Most of the buzz at WWDC 2015 earlier this week was around Apple’s new music service and improvements to iOS 9, but the company also took to the stage to debut its newest update to Mac OS, named “El Capitan,” a Spanish phrase that translates to “the captain” or “the chief,” after a favorite rock climber mountain elevation in Yosemite National Park. While most of the company’s additions to OS X aren’t major overhauls, Apple aims to show it’s still got its groove as the king of overall refinement — a reputation that’s taken a bit of a hit with Yosemite.
Although we’re no longer in the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC”-commercial days, Apple continues to remind its users that Mac OS X is the company’s best effort to undo the ever-present Microsoft Windows hegemony when it comes to personal computers. During the keynote at WWDC 2015, Apple compared user adoption of its latest Mac OS available (OS X Yosemite) to Windows 8.1, and showing that 55% of current Mac users have downloaded Yosemite as opposed to only 7% of Windows users running the latest released version. So with that, let’s step through a few of the more significant new features.
New trackpad motions
As part of El Capitan, Apple has added some swipe gestures that have become second nature to iPhone and iPad users. Among these is the “swipe to keep” gesture that lets you swipe two fingers across the MacBook’s trackpad to keep an email. The next swipe gesture lets you swipe the same two fingers across the trackpad to delete an email.
Pinned Sites in Safari
Some individuals have particular sites they like to keep around, but the current bookmarking system may not be preferable to these individuals. After all, who wants to dig around their main menu to find the sites they want to see daily when they could just save them to the main screen?
Apple has now provided a way to save your most visited and beloved websites to the main desktop screen by way of a feature called Pinned Sites. Pinned Sites let you save preferred websites to the left of the main page that you can access at any time – even if you close the main tab and reopen it (or restart your computer). Pinned sites are accessible from the main page regardless of how many links you open. Links will appear in new tabs, but will not affect your pinned sites.
Mute in Tabs
Mute in Tabs is a useful but reactionary feature to autoplay music. If you’ve ever visited a website for the first time, two things usually greet you: 1) overwhelming ads that drown out the article you’re reading and 2) autoplay music from a video ad. You may not even know your volume is turned up until the video ad or music starts to play. Now, instead of having to reach for the volume button on your Mac keyboard, you can simply mute the sound right in the tab in which the autoplay occurs. As Craig Federighi joked on stage, you can always “x” out the autoplay tab. But you still want to read the article, right?
Spotlight search is smarter in OS X
El Capitan than it was in Yosemite, allowing you to search for weather on a particular day, as well as favorite sports teams, recent games and scores. It now supports natural language searches — bypassing the typical guess-the-right-word encounter where you have to type in a key word to hope for a file to appear. If, for example, you want to find the last three emails you’ve missed from your boss, simply do a search for “missed emails from Clark” (insert boss’s name here) and Spotlight is now “intelligent” enough to understand the context and find the emails you need. Spotlight works in Finder and email as well.
Mission Control now makes multitasking easier: A few swipe gestures lets you bring up different tabs as the need arises so that you can make the most of your mono-screened workspace. Where you’re responding to an email, but receive another and want to read the new email, Mac OS X El Capitan will hide the email reply you’re working on while you read the new email. If you want to attach something from another email into the reply email, it’s a simple drag-and-drop. You can also compose a new email from within a tab.
A new split-screen viewing mode — somewhat like on iOS 9
, at least on the surface — lets you pick a side of the screen (left or right) on which to load a given webpage. From there, you need only to drag and drop on one side of the screen to bring up two pages in split-screen mode. The new Notes app works with split-screen viewing as well, giving Apple its own take on Google Keep in that you can drag and drop both pictures and links into the new Notes app. Split-screen viewing also works with photos and messages as well, so the feature is not just restricted to webpages or links.
There are other features in El Capitan, such as the resizable Spotlight window, a new system font, a redesigned Disk Utility, and improved autofill. On the performance front, Federighi claimed OS X 10.11 will offer 40% faster app launches than its predecessor, and switching between apps, previewing PDFs, and opening emails will be 2-4x as fast as before. Apple is also ditching Vulkan for its Metal API
, which it’s bringing over from iOS from the first time as well. We’ll be talking more about OS X El Capitan as it nears public beta release in July.