With the release of OS X “Yosemite” just around the corner (“Fall 2014”), many are wondering what the new release has, why they should care, and what to expect. After playing with the beta releases of it for the past few months, here’s some of the things you might care about.
The most obvious change is the look and feel of the Yosemite. OS X hasn’t really changed its look much since the early days, with only minor visual tweaks, and gradual modernization (like getting rid of the early pinstripe feel). With this release however, the design team embraces the flat mantra begun in iOS 7 and goes to town with reflection. The quasi-3D glass effect (Aqua) of OS X is now gone, and replaced with a much flatter look. In addition, windows are now much more dynamic, with their menu bars being translucent, echoing their content. For example, if you’re in Safari looking at a webpage and scrolling away, you’ll see the reflection of your page passing beneath the Safari menu bar. It’s a subtle look, but it really makes the whole OS look very sleek.
Going hand-in-hand, all the icons have been redesigned (flattened), and all the apps have been visually tweaked. One of the more obvious tweaks will be welcomed by those sporting laptops. Whereas in previous versions, the toolbars, icons, url bar, etc for windows managed to take up about 1/5 of the screen, that has all been streamlined now. Instead, use of the horizontal space is much more effective, minimizing the vertical expanse, which is very helpful considering screens are a lot wider than they are tall. So, in other words, now you can see more on a screen than you could before.
Along with the flattening, Apple has added a “Dark Mode” option (in System Preferences > General) allowing you to make everything dark instead of white. While this is currently kinda limited until applications take advantage of this, in theory in the future it should be handy for those times that you want to concentrate on the content that you’re on without the occasional glare of the menu/dock/etc.
Safari, Mail, Messages, iTunes
Safari gets the most out of the redesigned toolbar, with just a little bit being visible, with the rest of the window devoted to the page you’re on. In addition, it’s faster and gives you more fine-tune control over your privacy settings
Mail is, as usual, faster (and doesn’t seem to have the technical issues it had in the first version of Mavericks), and has all-new ways of handling attachments. Not only can you now annotate documents, fill out PDF forms, and tweak images within Mail, but you can also send attachments far beyond the limits imposed by your email provider. Basically, your giant video that you want to send to your friend is uploaded to Apple servers, and seamlessly linked in your email message. If your recipient is also fortunate enough to be rocking Yosemite, they see your attachment inline in the email as normally expected (even if it’s a 700MB video file). If they’re using an older OS X or a PC, they instead get a link to access the attachment. Easy peasy.
Messages looks prettier of course, but also allows you to send/receive SMS (text) messages if your iPhone is on iOS 8. More about that later. It’s also more flexible with group conversations (including letting you get out of that group conversation that’s driving you nuts with annoying drivel).
iTunes also gets a facelift, and a new icon color. As you can see in the dock, it’s now a bright red instead of its traditional blue (or older green). Why is the icon gradually going through the RGB color spectrum? Good question, but the red finally unifies the color choices across iOS (Music icon) and OS X. The interface brings support for the new Family Sharing options, as well as simplifying the clutter of the previous versions. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be any effort to streamline iTunes into separate apps instead of the jumble of everything-media that it current is, but at least it looks prettier…
When iCloud came out initially, we had high hopes that we could use it to store documents instead of using Dropbox or OneDrive. But frankly, its document storage options were really limited, and many just ignored it. Apple is seeking to rectify that with this version, sporting an iCloud Drive where you can store any files and access them at ease across your Apple devices (and presumably on iCloud.com), while storing them in folders, tagging them, and managing them hopefully with ease.
Connecting with iOS
A big feature coming with Yosemite, of which I’m most excited, is its integration with iOS (what you run on your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad). There’s a lot here, but I’ll just give you the basics, and if you want more, Apple has published a nice little rundown of these features.
Assuming you have an iPhone, it will now play nice with your Mac. When you get a phone call, it will also ring on your Mac (and iPad with iOS 8), and you can answer it as well on your Mac, giving you one giant speakerphone. Similarly, any SMS (text) messages that fly to your phone, will also appear in the Messages application of Yosemite. You can even start SMS conversations from your Mac, breaking down the barrier between your phone world and your internet/computer world. Twentieth century communication, meet the twenty-first. Also, no more digging in your pocket for your phone while you’re at your desk! Similarly, the new Instant Hotspot feature cuts down a few steps if you want to turn your iPhone into a hotspot for your Mac (share the data connection you have (e.g.: 3G/4G/LTE) with your computer). Now, you don’t even have to go and turn it on every time you want it – it just magically can be enabled from your Mac. This isn’t really a hallmark offering in Yosemite, but it’s pretty neat.
Finally, the really handy feature is Continuity. Basically, if you have, lets say an email message you’re writing on your iPhone, and you happen to be by your Mac, you can just stop tapping away at the tiny keyboard, open your Mac, and in the dock will be a magical Mail icon, which if you click on it, it opens your email draft exactly as you left it on your iPhone. Similarly, if you’re at a website on your Mac, then have to run out the door, on the lock screen of your iOS 8 device there will be a Safari icon, which when swiped, will open the website you were just looking at on your Mac. All in all, it’s a pretty neat feature if your life, like mine, is split between multiple Mac and iOS devices.
I’m not going to say much about this, but it bears pointing out. Apple decided to invent a new language call Swift. This isn’t something you’re going to walk down the street speaking to your cousin, but rather a programming language. Since you probably don’t really care about programming languages, the low-down of this is: apps can be made faster, more efficiently, and can be integrated into the Mac experience even more (e.g.: Widgets in Notification Center). So, you’ll never see this as a user, but it’s a good thing for you!
Release & Beta
However, in a notable move, for the first time ever, Apple has provided a Public Beta of Yosemite, so you can sign up for the Beta program (free) and be running Yosemite on your Mac today. The betas are pretty stable, and don’t have too many issues, but that being said, nobody in their professional mind will tell you to run a beta of anything on your primary machine. Because, guess what, it’s not actually ready for release yet. Some things won’t work properly, and some applications will flip out because they aren’t ready for Yosemite yet. That disclaimer being said, I’ve been running the betas of Yosemite for the past couple months and it’s really stable, and unless you use some funky application that doesn’t work with it (Google search will let you know if something works with Yosemite) it probably won’t hurt you to be running it now.
What’s the price of Yosemite when it’s released? Free, of course.