A Few Notes about OS X El Capitan

It’s update day! Hooray! My usual sickness for installing beta operating systems long before any sane person would carried over to this year’s OS X update, 10.11 El Capitan. After several months, here is my collected list of notes, tips, and observations:

  • The new San Francisco font = win. I suspect this will be the Mac’s system font for a long time into the future.

  • Find friends in the today view sidebar is great. While working at my Mac I can get location data for my wife and kids immediately. I use it way more now that it is on my Mac than when this was an iOS-only thing.

  • Split view on the Mac is a great idea but the implementation feels wonky. Setting it up requires some precise clicking and dragging on the green minimize button. Swapping windows is harder than it should be. I like the idea but am not sold.

  • OS X Dictation got a performance bump. It is more accurate than the Yosemite version but also still makes some dumb mistakes and not as good as Dragon Dictate. (I’ll be writing more on that soon.)

  • That problem where some random-yet-unknown Safari tab is playing music is now solved. Safari puts a small speaker icon in the tab and never again will you be required to quit Safari because you can’t figure out which tab is playing the whack-a-mole song.

  • Swiping email to delete, trash, or archive is nice. It is not as useful as it is on iOS since we have keyboards on Macs but is a nice alternative. The only curious part is that aren’t as many swipe options on the Mac as there are on iOS, where you can also flag and move messages. It’s just weird that they didn’t didn’t include the same options.

  • Speaking of mail, data detectors are way better now. Apple Mail even gives you a little bar across the top of any message that includes usable data.

  • I’m going to write more about Notes but if you’ve been waiting, now is the time to push the button on updating your Notes database to the new Notes. Go ahead. Kick the tires.

  • Some of my nerd-friends aren’t impressed with the way Safari pins tabs. I like it. There are a few key sites that I like quick access to and pinning them does the job nicely.

  • Spotlight is getting Siri-like, by letting you type in natural language queries. (No Siri-type voice recognition this year.) Like all natural language interfaces, it works so long as you use the expected syntax. I like that the operating system is going this direction but consider it more a first step than anything else. Also, you can now move the Spotlight window.

  • There is system preference (in the General settings) to hide the menu bar. It may make sense if you’ve got a small screen. I tried it for a few days and it made me nuts. Apparently I still use the menu bar lots.

  • Metal means better graphics performance. While that is great for gamers, it also helps speed up slower Macs. Win-win. 

  • Two factor authentication is now part of the operating system. That’s a good thing.

  • Disk Utility got a new user interface. I never saw that coming.

  • One of my big complaints about Photos was the lack of third party extensions. That’s fixed now. Expect several Mac apps to get friendly with Photos now.

To learn more about El Capitan, we did an entire show on it with this week on the Mac Power Users.