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Feature: Five reasons to update to El Capitan
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NewsPoster
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Oct 2, 2015, 11:04 AM
 
There's is no doubt that you have at least a little interest in your Mac and OS X, or you wouldn't have read to the end of this sentence. Yet, it's equally sure that you're busy, it's certainly sure that updating will take longer than you think, and for once it is less obviously sure that you should do it. Trust us on this one, though: the upgrade is worth your time.

The reason the upgrade is a less obvious choice than is because OS X El Capitan doesn't actually add a giant amount of new features. More than that, there isn't just one new feature or even one new improvement that makes updating compelling. What is compelling, and what you'll come to find compelling, is how the the sum of the updates work together.

You're looking doubtful, and you're looking at your watch, figuring that you could just get on with your work in OS X Yosemite. Let's just say one thing first: once you've gone to El Capitan successfully, you won't want to go back to Yosemite.

1. Split screen

Don't skip this, not even because you do already know that split screen means you can have two apps side by side, or because you rightly think you've always been able to do this. The fact that El Capitan has a system for snapping the windows to either side is generally met with a shrug –– until it gets used. Then you'll think yes, actually, this works well.



We're not 100 percent sure why it works so well, but we tried it and we keep using it. We'll put Evernote up on the left side of the screen, a single Safari window on the right and that's it for the next hour. It keeps us focused on the task, for one thing. For another, we used to Command-Tab between apps over and over again, and somehow, this is more effective for our workflow. Seriously, don't time us because we actually still Command-Tab between the two, but it feels faster and at least some of that illusion must be because our Mac doesn't have to bring one window to the front and redraw it.

There's definitely some psychology going on here, because our second biggest wish for Split Screen is a quick way to swap the two sides around and have Safari on the left, Evernote on the right.

That is our second biggest wish, though: there is a greater one -- we'd like Split Screen to be less chaotic on the way back out. To get into this, you click and hold on the green traffic light button, the one that usually takes you into full screen. When you do this, OS X lightly highlights the left side of your screen and invites you to drag the current application into it. Once you do, the right of your screen goes to a dark background with a large thumbnail view of the windows open in your other apps. If those apps have not been updated to work with Split Screen then you get a note saying they aren't available but otherwise you just click on the one you want, and away you go.

The problem is when you come out of it. We can't consistently reproduce this, but we also can't seem to stop it happening: apps don't always return to where they were when you find and press that green light icon again. Safari, in particular, has ended up very nearly off the screen entirely. Just an inch or two of title bar remained so that we could click and drag it back in.

2. Pin it down

Speaking of Safari, if you have websites that you use a lot, pin them and they are always just one click away. That sounds like bookmarking (and it almost is), but a bookmark will go fetch a site when you click where as pinned ones stay active all the time. When you click on a pinned site it is right there immediately, and it doesn't even need to pause to be refreshed.

There are a couple of ways to pin a site, but the easiest is to wait until that website has loaded and then drag the favicon –– the little icon in the title bar before the site's address –– over to the left. Drag it just under the traffic light icons and let go. This is mildly tricky the first time you do it but after that you just drag it to your existing pins and it slots right in.



From there on, Safari has one or two or more very slim icons that are these pinned sites. Note that if you close all Safari windows, you close these pinned ones too.

3. Notes

There's got to be a PhD thesis in where the lines are between word processors, text editors and note-taking apps. If there is, it just got an extra chapter because Notes crosses lines. Until OS X El Capitan, Notes barely got into the note-taking category because it was so basic, and if you ever used it, you stopped the moment you got Evernote or OneNote or, really, anything else at all. We'd sooner write notes in iTunes than in the old Notes app but that's changed now -- it's changed entirely.

Writing in Notes is rather pleasant. We're trying to show you specific and practical benefits to OS X El Capitan, and it being pleasant doesn't feel like one -- yet you mustn't dismiss it. Similarly, we like the new overall look of El Capitan with its new San Francisco font everywhere. We can't say it makes is seven percent more productive, we can't say it somehow uses less power, but if we were the sort to ignore pleasures and instead stick to specifications and timings, we'd be Windows users.

As El Capitan users, we are now Notes users. This is something that we'll have to see over time and that's unlike every other feature we're mentioning. With all the rest we saw them, tried them, will never stop using them. With Notes, we like writing in it and we like how you can now drag images and do rather sophisticated work –– but we won't know how it stands up until we have hundreds or thousands of notes in there. For now, though, it's a new OS X feature to try out, especially if you also have Notes on iOS 9. We'll be writing more about this in the future.

4. Better data detectors

Mail now spots when you have a calendar event mentioned in an email. It's been spotting that for ages, but waiting until you hover over the date or time before offering to do anything. Now right at the top of the message there is a line saying that an event has been detected, and a button offers to add it to your calendar.

We use this a lot, but now it spots phone numbers and updated contacts. Same thing: they get shown up at the top of the message and as a direct consequence we have been adding contact details for people far more often.



That's the one we keep getting, and we keep using, but there are others such as flight number recognition. If someone emails saying that they've boarded this specific flight number, you can click on it in the email and go off automatically retrieve flight status.

5. Gestures in Mail

OS X El Capitan's new data detectors in Mail look very much like those in iOS 9, and the application has picked up more from its iPhone counterpart that we like. You can now swipe across your trackpad and delete a message. Or, if you choose, archive them off that same way. It's also got a tabbed look now for when you have several messages in drafts, and are reading something else to check up a detail while writing.

While you're reading and writing, by the way, Mail is now retrieving all the messages that aren't on the particular device you're using: for instance, anything you wrote and sent on your iPad. It has always done this, and until it finishes we've all had that confusion of not being able see a message we know we sent. However, now it works from the top: it retrieves the latest mail first and then gets the rest.

It's a small thing operationally, but it makes a difference. Overall, "makes a difference" is a fair description of the whole of OS El Capitan. We keep saying that there isn't one big feature we're adamant the world should take to, or that we say PC users should run to their nearest Apple Store for. Yet, the smallest and the most apparently obvious new features have proved to be compelling and irresistible. We don't begrudge one minute of the poorly-estimated time it took to update and we do very much begrudge having to go back to Macs that are still on OS X Yosemite.

-William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Oct 16, 2015 at 02:22 AM. )
     
RobOnTheCape
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Oct 2, 2015, 11:16 AM
 
Or don't use it if you can't chance Outlook freezing up. I have Office 2011, and I hear it's the same with 2016 version too.
     
panjandrum
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Oct 2, 2015, 12:11 PM
 
Just going to play Devil's advocate here for a moment, because overall I think El Capitan is pretty good... But, we are once again losing features. The a few things I've noticed so far: In Mail, the thumbnail status in the bottom left now shows less information, forcing you to keep the floating activity window active if you wish to actually know what's going on. Also in Mail, the ability to choose "Show -> Icons & Text" for (Customize Toolbar settings) has been eliminated for anything other than the primary Mail window, removing yet one more way to distinguish the functions of buttons from one another (remember, we lost already most color differentiation several OS iterations back...) Again in Mail, the shortcut buttons in the bottom left of the mailbox list have been removed... And that's just examples I can find in Mail alone. So the slow erosion of that once unassailable Mac user experience continues. (Disclaimer: There may be a way to re-enable some of these features, but if there is I haven't located them yet.)
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 2, 2015, 12:41 PM
 
While this is William's piece, I'm doing five reasons to NOT upgrade yet on Monday. Some of your concerns are addressed, and I have a few more.

I like El Cap, but there are some reasons not to jump. Yet.
     
bobolicious
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Oct 2, 2015, 12:44 PM
 
...Safari loses the ability to globally switch on & off the many available extensions relating to privacy, making it much less convenient to switch modes for the occasional site that one may be OK with tracking to facebook, google, yada, yada...

One more brick in the privacy wall is removed ...
     
Charles Martin
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Oct 2, 2015, 01:13 PM
 
Bobolicious: I noticed that one too, and it's annoying. Use the feedback button -- I have a feeling that feature will return with future updates.
Charles Martin
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Le Flaneur
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Oct 2, 2015, 04:43 PM
 
I don't see the new data detectors on mail with appropriate content. Any idea why not?
     
MitchIves
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Oct 2, 2015, 05:45 PM
 
Good stuff guys... keep it up, and I look forward to Mike's piece on Monday...
     
a1a23696
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Oct 2, 2015, 08:17 PM
 
This article confirms it: SLOW NEWS DAY
     
nat
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Oct 2, 2015, 08:56 PM
 
I had such annoying problems with sound in 10.10 (random popping) then I went back to 10.9. I tried every "fix" I could find and it never went away. Stopped as soon as I went back. Anybody know if this is fixed in El Cap?
     
ADeweyan
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Oct 3, 2015, 08:33 AM
 
I'm with panjandrum on this one. Not only has there been a slow, constant erosion of useful features in OSX, there have been very few new features that are actually useful. I used to be excited about OSX upgrades, now I'm curious, but very cautious.

I keep hoping someone at Apple will see the light and start restoring some of the lost features and interface elements, but I'm disappointed each time OSX is updated. I don't think there has been a new feature that was compelling to me since Snow Leopard, and I have a long list of things I used all the time that have been lost.
     
bobolicious
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Oct 3, 2015, 08:43 AM
 
"I'm doing five reasons to NOT upgrade yet on Monday"

I presume you mean the 'top' five...

I still miss QTVR, and of course Rosetta was brilliant...
     
bobolicious
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Oct 3, 2015, 09:04 AM
 
"Use the feedback button -- I have a feeling that feature will return with future updates."

That hasn't worked for Safari non-private new window opening from links...

Does Apple promote user privacy out of one mouth, while incrementally erode such to numerous other interests out of the other...?

So far I'm not replacing any macs that can run Snow, I've just switched to Firefox as default browser (it gets upgrades irrespective of OS), my last multi-year annual software maintenance contract commitment ends this year (thankfully) and there are a number of awesome local shops that can keep older hardware in top shape...
     
Charles Martin
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Oct 3, 2015, 07:08 PM
 
I wouldn't count on browser support for Snow for much longer, due to underlying security issues.
Charles Martin
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tehwoz
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Oct 4, 2015, 02:23 PM
 
Sticking with 10.9.5 (Mavericks) until they get rid of that hideous flat GU introduced in YosemiteI: esp the icky robot lights in Yosemite and El Capitan. I tried moving to Yosemite and found it far too ugly to live with ... and promptly 'upgraded' myself back to Mavericks (still easily the best - at least it feels like a Mac)
     
Charles Martin
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Oct 4, 2015, 05:56 PM
 
Good luck with that strategy.
Charles Martin
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bobolicious
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Oct 4, 2015, 07:23 PM
 
...so I just tried, in desperation to escape from Yosemite after Snow, to try a clean install on a fresh format of El Capitan...

App Store was a disaster, multiple failed or incomplete subsequent upgrades & installs or registrations - all of this from base OS... App fails included iPhoto, Aperture, iMovie... 24 hours later app store finally suggests updates are no longer needed, yet with multiple failed install warnings, yet the apps open seemingly well...

Does one trust this environment for real work ?

My dabble with W10 raises concern for MacOS, despite the reported privacy affronts of W10... This was A CLEAN MACOS INSTALL... W10 was linear, as was the subsequent reversion to W7...

The MacNN cautions I suggest users heed...
( Last edited by bobolicious; Oct 4, 2015 at 09:31 PM. )
     
Charles Martin
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Oct 5, 2015, 02:31 AM
 
Bobolicious: that's just you. You are literally the only person (and we monitor Apple support and all the popular Mac forums reporting issues ...) with these problems. Looking at your post history, you have a very long list of issues with Macs that nobody else ever seems to have, or is even able to duplicate.
( Last edited by Mike Wuerthele; Oct 5, 2015 at 07:25 AM. )
Charles Martin
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Val_UK
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Oct 5, 2015, 08:40 PM
 
I have El Capitan installed with no problem on the first iMac (2013), while on the home computer (iMac 2010) installation was not so seamless.
After downloading and running the installation package, the iMac froze after entering the user login name and the password. After trying to reboot and login multiple times, I've downloaded El Capitan installation and made a bootable USB drive. Then I booted up from the jump drive and re-installed El Capitan. After then the I had no problem with logging in. Upon entering my Mac App store, I found that it had an incomplete and corrupted El Capitan download.
Like others, I have a freezing Outlook 2011, and Capture One Pro 8. The rest works well. So far I have no complaints about El Capitan performance even though that installation experience was disappointing.
Woud I upgrade again? - Yes. I just wait for Capture One Pro and Microsoft to update their products.
     
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Oct 6, 2015, 10:27 PM
 
It seems the OS and device manufacturers are so trying to out 'feature' the other guys (thanks NOT Samsung) that "It just works" and "...You don't need a manual...just do what seems intuitive" is not the goal. I'm pleased to know El Capitan is more hardening than feature laden.

Apparently I am part of a minority but 'data detectors' and Apple's automatically trying to correct my addresses when I add appointments to the calendar - are a real pain! When I put a business meeting on the calendar, "Conf Rm D-2315" in the location field should not prompt a list of alternative addresses, nor do I want to re-schedule a meeting I had 3 months previous that just happens to be in the same conference room. Data Detectors is not an enhancement for everyone and these nanny features remind me of the cussing I used to do with Windows in 2010 that ultimately prompted me to pay attention to, "I'm a Mac...and I'm a PC" commercials.

iTunes is a MESS. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a TootsiePop? About 10 less than the number of clicks needed to figure out how the latest version of iTunes has changed to way to remove a song from my iPod. I don't want Apple Music - I just want to listen to MY songs in a random order or add and remove an album (or specific song) from my iPhone.
Chris L.
     
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Oct 6, 2015, 10:35 PM
 
It seems the OS and device manufacturers are so trying to out 'feature' the other guys (thanks NOT Samsung) that "It just works" and "...You don't need a manual...just do what seems intuitive" is not the goal. I'm pleased to know El Capitan is more hardening than feature laden.


Apparently I am part of a minority but 'data detectors' and Apple's automatically trying to correct my addresses when I add appointments to the calendar - are a real pain! When I put a business meeting on the calendar, "Conf Rm D-2315" in the location field should not prompt a list of alternative addresses, nor do I want to re-schedule a meeting I had 3 months previous that just happens to be in the same conference room. Data Detectors is NOT an enhancement for everyone - and nanny features that supposedly make the experience more fluid not prompt the same feelings as the Windows-based frustrations in 2010 that ultimately prompted me to pay attention to, "I'm a Mac...and I'm a PC" commercials. TOTALLY different issues, but the same sense or frustration.


iTunes is an example as it is a MESS. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a TootsiePop? About 10 less than the number of clicks needed to figure out how the latest version of iTunes has changed the process to remove a song from my iPod. I don't want Apple Music - I just want to listen to MY songs in a random order or add and remove an album (or specific song) from my iPhone. What happened to elegance of simplicity?
Chris L.
     
   
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