Apple has finally released the latest version of its computer software named OS X El Capitan. It brings a lot of improvements that will convince you to update, but should you? We give you a rundown of the major changes in this new OS X version.
After installing the update and rebooting your Mac, the first thing you will notice is the new system-wide font. It’s called San Francisco, the new font that Apple has also started implementing into the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 9. This replaced Helvetica Neue which was also implemented in all Apple OSs before. If you own an iOS device and have updated to the latest version, you will definitely recognize the new font on your Mac.
I personally like the fresh visual impact that the new font brings, but it looks distorted on lower-res displays like the one in my MacBook Air. Luckily, if you have a 2015 MacBook, a MacBook Pro with Retina Display or a 4K iMac, you’ll appreciate the new font more. Also, if you want to test how well you can distinguish the difference between the old and the new font, check out this quiz by funkyspacemonkey.com here (http://www.funkyspacemonkey.com/helvetica-neue-vs-san-francisco-can-you-tell-the-difference). I scored a 10/12, but it was challenging.
Finally, OS X is allowing split view, a feature that has been present in Microsoft’s Windows since Windows 7. Well, it’s better late than never, right? This is a great new feature especially for Mac users that have bigger displays and those that do a lot of multi-window tasks. As a writer, I find myself constantly switching back and forth between applications and this feature allows me to finally see the Notes app and Safari at the same time.
To use split view, just click and hold on the green stoplight button (Maximize) on your app taskbar until either the left of the right side of your screen shows a blue highlight. When it does, drag the app window there and it will automatically snap to place. Once done, the opposite window will show you other open apps you can also open in Split View. Just click on whichever app you want.
Easy, right? Here’s the catch, though. Unlike the Windows counterpart, the feature only works for Apple’s apps and a few third party apps like Chrome and Spotify. Even Microsoft’s new 2016 Office Apps, which I expected to work with this new feature, crashed every time I tried. Hopefully, updates will soon fix this problem and more apps will be compatible. That would be awesome.
SHAKE TO LOCATE
Ever had that moment when you’re about to do something on your Mac but you can’t find where your cursor is? Well, El Capitan brings an adorable solution to that, and it’s called Shake to Locate. Basically, you just have to brush your finger on top of your trackpad, much like how you would do it with a mouse to make the cursor move quickly so you can find it right away. The “adorable” part in this feature is that it doesn’t just make the cursor wiggle, but it also enlarges it about 50 times its normal size so you really won’t be able to miss it. It’s a fun feature, and one that’s helpful, too.
El Capitan also brings updates to the well-loved Mission Control feature. Now, apps are arranged per window instead of per app type. This means if you have 10 documents plus Safari, Spotify and Messages open all at the same time, Mission Control will show them all as individual previews you can click on to to switch apps. This is opposed to how Yosemite and previous OS X versions show these previous per app.
I personally prefer the previous more organized, less cluttered way Mission Control showed apps per type, and luckily, we are allowed to switch back to it. Find it in System Preferences > Mission Control > Group Apps per Type.
PERFORMANCE AND SPEED
OS X El Capital brings Metal to the Mac. It’s the graphics engine developed by Apple to optimize the performance of games and apps on iOS devices. It was introduced when iOS 8 was released in order to make the new animations and the overall interface of the new version of the operating system faster and smoother. This is great news for Mac users as faster app loading, smoother transitions and more fluid gaming. Apple also promises up to 40% faster web page rendering and up to 50% faster PDF rendering.
However, there are reports that the integration of Metal into the system has created a significant impact in the battery life of Macs. When I read the reports, I was actually worried my Mac would suffer the same. And it did, but only for a time. During my first day of use of the new OS, my Mac’s battery life dropped. Whereas before, I would get 7 to 10 hours of use, on that day, battery life varied from 6 to 8 hours depending on what apps I had open. I quickly considered it a validation of the reports I read online. I gave it another go, and the following days were better. I got the 7 to 10 hours battery life back given that I used Safari instead of Chrome, and that I would only open the apps I know I will need.
I can say I became a little bit paranoid after I noticed the drop in battery performance, but I found simple solutions that fixed it. After all, Metal is supposed to make the battery life better as this new graphics engine is more energy efficient than the previous one.
Aside from faster web page loading thanks to Metal, Safari now allows you to pin tabs. This means you can keep your most visited websites and always have them load first after launching Safari. This is very similar to what Google Chrome has already been offering before. But the similarity doesn’t end there.
The new Safari also now lets you find which tab is playing audio easily by showing a speaker icon on the tab. Sounds familar, pun intended, but these are little efforts that Apple is exerting to bring the Mac and its OS to the present.
I can definitely say that I am one those who does not use the native Mail app in OS X. I heavily rely on my browser to access my emails. El Capitan brings added functionalities into the Mail to probably convince people like me to use it more. Just like in iOS 9, the updated Mail app can now search for contexts like date, time and location and suggest to add it to your calendar. It even now lets you save unknown contacts with just a click. One neat trick maximizes the use of the trackpad gestures. You can now swipe left or right, just like in iOS, to take care of your emails.
Possible issues with the battery life can be fixed with a few system preferences tweaks, but there’s one glaring issue that I discovered while exploring El Capitan. I love using AirDrop. It’s a breeze transferring my photos from my camera to my iPhone so I can edit it, and then transferring them back to my Mac for posting here in the blog. AirDrop in Yosemite was already hit and miss, but it became worse with El Capitan. My Mac couldn’t detect my iPhone, and vice versa. If it did, transferring files would take a while, and most of the time, fail. I tried Googling about the issue, and as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who experienced it. It’s such a pain that this really basic, useful feature is now more than ever difficult to use. I’m hoping that Apple will soon release an update to fix this.
This update isn’t perfect as it has its flaws (aka bugs), but we see what Apple is trying to do here. The company not only wants to make the experience on Macs and iOS devices seamless and feel similar, but it’s also trying to update everything to answer the demands of its fans in terms of functionality. This is best evidenced by the addition of features that have mostly long been present in Windows. It’s an exciting version, but if you haven’t updated yet, it will be right to wait until Apple releases fixes for its initial bugs. You’re probably going to miss that Helvetica font, anyway, just like I do.