Apple’s latest version of Mac OS is now available for download from the App Store. OS X 10.11, also called El Capitan, is free and upgrading will be as easy as click-download-install-restart.
From a design perspective, El Capitan is not a major overhaul. Instead, it is a set of minor adjustments to the existing OS X 10.10 Yosemite, making it an incremental upgrade. The font gets crispier (to complement the larger retina display iMacs and MacBooks), the OS gets flatter, transparency is enhanced, and the overall look and feel of the OS is tweaked to look more like its mobile and tablet counterparts. But, these superficial changes aside, a lot of work has gone into ‘under the hood’ changes, with emphasis on functionality and security.
Whatever be the case, we are really excited to try El Capitan firsthand. So while we wait for the 6.06 GB file to download, here’s a list of the top features to look forward to in the latest upgrade:
1. Streamlined Mission Control
I am a control freak. I need to organise and reorganise things constantly. I find synergy in order and peace in structure. And if you are anything like me, you will be a big fan of using mission control.
In El Capitan, Mission Control now does a much better job of organizing and presenting your open windows. The cluttered stacks give way to individual thumbnails of all open applications. Overall, the entire feature feels friendlier and makes more sense than ever before.
2. Split View / Muti-tasking
The ability to snap windows to the side of the screen (a feature available in Windows since Vista!) finally comes to our beloved Mac. Drawing from a real life example, as I type this article, I am continuously pressing Command + Tab to switch between the word document and the reference articles. It greatly hinders my productivity. With El Capitan, we will be able to work better with two apps running side by side in full screen mode.
3. Better Spotlight Search
Spotlight now recognises “natural language”. Meaning you can just type in ‘E-mail from Aditi in March’, and spotlight will give you a list of all emails Aditi sent you in March. Or if you are missing out on the match finals because of deadlines in the office, just type ‘What’s happening between India and South Africa and it will show you scores.
Also, you can now move the spotlight search box and resize it – making it more of an app than a function.
Safari’s new version has several features that make it more user-friendly and intuitive. Here’s a snapshot of a few we really like:
Let’s start with “Pins”. Safari finally has the option of pinning your favorite sites. Drag a tab into the left corner of Safari’s title bar and it will stay there permanently, with a little icon to distinguish it. When you close a pinned tab, it shrinks back to the icon; but it’s always open, with no “X” button allowing you to close it completely. This helps to launch your favorite tabs more quickly. And with background refresh, your tabs are continuously and automatically being updated.
5. Audio Icon
Another neat little feature that Apple has picked up from Chrome is displaying a small speaker icon on top of the tab that is playing an audio file. It helps you find that one tab with the annoying ad among the twenty you’ve got open. Safari takes it a step further and lets you mute all of the tabs with one single click on the icon.
6. Video Stream
Safari now supports AirPlay. So you can stream youtube or other videos to your Apple TV. Again, here we see Apple taking on a similar Google product – the Chrome Cast.
Photos received a major up-haul for Yosemite itself and no one expected any significant changes this time around. However there are a few interesting add-ons. For starters, Photos will now support ‘Live Photos’ – the posh new feature of iPhones 6S and 6S Plus.
Photos now also supports various third party apps, most of which are editing tools. Seeing as Apple had done away with Aperture last February, this is welcome news.
Apple Maps perhaps is one the biggest disaster stories for Apple. For a company that seems to be able to walk on water, the level of ridicule it got for its Maps is only matched by its launch of the first ever android app.
Apple is way, way behind the all powerful Google in the maps department, but at least it is not giving up on the fight. This time around Apple has finally introduced transit directions in its maps. Let’s hope that it takes Apple home safely.
The redesigned Notes app in OS X has been updated to match the new Notes application in iOS 9. It now supports ‘drag-and-drop’ for various multimedia elements, including photos, video, PDFs, audio clips, map locations, and iWork documents.
Also you can now share Notes from most of Apple’s built-in apps, like Maps and Safari. Apple has also said that third-party developers will be able to build this option into their apps as well.But starting with El Capitan, Notes can also use iCloud advanced features, including checklists, fancy links etc.
10. Others / Miscellaneous
Taking a cue from iOS and from some third-party competitors, Mail now allows you to use the trackpad to swipe messages into the trash or to mark them as unread. Trackpad oriented users will appreciate the shortcut, and there’s a preference to let you choose whether a swipe deletes the message or archives it.
If a potential event is mentioned in the text of an email message – “Let’s have lunch on Thursday” – Mail will add a banner above the top of the message body that displays the event and provides an “Add event” link to quickly schedule it in your calendar. Likewise, if the person mailing you doesn’t appear in your Contacts list, Mail will display a banner indicating that it’s detected a possible new contact with a quick “Add contact” link.
So should you upgrade?
If you are using Yosemite, you should probably upgrade. If you’re still using Lion or Mountain Lion (or even Snow Leopard), you should definitely upgrade. None of us will be able to say that our Mac experience has fundamentally changed. But we will get the feeling that the whole experience has become a lot snappier and more functional across the ecosystem.