When Apple recently released its new operating system, Mac OS X Mountain Lion, I chose not to immediately upgrade and waited a few weeks so that any major bugs could be ironed out. I finally upgraded a few weeks ago and although I encountered (and continue to encounter) some glitches with my MacBookPro’s hibernation cycle, overall, I’m glad I upgraded.

What really makes this upgrade worthwhile is the improved interface, much of which is borrowed from the iOS used on iPads and iPhones. In addition, there are a ton of new features, many of which I’ve found to be very useful. Below, I share a few of my favorites.

Encrypted Time Machine Backups

Good news for lawyers: you can now encrypt your time machine backups, which is a very desirable new feature since we’re always dealing with confidential data. To enable encryption, go to “System preferences”,” then “Time machine,” then click on “Select disk,” then choose the disk and then check the box next to “Encrypt backups.”

Built-in dictation capabilities

Mountain Lion includes a built-in dictation function which can be used in any application where you are required  to input information by typing. Instead of typing, you can now use your chosen keyboard shortcut to open up the dictation function and then begin speaking. When dictating, be sure to include references to punctuation, etc., just as you would if you were dictating to your secretary. You speech is then sent to Apple’s servers and is nearly instantaneously transcribed to text.

Of course, prior to using this system, you will need to assess the ethical implications of sending confidential client data to Apple’s servers, as I explain in this Lawyerist post, where I discuss using the dictation function on my iPhone.

Also, as I explained in my earlier post, one drawback to using Apple’s dictation system is that after less than a minute of dictating, the app will automatically stop allowing input and will then transcribe your recent block of speech into text. While some might find this interruption to be distracting, it doesn’t bother me. I simply wait for a moment, compose my thoughts, and then continue on with my dictation.

Pin notes to your desktop

Another nice feature introduced in Mountain Lion is that you can “pin” notes to your desktop. To do so, you first open the Notes program, at which point you’re presented with a list of your notes. Next, double-click on the title of the note you would like to pin. The note then opens up in a separate window and can be moved and arranged on your desktop however you’d like. This newfound ability to “tack” important notes right onto your desktop is an easy way to leave yourself very visible reminders.

Organize dashboard widgets into folders

Finally, you can now organize your dashboard widgets into folders, just as you do with your iPad or iPhone. Simply pull up the dashboard screen and click on the “+” button. You’ll be presented with widgets that you can add to your dashboard. Simply drag one widget into another, as you do with apps on your iPhone or iPad, and a new folder will automatically be created, making it simple to keep your apps organized and easily accessible.

So there you have it! A few of my favorite Mac OS X Mountain Lion tips and tricks to improve your user experience. What are yours?