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Mac OS X El Capitan: Top Features Reviewed

Good news, Mac owners: Apple will be releasing a brand new operating system to replace OS X Yosemite this fall! The new operating system will be named OS X El Capitan, which directly translates to “the captain”.

Now I know the name may seem random to some, and I personally found it strange at first considering how I refer to myself as El Capitan after four-or-so Captain and Coke cocktails, but I’m pretty sure that the Apple executives didn’t decide the new OS X name over cocktails (although I can’t rule it out, either!).

The name actually is a nod to OS X Yosemite, as El Capitan is a vertical rock formation located within Yosemite National Park.

That tidbit of information aside, let’s get down to what’s really important about OS X El Capitan: the features.

We’ve assembled a list of the top features that Mac owners can expect to see this fall, plus we’ve given our two cents regarding their actual worth:

1. Enhanced Multitasking with Split View

El Capitan will allow you to split screen your applications with Split View, essentially letting you do two tasks at once. You know, because clicking those little buttons at the bottom of the screen to switch applications was soo tedious.

The concept is fantastic on paper, but I have serious doubts that it will see much use.

Going through the motions to activate the feature is a task in and of itself, and the majority of Mac users will undoubtedly continue to open and close their applications by use of the dock and Mission Control

This isn’t to say that people won’t use the feature, as it will definitely come in handy for some professionals who are constantly glued to their computer with several different minor tasks and need to constantly switch between, say, Excel and Word. But as far as the average consumer is concerned, I honestly can’t see Split View being fully utilized for more than a week once El Capitan is installed.

2. Mission Control Receives a Face Lift

Mission control is an excellent feature on Yosemite, but it has its flaws. One of the more notable flaws is the fact that small open pages (such as dialogue boxes) tend to get stacked and hidden behind larger ones, making them difficult to see in Mission Control.

Apple has eliminated this problem with El Capitan, and has made Mission Control even easier to use by simplifying its appearance and organizing different content with tabs located at the top of the screen (as seen below).

They’ve also made it easier to make room for important new tabs. All you need to do is drag any window to the top of your screen, and drop it into a new desktop space.

This upgrade means that you wont ever have search all over the place for the tab that you’re looking for when you’re trying to quickly maneuver between tasks, which is honestly about damn time!

3. Spotlight Upgraded

The update to Spotlight is, in my opinion, the most exciting and practical upgrades that El Capitan has to offer.

Apple sent Spotlight to school to pick up some new tricks, and soon it will debut smarter and faster than ever, bringing weather updates, stock information, advanced search using natural language (like Siri), and new search sources.

You’ll also be able to change the size of the search window, allowing for more information to be shown.

These upgrades will pretty much make Spotlight your go-to tool, eliminating the need to open up either your web browser or the finder in order to find what you’re seeking.

4. Mail Inbox Upgraded

Mail will now dissect your emails and give you suggested contacts and events to add to your schedule, which when you click on will be added to the designated application on your Mac (which is perfect for lazy people like myself who would forget to jot that information down).

In addition, Apple has streamlined the full screen experience, allowing you to juggle multiple emails at once and keep everything organized.

New swipe controls have also been implemented, meaning that you can swipe right to mark an email as read or unread, or swipe left to delete, a process that will be extremely familiar for iOS users.

These new features really are incredible, but they aren’t the changes I was hoping to see in the Mail platform for El Capitan.

I am one of the millions of people with an personal email address, but to honest, unless I’m accessing my non-gmail work email accounts, Mail tends to be unused in favor of the Gmail web browser. I currently don’t see this changing with El Capitan’s update.

Gmail lets you divide your emails with their “Primary”, “Social”, and “Promotions” tabs, which makes shifting though emails and mass deleting them a complete breeze. This is especially great for me, as I can easily find important work emails without being flooded by promotions from TGI Fridays (which are actually great, but I digress).

Apple implementing a similar feature into the Mail platform would be a complete game changer, simplifying how we view and organize our mail.

Honestly, the lack of such a feature ultimately makes the update to Mail rather disappointing.

5. Notes Now Has ALOT More Depth and Usefulness

The Notes application is great when you want to quickly jot something down but you don’t want to wait for Word to open. But Notes doesn’t have much depth. It’s a literal e-version of a yellow notepad, and that’s it.

Now you finally can do much more.

The El Capitan update will bring checklists to Notes, allowing you to create grocery lists and to-do lists (which you’ll be able to check off once a bullet is completed).

You’ll also be able to draft your lists at home and take them out on the go with you, as Notes will work with iCloud, meaning you can send your information right to your iPhone or iPad.

6. Third Party Editing Comes to Photos

Apple has streamlined Photos (which replaces iPhoto, for those who still have it) in order to make location and facial tagging easier and more efficient, but that’s really just a minor change. The biggest upgrade for Photos as part of El Capitan is the integration of third party tools.

You’ll be able to enhance your photos further by downloading third party editing tools (that of course support Photos) from the Mac App Store. You’ll be able to download plenty of texture effects and new filters!

This is great for the average person just looking to tweak their photos, but people serious about photo editing and manipulation should still rely on the big boy programs (think Photoshop).

7. New Tools Come to Safari

The update to Safari is something to really get excited about!

You’ll be able to FINALLY mute tabs, stopping those pesky ads from spewing their nonsense without embarking on a manhunt for the source once and for all.

Also new is the ability to use AirPlay to share web video without sharing your whole screen (kind of like how Chromecast works). All you need to do is click the AirPlay icon that appears on compatible web videos and your video will show up on your TV. And just as an FYI, you will need an Apple TV for this to work.

Finally, you’ll also be able to pin the websites you use most often, keeping them active in the background. They’ll be located right on the left side of your tab bar.

8. Public Transport Info Comes to Maps

Now you’ll be able to map out public transportation routes, with detailed walking, subway, train, bus, and ferry directions.

You’ll also be able to send all the information about your route to your iPhone so you can get directions while you’re on the go.

But even with these updates Apple is STILL behind on the times when it comes to the world of navigation. In addition to the public transport addition (which is excellent, albeit not a new concept) it would have been excellent to have seen an upgrade to the actual, well, maps.

Apple has tweaked Maps drastically since it debuted (which many will agree began as a rare failure by Apple), but there is still plenty of work to be done.

Let’s not be directed off a cliff, please.

9. Mac Meets Metal

With all these new updates coming with El Capitan, Apple has created a new graphics core in order to speed up your Mac and make the transition to El Capitan streamlined:

Metal is a new graphics core technology that gives games and apps near-direct access to the graphics processor on your Mac, delivering enhanced performance and a richer graphical experience. Metal speeds system-level graphics rendering by up to 50 percent,4 as well as making it up to 40 percent more efficient.5 Metal allows the main processor and graphics processor to work more effectively together, boosting high-performance apps. And Metal is designed to be great for games, improving draw call performance by up to 10x and paving the way for new levels of realism and detail. –

My only question is this: will that actually speed up your Mac? Unfortunately, many Mac users experience a drastic slow down of their device after upgrading their software (something I experienced first hand, and still experience, when I upgraded to Yosemite).

And it’s not just Mac users who see a decrease in speed and performance when upgrading, iOS users experience this same thing, as well, when they upgrade their device.

I personally think Apple is guilty of purposely slowing down devices with the updates in order to piss people off so we all cave in and purchase a new device. It does make sense financially, you have to admit.

So while El Capitan does sound great so far with all the features and what-not, I highly recommend that Mac users wait a while before upgrading to see what experiences other Mac users reported after upgrading to the new OS X.

These new features may just be a small perk to an overall nightmare upgrade, but only time will tell.

NOTE: There currently is no official release date for El Capitan, but the public is able to beta-test it.

What do you think of El Capitan? Is there anything you really think Apple should have included? Let us know in the comments below!

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