Among Lion’s 250-plus new features are improvements big and small in the way OS X handles text and fonts; Font Book and Text Edit in particular have both been upgraded.

One of the handiest of those improvements is that it’s easier than ever to insert accented characters. Previously, you could add an e or an œ using shortcut keys or the Character Viewer. In Lion, you just hold down the letter you want to add an accent to, and a dialog pops up listing its accented alternatives. You can click on a character or press the number underneath it to insert it. Even if you always write in English, you may still need to insert the occasional “à la mode” or “Exposé”; this change makes that much simpler.

The other big text-related improvement in Lion is system-wide auto-correction. As you type, Lion will display suggested alternatives in a little bubble below misspelled words. To accept the suggestion, you can press the spacebar; to reject it, you can click on the little X in the suggestion bubble or press Escape. This works much better than Substitutions in Snow Leopard; the latter worked in the background, without giving you any choice or warning before it made a change. Lion’s auto-correct gives you the final word.

Font Book 3.0

Lion also has an upgraded version of Font Book. While it still isn’t a full-strength font manager that can compete with third-party alternatives, Font Book has some welcome improvements.

Font Book 3.0 offers more versatility in character displays, shows all font glyphs, and displays full typeface metadata. The information panel lists the chosen font's PostScript name and full name, family, style, kind, version, install location, unique name, copyright, glyph count, and whether it is enabled, copy protected, embeddable, or the duplicate of another installed font.

Font Book’s interface has changed, too. There’s an updated four-button menu (Sample, Repertoire, Custom, and Information) in the toolbar that replaces the Gear icon drop-down menu. Under the File menu, there’s a new Restore Standard Fonts option. If you choose that, a dialog box appears that allows you to go back to the standard system font configuration that shipped with your OS; you’ll then see a new Fonts (Removed) folder next to the Fonts folder.

As for the fonts themselves, there’s a cool new one called Apple Color Emoji. Typically used for emoticons, it’s now included in Lion, and its 502 TrueType glyphs can be viewed in Font Book. Apple already supported emoticons in the iOS for Japanese input, but including the Emoji font in Lion (available in the Character Viewer) makes emoticons universal. Lion also adds international language fonts—including Damascus, PT Sans, and Kefa—to Font Book.

Text Edit 1.7

TextEdit, Mac OS X’s basic text editor, has also been tweaked.

The toolbar is now reminiscent of a fully-featured word processing program, with controls for paragraph styles, font family, typeface, font size, text and text background color, font style, alignment, line and paragraph spacing, and list bullets and numbering. You can select fonts and highlight text right from the toolbar without consulting the Fonts dialog. It is a nice, elegant treatment, but it’s too bad the toolbar is still not configurable.

The program’s search tools have been refined so that the search window appears underneath the ruler and highlights every instance of the found item simultaneously. There is a Find and Replace right from the Edit menu. Under the File menu there is a new Export as PDF command.

TextEdit takes advantage of Lion’s new automatic file-saving and versions technologies. These replace the app’s simple autosave feature (previously set to save a backup copy every 30 seconds). There’s no longer a choice offered for Leopard’s autosave pulldown menu and the checkbox for deleting the automatic backup file is also gone. With Versions support, you can browse previous versions of your document and either revert to a previous version or cut and paste from it.

As part of Lion's expanded language support, TextEdit now lets you input and display vertical text used by the Japanese and Chinese languages.

And speaking of international fonts, Lion supports the major languages of South and Southeast Asia. New fonts and keyboards support Bengali, Kannada, Khmer, Lao, Malayalam, Myanmar, Oriya, Sinhala, Telugu, and Urdu. New font families augment support for the Devanagari, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, and Tamil scripts used to write the Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Panjabi, and Tamil languages. The Nanum font family supports the Korean language.