Apple will have a new software update for many Mac computer models this fall called OS X El Capitan.
While the current version, Yosemite, came out last year with many noticeable tweaks, you probably won’t notice much of a difference this time around. El Capitan wasn’t built to revolutionise the way you use your Mac. It’s an iteration of what already exists.
Apple’s preinstalled apps like Mail, Maps, and Notes have all been improved. Spotlight, the feature that lets you search for files on your Mac, can now search the web for information like sports scores and weather. And Apple Maps can finally give you public transportation directions in certain cities, something that’s been missing since the app was first launched on the iPhone in 2012.
I’ve been testing an early version of El Capitan on a MacBook Pro. A lot of the new features are nice to have, especially if you rely on Apple’s apps and services to do everything. But those who use alternatives like Gmail, Google Maps, Evernote, Wunderlist, and the slew of other third-party apps and services out there won’t see a huge difference. In most cases, there are better third-party apps than the ones Apple gives you with your Mac.
Then again, El Capitan will be a free upgrade for a large portion of current Mac users, and it includes a lot of useful performance boosts. You’ll probably want to get it. If you’re unsure, you can try an early beta version of the operating system now if you sign up through the company’s website. Fair warning: the beta version of El Capitan might have bugs and glitches, so it’s best not to install it on your primary computer.
The features in El Capitan aren’t final, but here’s a quick look at what you can expect when you get the new operating system as a free download in a few months.
When you wiggle your mouse, the cursor blows up so you can find it easier. It seems minor, but it’s one of my favourite features.
You can run two apps in a split view so they run side-by-side and take up your entire screen. You can resize each window too. This is very similar to how split-screen apps work in Windows 8.
If you have a lot of apps running at the same time, you can swipe up on the trackpad with three fingers to view your Mission Control, which shows all of your app windows.
Spotlight lets you search for stuff like sports scores and weather. You can also use natural language searches to find files and other stuff stored on your computer. For example, you can search for “photos I edited yesterday.” However, it can’t do everything that Google search can do. You’re better off using Google for most web searches and Spotlight for finding files stored on your machine.
Here’s what it looks like when you search sports scores:
The Notes app is more robust, letting you drop in pictures, PDFs, and other file types. Other Apple apps like the Safari browser can sync with Notes, so you just click a button to send content like a web page to Notes. However, Notes is not as robust as other note apps like Evernote.
The Safari browser is pretty much the same as before, but it does have a useful feature that lets you “pin” your favourite sites so they always stay open. These tabs work differently than regular tabs. Whenever you open a new link from a pinned site, Safari opens a new tab so you don’t lose your spot. Think of pinned tabs as a cross between a bookmark and an open tab. You can keep your favourite sites running at all times. It’s especially useful for sites like Twitter, Gmail, and Facebook that are always updating.
You can see a few pinned tabs in the screenshot below. They show up as tiny icons instead of a full tab.
Mail has a bunch of minor new features, and they’re very similar to what you’d find in the web version of Gmail.
For example, if someone sends you a message about a meeting, you can add it to your calendar just by clicking on the time and date. You can also add someone to your contacts if she’s emailing you for the first time or has updated contact information. Mail also lets you compose multiple messages at once in a tab view.
Finally, search in Mail is a lot better. It uses natural language just like Spotlight, so you can search for something like, “messages from Jay Yarow sent last week.”
Apple Maps can now give you public transit directions in select cities like New York and San Francisco.
The iPhone version of Apple Maps will get this feature soon too. But Google Maps is still a better option for a lot of people living in cities that Apple doesn’t support yet.
Those are the most important changes you’ll notice in El Capitan. Again, it’s really an upgrade for people who already enjoy using Apple’s preinstalled apps and services for everything. They’re not the best, but they are pretty good if you use them on all of your Apple devices.
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