap, the pinch-to-zoom, and the two-finger rotate for images—are borrowed directly from iOS.
If you've used any gestures before, you'll have an easier time learning Lion's new ones than someone who has never gestured at all. According to cognitive scientists, if you've trained your brain to associate an on-screen event with some kind of finger movement on a trackpad, it'll be relatively easy to remap that same event to a new gesture.
The key to learning Lion's new gestures—as well as to learning gestures in general—is to be purposeful about it. You could pick up gestures eventually by using them haphazardly—but you'll learn a lot quicker if you do it deliberately.
Here's one way to do so: Choose a gesture you want to learn and a day when you'll start learning it. Then, on your chosen day, stop whatever you're doing every hour or so and spend a minute or two repeating the gesture. Repetition is important. So is a consistent context: If you practice for a while at the office and then a while at home, it won't be as effective as if you do it all at work. Repeat as necessary until you find you're able to use your new gesture unconsciously.