OS X El Capitan first look: A smarter, more polished experience for your Mac

As Snow Leopard refined and advanced Leopard, as Mountain Lion refined and advanced Lion, so too is OS X El Capitan intended to refine and advance last year's OS X Yosemite. That means the focus isn't on major redesigns or profound system-level changes, though there is a little of both to be found. Instead, Apple is making OS X smarter, and giving it considerably more polish.

For El Cap, that means new window management options, including an improved Mission Control and new Split View. The company has made Spotlight smarter and improved stock OS X apps like Notes, Safari, Mail, Maps, and Photos. They've enhanced performance, stability, and security—including bringing iOS graphics framework Metal to the Mac. They've even added new system fonts: San Francisco for alphabetic languages; Ping Fang for Chinese; tweaks to the Japanese system font, Hiragino Sans; and improved input methods for both Chinese and Japanese.

I've spent the last week taking a first look at OS X El Capitan on a 2015 MacBook Pro, playing with all the new features coming to a Mac near you this Fall. So, understanding that El Cap is still a few months away from release, how does it all look?

Video first look

Rather watch than read? Hit play and get everything you need to know about OS X El Capitan in 5 minutes!

Split View

OS X Lion brought full screen apps to the Mac; OS X El Capitan will bring a split screen mode for viewing multiple apps at once. Called Split View, you enter the new mode by clicking and holding down on the green full screen button in the app's toolbar. That lets you take whatever app you're working on and dock it to the left or right side of the display.

By default, Split View takes half the width of the screen, but you can drag the border to make it wider or narrower. (Different apps currently allow for different minimum width.) You can also easily switch sides just by dragging the toolbar from one to the other.

I wasn't sure I was going to like Split View, since I usually have a dozen or so apps open at any one time and I enjoy jumping and dragging between them. I've been using Split View almost exclusively to write this first look, however, and it's been working exceptionally well. Text editor on one side, reference material on the other, productivity across both.

Mission Control

In OS X Lion, Mission Control subsumed Exposé on the Mac, bringing multiple desktop spaces and an easier way to manage your windows. Mission Control in OS X El Capitan expands upon these improvements, making it even simpler and easier to both see and understand.

Floating windows are all well and good, but El Cap is furthering Yosemite's design principles with a more-flattened Mission Control view. As such, all your windows appear in a single, quickly scannable layer.

It respects the position of your windows as well, so if an app was on the left side of the desktop, it'll be on the left side of Mission Control. Same for the right side. That helps keep everything oriented as well as accessible.

Calling Mission Control

A three finger swipe upwards on your trackpad, a tap of the Mission Control key (F3) from your keyboard, or a click of the Mission Control icon with your mouse will still take you right to the main view, just as before. But once you're in Mission Control, you have a new way of interacting with your windows.

The new Spaces Bar replaces the window management bar of yore, listing (in label form) your current desktops alongside all currently open full screen and split screen apps. Mouse over the bar, and it expands to thumbnails so you can immediately, visually identify all your workspaces and switch to whichever one you need. From here, you can also rearrange screens and remove desktop spaces.

Instant Desktop

There's also a new draggable Mission Control shortcut coming to El Cap: Just pull any window to the top of the screen, then drag a little more to reveal the Spaces Bar. From there, you can drop the window where you want it, either full screen, onto an existing full screen app to create a Split View, or onto a new or existing desktop Space.

It's an incredibly fluid experience and makes the sometimes mixed workspace metaphors—which were already improved in Yosemite—into an even more usable, coherent system.

Find my Cursor

There also a bonus here: Find my Cursor.

We've all stared at our screens at one time or another and rapidly shaken our mouse pointer in hopes the movement would help our eyes lock onto it. El Cap makes sure you'll spot your cursor by rapidly enlarging it until it's impossible to miss. It sounds and looks ridiculous, but it's a natural extension of instinctive behavior and it works wonderfully.


OS X Yosemite saw an all new Spotlight design that put Apple's search and action bar front-and-center on our Macs. Now, El Cap strives to put it front-and-center in our workflows as well.

The suggested results engine, which debuted last year, has been enhanced with several new data sources, including weather, stocks, web video, and sports across MLB, NHL, NFL, NBA, WNBA, college football, college basketball, and many European soccer leagues.

Natural language for everyone

Critically, you can now access all of it using natural language. That means you simply type the way you would talk—"Documents I worked on this week containing El Cap" tells Spotlight I'm only looking for documents, so don't show me mail or web hits or anything else. "This week" constrains the time period, so I don't see anything older than the last few days, and "El Cap" means I want something with those words in it.

It's the way Siri has always worked for voice input and I've wanted it in text for years. I'd still love Apple's personal assistant on the Mac—as would accessibility advocates everywhere—but this is a tremendous start.

You can even move and resize the Spotlight window now, so if you want to keep using it while you work, you don't have to worry about it overlaying what you're working on. It's always exactly where you want it.

Search within apps

Thanks to a new CoreSpotlight API, developers can now make the content in their apps, including documents, messages, and more, available to Spotlight as well. That means it'll be even easier to find what we're looking for, no matter where it's contained.

I've tried LaunchBar, Alfred, and Quicksilver, but none of them ever stuck: Spotlight has always been my go-to. Yosemite made it significantly more functional, but natural language and the new results engine promises to make it integral to the Mac experience. I'm really looking forward to using it full-time come the fall.


Both of Apple's up-and-coming operating systems — iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan—include a new and improved Notes app. Since Notes's original launch on the Mac as part of OS X Mountain Lion, the app has gone from a simple, plain Marker Felt text app to what's now a far more robust note-taking system.

Now, as you start typing, your first line will automatically be formatted as a title—if appropriate—and the rest, as the body. (You can also tweak this behavior in the settings pane.) There are other formatting options as well: heading, checklist, bulleted list, dashed list, and numbered list.

Choose a checklist, and you can make and track to-dos right from Notes. It's different than Reminders, which are meant to alert you about activities at specific times or places: These are meant for shopping, packing, or other lists that don't need alerts, but do benefit from being in the context of a note.

You can also quickly collect important bits of information in Notes, including photos, videos, PDF documents, web sites, audio clips, map locations, Pages documents, Numbers spreadsheets, and Keynote presentations, and perhaps more.

Sharing is caring

Notes lets you drag any clippings in, or you can share them from Safari, Maps, Photos, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and other apps using the standard Share Sheet. That makes it far more powerful—you never have to stop what you're doing, find Notes, and add something, you can just send it from where you already are. And it works for both new and existing notes. Seriously.

If you add sketches from your iPhone or iPad using iOS 9, they'll show up as well. You can't yet add sketches from the Mac, though hopefully that'll be added at some point as well. (And yes, the potential for Force Touch drawings makes this feature even more desirable.)

To keep track of all the clips, Notes includes an attachment browser. So, if you remember adding something, but not where you added it, you still have a good shot at finding it easily and visually.

A new way to note-take

El Cap's new Notes isn't Evernote or OneNote, nor is it meant to be. It's not Vesper either, though it has some of its same charm. It's just what the name implies—a simple and efficient way to collect and find the information that matters to you.

I typically use Notes as a live, iCloud-synced clipboard to move text-based content between my Mac, iPhone, and iPad; I use BBEdit on my Mac for writing and longer work. I don't see myself switching to Notes for my BBEdit work, even with its improvements, but I do see that exact quick-syncing functionality between devices greatly enhanced by the El Cap update.


Pinned sites: Anyone who has to open the same handful of websites day in, day out, relishes the idea of keeping those sites easily and always available. And that's just what Safari in El Cap does. Pin a website and it gets its own, small, icon-identifiable, re-arrangeable tab on the left. Then it stays there, launch after launch, restart after restart, until you need it or decide to remove it. The pinned site will also always display the exact page you pinned. If you click on a link, that link will open in a new, regular tab.

I have iMore open all the time, obviously, but I also have several other sites I go to near-constantly. Not having to open new tabs and open those bookmarks every time I re-open Safari might sound like a small thing, but it's a huge time and effort saver.

Quiet time, extensions, and AirPlay

Mute tabs, on the other hand, is a huge annoyance saver: If you've ever been blasted by audio coming out of one of a dozen or more tabs you have open, with no indication which tab it is, you'll love this. Simply click the audio icon in the Smart Search field and it's muted. Blessedly. You can even click and hold to get a list of tabs playing audio and mute an offender without affecting something you do want to listen to. So great.

Speaking of the Smart Search Bar, it gets all the aforementioned enhancements to Spotlight, including weather, stocks, and sports. Developers also build Shared Links Extensions so that they can add their own link suggestions.

Content blocking extensions, by contrast, will let developers make plug-ins that prevent a myriad of different types of code from loading—the most obvious types being ads and Javascript-heavy social network features.

There's also AirPlay to just send the video you want to watch, rather than the entire screen—finally!—and a new Picture-in-Picture (PiP) control.

Read and inspect

Safari Reader gets a selection of fonts, including Athelas, Charter, Georgia, Iowan, Palatino, San Francisco (more on that later), Seravek, and Times New Roman, and themes in white, sepia, gray, or black.

Web Inspector has also been given a responsive redesign, with a tab-based interface, type profiler, code coverage mode, paint indicator, and frame rendering track.

A new and better Safari

I vastly prefer Safari to Chrome. The interface is lighter and cleaner, the battery impact is far lower, and the experience in general is simply better for me. I keep Chrome around as a jail for Flash and Google Docs—so if they start to choke the rest of my browsing doesn't choke with them—so I'm especially excited about these updates.


Mail gets the same gestures on the Mac that the app has enjoyed on the iPhone and iPad for a while now: swipe right to mark as read, swipe left to delete. (That same delete behavior is also now available in Messages, Notes, Reading List, and Reminders.)

Full screen Mail also draws inspiration from iOS with a multitasking drafts mode that lets you start composing—go check, reference, or copy something from another email—and then not only keep composing, but drag photos, documents, and other content in before you do. And yeah, OS X adds tabs, so you can work on multiple drafts at once without having to Command-~ Rolodex through them.

Data detectors, which have always been powerful, are now even more discoverable. Instead of hiding inline, waiting for you to mouse over them, they suggest themselves right below the address field—like iOS—and are immediately recognizable and actionable. It's really useful for contacts and events. (Flight information has also been added to data detectors, but I haven't personally seen it populate.)

Search has also been improved, adding the natural language engine from Spotlight, as has the IMAP engine which now intelligently downloads the most important messages first. Apple claims the engine is up to 2x faster on account setup, allowing you to start reading before the entire message stack gets pulled down.

I've always been a Mail.app user; having all my mail, all in one place, with a unified inbox is just too compelling to move away from. I have to use Gmail for work, however, and Google has always had an… eccentric IMAP implementation. Mavericks was rough at times; Yosemite pretty good. El Cap is shaping up very, very well.


Apple started doing its own maps in iOS 6 and brought them to the Mac in OS X Mavericks. The company has built on them steadily ever since, and in OS X El Capitan they're adding Transit directions. That means, in addition to walking and driving, you can get step-by-step navigation for buses, trains, and subways/metros.

Transit gets its own, optimized Maps view, which shows the stations and routes you'll need to get where you're going. The app also mixes in walking directions so that you can seamlessly get from one station or stop to another.

Schedules are also fully supported, so you can plan activities not only at both ends but along the way. There are even place cards for stations that show not only schedules, but any known issues with the routes.

Of course, since it's not practical to do step-by-step navigation with a Mac, once you plan your route you can easily send the directions to your iPhone, which also makes them available on your Apple Watch, if you have one.

Because transit is a nightmare of petty municipal fiefdoms that are sometimes reluctant to share what they believe is their proprietary data, coverage right now is limited to a handful of cities. The El Cap beta includes London, New York, Toronto, and the greater San Francisco Bay Area, with Baltimore, Berlin, Chicago, Mexico City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC expected to launch with the El Cap release this fall.

China, which benefits from standardized and centralized transit data, has 300 cities available in Transit view, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.

Since Montreal isn't on the short list, I made sure to try out the transit directions in San Francisco while attending Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). I don't know the city well enough, unfortunately, to offer an informed opinion on how well-optimized the directions were, but they seemed to work fine and were easily understandable and navigable.

Here's hoping more cities get added—and soon.


Photos for OS X was quickly previewed during WWDC 2014, shown off again alongside the iMac with Retina 5K display last October, and launched back in March of this year. That should give a good indication of just how big an undertaking it was. Tied into iCloud Photo Library, it offers ubiquitous access to all your pictures and videos, on all your Apple devices, and through iCloud.com.

The Photos for Mac app itself, while closer to being feature-complete than most of Apple's previous reboots, was still missing a few key features. The OS X El Capitan version aims to fix that.

There will be editing extensions now—akin to the photo extensions that launched with iOS 8 last year—that let developers add their own filters and editing tools right into Apple's app. (They'll be available via the Mac App Store when El Cap launches later this fall.)

Like on the iPhone and iPad, Apple's PhotoKit frameworks allow the editing extensions to be non-destructive. That means you can use as many as you want, and go back and tweak or remove them at any time.

Because the Mac is the Mac, extensions can be bundled into existing apps or shipped on their own, and Apple says they'll be easy to enable and customize in System Preferences.

There's still no "Open in external editor…" for quickly round-tripping to Photoshop or other pixel polishers, at least not that I could find, but there will be the ability to add and edit location information. You'll be able to do it for a single photo, a selection of photos, or an entire Moment. Just open the info panel and "Add a Location". Bliss.

It's not just location data that you'll be able to batch change either. It'll be titles, dates, times, and Faces as well. For the latter, just select the photos and drag them into a name in your library. (Photos and albums can now be sorted by date and title as well.)

While I moved my main iPhoto library over to Photos for OS X back when it went into beta, I'll admit to still using Aperture on occasion as well. Though there are still features I'd like to see come to Photos, these updates go a long way to relieving my lingering Aperture needs.


Metal refers to "writing to the metal", a programming term for accessing hardware in as direct and performance-based a way as possible. Apple debuted it with iOS 8 last year as a way to circumvent some of the more cumbersome aspects of OpenGL—the standardized graphics language framework for games, design, and science applications—used to communicate with the GPU (graphics processing unit).

With OS X El Capitan, Apple has brought Metal to OS X, but they've also made Metal much more powerful. Now it provides a single, unified API (application programming interface) and runtime for both OpenGL and OpenCL—the standard computing language that both leverages the GPU and lets it be used for more general tasks.

Apple has also moved two of the company's essential rendering systems, Core Graphics and Core Animation, to Metal; any developer already using one or both gets all the new performance benefits essentially "for free".

Because Metal optimizes both the CPU and the GPU (both integrated and discreet), it reduces overhead and, according to Apple, delivers more than 10x the draw calls per frame, and up to 40 percent higher efficiency.

That translates into more detailed games with better effects; more powerful pro apps for everything from illustration to post-production; and full-on multithreading and multi-core performance for everyone and every thing.

Speaking of gaming, while OS X does't seem to be getting ReplayKit to record and share games, it is getting GameplayKit and Model I/O to make building games for the Mac easier than ever.

Metal for OS X was one of the announcements developers seemed most excited about for El Cap, alongside other improvements like bringing TextKit and NSStackView to the Mac, and UICollectionView—a way of laying out apps—to OS X as NSCollectionView. It's not hard to see why.


Beyond Metal, Apple has worked to make OS X El Capitan even faster and better-performing. The company claims it launches apps up to 40 percent faster, switches between apps up to 2x as fast, and does things like opening PDF files up to 4x as fast.

For times when things still aren't fast enough, there's also an all new, all flatter and more modern spinning beach ball to help you pass the time.

It's tough to verify those claims with a beta build running on a freshly installed test machine, so I'll wait until the full El Cap review before putting it through its production paces. That said, everything does feel tight and snappy, so here's hoping Apple delivers.


The Mac doesn't enjoy the same market share as Windows, but for years now it's been growing while PC sales have been shrinking. Apple has also become the biggest and best-known tech company in the world. All of that combines to put a bigger target on OS X than ever before.

That's probably why we're seeing more attempts to exploit Apple's computer operating system, and why the company has spent a tremendous amount of time and effort on security enhancements.

With OS X El Capitan, those enhancements take the form of System Integrity Protection. In essence, it provides a type of root-level protection to the Mac similar to what the iPhone and iPad have benefited from for years.

Code injection and runtime attachments are no longer permitted, though expert users who really want to will still be able to access the system as deeply as ever. Those who simply buy a new Mac and run as administrator without even thinking about it, however, will be better protected. And that's terrific.

Apple has also added Application Transport Security, which enforces best practices when our data is sent from our Macs to web services. Currently that's TLS 1.2, but as stronger transports become available, ATS will push everyone towards them as well. It's another terrific security improvement from the folks in Cupertino.


Along with security, Apple has made privacy a top-level feature. In OS X El Capitan, that manifests in the way in which your user data is handled. Since Apple isn't a cloud company, they don't default to saving your information in server space: That means they don't bring our data up to their network; they bring their network down to our data.

Certain things like movies, sports, and internet search results have to be accessed online because they don't exist on our devices. Other information, like our contacts, calendars, web history, and more, does live on our devices—and never has to leave them.

Likewise, Apple claims that if you opt-in to one of its online services, that data isn't even shared with the company's companion online services.

It remains to be seen whether or not this privacy-first model ultimately affects the features Apple can deliver, but for most, the lower risk of data misuse and abuse—even accidental—will make it worthwhile.

And for those who don't mind having their data stored on the cloud and used to feed web services, OS X El Cap works great with Google as well.

Choice is good.


Lucida Grande had been the OS X system font since 1999, but Yosemite shook that up in 2014 by bringing iOS 7-style Helvetica Neue to the Mac. Now, just a year later, Apple is replacing it with an in-house designed font of the company's own making: San Francisco.

San Francisco, a sans-serif font, was first seen in its SF Compact form during the Apple Watch introduction in September of 2014. SF, the non-compact version, debuted just last week on iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan.

Apple has done a ton of work to make SF fit iOS and OS X, including separate text and display versions depending on point size, along with an incredible amount of tweaks to all the glyphs to maximize legibility, and it really pays off.

SF ends up being fresher than Lucida Grande and more distinctive than Helvetica Neue, and it gives something that the Mac should have had for a long while—a look all the company's own.

Chinese and Japanese language support

In addition to San Francisco, OS X El Capitan also has a new Chinese system font named Ping Fang. (I think that means "Apple Square," but my two years of college Mandarin might be failing me.)

Ping Fang is available for both traditional and simplified Chinese characters, and carries over Apple's same focus on legibility. It brings a modern look to roughly 50,000 characters—a huge amount—and comes in six weights from ultralight to semibold. There are also matching roman letters and numerals to ensure easy mixed-language use.

Keyboard input for Chinese has also been improved with the addition of an advanced prediction engine, more frequently updated dictionaries, and an expandable candidate window. El Cap also learns the words and phrases—and emoji!—you use most often and stacks them front and center on the candidate window for faster selection.

Even better, writing Chinese characters on the Mac Trackpad has significantly improved. The software window is now proportional to the hardware size, and you can even write multiple characters in a row.

As someone who found Twin Bridge near-magical a decade ago, I can't wait to work more with all of this.

The Japanese system font, originally designed by JIYUKOBO and formerly called Hiragino Kaku Gothic, is now Hiragino Sans. For El Cap, it goes from three to ten weights. There are also four new Japanese fonts included, both classic and modern, and in two weights each.

Japanese input gets an enhanced vocabulary and improved engine, but it also gets live conversion, which replaces text strings automagically with Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana, and even Roman words—all in real time. If you've ever seen Siri refine speech-to-text as you continue talking, then imagine that for text conversion. It reduces what used to be a cumbersome, multi-step process into something fast and streamlined.

Force Touch Trackpad

If you have one of Apple's new Force Touch Trackpads—currently available on the new MacBook and 2015 versions of the MacBook Pro—then you're in for a treat with OS X El Capitan.

Both AppKit—the framework developers use to build Mac apps—and WebKit—the engine underlying Safari—get new APIs for interacting with Force Touch. That means both apps and web pages will be able to provide precise pressure sensitivity for input as well as haptic feedback from the Taptic Engine.

We'll have to wait and see how it all gets implemented, but the potential is beyond exciting.

Coming this fall

El Capitan translates to "The Captain" or "The Chief" and represents the heights of Yosemite. OS X El Capitan aspires to the same. It takes everything that was great about 10.10 and tries to make it better for 10.11.

While only now in its first beta, and not set to ship until this fall—which, if Apple holds to the same pattern as the last two years, means October—El Cap's inspiration and ideas are solid.

Based on both popular sentiment and the narrative from the last year, it's clear that following a series of redesigns and re-architectures, everyone needed a moment to settle and breathe again.

El Cap provides that, but in a way that still moves the Mac significantly forward. I can't wait to use it in its final form come the fall.

Editing by Serenity Caldwell.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I love the split view and AirPlay new features, It'll make everything easier. I dunno if will notice big performance update with an installed SSD.
  • Yep. After moving from Windows7, I missed split view among a host of other features. I've been using BetterTouchTool for the last 3 years on my mac. Good to see this feature part of the OS now.
  • hey fz553 - you could even start with spectacles.app, i use it since my move ;-) from win7! You will miss nothing.
  • I tried spectacle a while back. I think I remember it having trouble with multiple monitors or something. I can look at it again. Thanks for the suggestion. I also trying out HyperDock right now. Really think it is worth the $10 for the features. I miss window previews so much where it doesn't block what you are currently doing and where you can close windows you don't care about so much faster.
  • I've been using Moom for a while, and it's really handy at controlling windows and multiple monitors.
  • How about this... I actually bought an asus window laptop ~$400 just so I can use split view lol
  • Curious how many window combination can you do in split view? if you can do 3 to 4 applications?
  • Only two, I think. Which is fine for MacBooks but on an iMac (21.5 or 27") that's still a bit limiting. Also, I think it only works when you have the Windows in Full Screen Mode, so I don't see myself ever using this feature. I'll just manually tile things on the desktop instead as that gives me a lot more flexibility and productivity when working with multiple applications. I think Windows 10 will allow 4 Snapped Windows on its desktop, without having to use a full screen mode. I suspect the next version of OS X will mimic that behavior. I'm mostly caring about the performance improvements since that's the main disparity that I notice between Windows 8 and OS X. Windows 8 just flies, even on slower hardware, compared to OS X. I hope they can bring it closer to par with that. I haven't used the Windows 10 Tech Preview, so I'm not sure if they have made even greater strides in performance there (though I'm sure people with higher end desktops and laptops will reap some benefits from things like DirectX 12, etc.). As for the SSD comment above, I'm not sure that really matters. Updating the OS can't really make the SSD faster or slower by any appreciable amount, or a platter drive for that sake. A lot of the issues with OS X performance had nothing to do with what kind of storage you had. Apps just take FOREVER to load regardless and the runtime performance leaves much to be desired... I am not sure if it has to do with the way OS X applications are often packaged (in those bundles or whatever they're called). I just know it feels very slower compared to Windows right now, and I really am looking forward to that disparity being cut at least in half with El Capitan.
  • I can verify (sorry no links to my test result, just observations) that OSX accesses disks MUCH slower than windows. There's something wrong buried deep. Idk enough about who's the OS works to tell you what it is, but on a brand new machine, no AV software, a USB3 7,200RPM drive, files should copy faster than 300Kb-30Mb/s (peak) when I can copy to/from my NAS (gigabit Ethernet) on my win PC to/from a similar HDD at 80Mb-120Mb/s. Others on the internets are having similar issues. I'm seeing similar access speeds to my internal Fusion drive as well. I'm very close to taking the iCrap back for a refund. They just aren't why they used to be. And there isn't as much value in their systems that there once was. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yea, the amount of time it takes to launch applications was one of the most apparent things that I noticed when I got my iMac compared to my Notebook with same speed hard drive (but about a year old when I got the iMac). Even Apple's own applications like iTunes launch and run faster on Windows than on my iMac. I also have no idea why someone down-voted your comment, though the "iCrap" reference is a bit out of place and unwarranted. The Value in a Mac is higher if you use iDevices. Apart from that I don't think there is really a compelling selling point for them, considering the price disparity with PC systems that use better hardware and generally ship with much better Specs at the same price point (Notebooks and Desktops). In any case, I use it like a PC like any Windows Machine so I can't really complain. I can only hope that they improve it in the upcoming release. I have read some things about the disparity in file system performance between Macs and Windows NT in the past, though. Maybe they should think about moving on from HPFS+ onto something a bit more... 21st century. They don't seem to really be improving things much on that level, while Microsoft has put a metric ton more work into improving NTFS by comparison.
  • Concerning my "iCrap" comment, I was just having buyer's remorse, since I wasn't see a significant enough performance increase for what I paid. I've figured out a way around most of my issues (not the disk speed things, nothing I can do about that) but with iTunes and Photos, but now I'm battling iTunes 12.2... it's just a never ending battle these days, where it used to not be such a hassle. Point is, Windows is ALMOST more usable than OS X, but at least in OS X Finder doesn't just crash on me, like Windows Explorer does once or twice a week.
  • I can't remember the last time explorer crashed on me... maybe in XP, and I've been a day 1 adopter of vista, 7, and 8 so that was... quite a while ago. Do you have and add on that you're using, like the iCloud Photo Sharing/Stream stuff in Apples control panel for windows?
  • Two. Split View is side-by-side.
  • How do you invoke split view please?
  • Click and hold the green traffic light button at the top left of the window.
  • JIGGLEBIGGEN: I hearby officially declare the street name of Find My Cursor to be: JIgglebiggen.
  • No.
  • The eleventh version of OS X was Yosemite (numbering started with 10.0), so El Capitán is the twelveth.
  • 10.0 was barely useable and got quickly replaced by a (free) 10.1 upgrade. It's therefore somewhat fair to call it the 11th rellease, although OS X only really grew into a serious OS by the time Panther (10.3) came along.
  • Rene, great summary. While not revolutionary, I like all these changes. I will probably convert from Evernote to Notes but one question. I like how Evernote clips web pages (in OS). The new Notes clips web pages as a link but I would like to clip pages that can be viewed offline. It is possible to do this with the new Notes? Do web page clips have to be only links?
  • Not sure yet, still beta 1 :)
  • @Rene (or anyone else)
    Can you expand on the Photos Sort By options? Does it offer sort by date TAKEN or just date added like it currently does?
    For example- I took some picture of my daughter on Friday, imported, then more on Saturday, imported. Now Sunday, I duplicate a picture for editing from Friday and it now shows up as a Sunday picture. Even though the date taken info is still Friday. I would like it have the option to sort by a dozen parameters, but this one is critical to end my urge to hulk smash the whole computer. Sent from the iMore App
  • Not sure yet, alas.
  • In Photos.app- Does the Info window and keyword window dock now? Stupid floaty windows always in the f'n way. Sent from the iMore App
  • Hey Rene, Any idea on if the Faces feature has been improved in Photos? Serenity mentioned it in a Tweet but I haven't heard anything since. I love the feature in general but it isn't as good at identifying as other services. That wouldn't be so bad if it had a better way of inputting Faces to contacts it can't do on its own but right now it's one at a time. Sent from the iMore App
  • I would also take the ability to sync Faces across multiple computers - having to do the work on my MacBook and then not see that carry over to my iMac is sad. I know that there is a workaround here for that on the site, but it just seems like a miss.
  • I have a question about the new font. How does it look on non-retina dispkays? Is it still kind of hard to read as the one from Yosemite?
  • It looks better, but I've only seen it in passing.
  • Okay, all the updates and improvements, and, new features look great, but the one that brings a tear to my eye is ... "Find My Cursor". Being a fulltime tv editor, always working two large monitors and sometimes three, I can tell you that this "little" dilema goes way beyond pet peeve - but not any more! Yipee! And, returning to adulthood, all by itself, this little feature makes me wish I could risk running the beta on my workstation - but, for the record - aint' gonna. But maybe I wil at home, hmm.
  • Agree about window snapping in Windows and I can't have a Mac without BetterTouchTool for arranging and docking windows. You should check it out.
  • Yosemite and my new MacBook Retina 15 doesn't bring very smooth UI experience, there are chopped animations and it's far from fluid, is there a chance El Capitan will fix this ?
  • Thank you iMore, I've been following your writing since before WWDC last summer and you always publish such a satisfyingly thorough piece on the latest devices and software. I haven't downloaded the beta as I personally prefer to wait until the new software is released to the public, but I having read this review of El Capitan I feel as though I've already experienced it enough to satisfy my obsession until the fall.
  • Aw, thank you!
  • Typo: I think it's a "discrete" GPU, discreet has a different meaning.
  • @Rene - Great summary, which raises a question I have:
    Are the improved Notes app checklists sharable, like current Reminders shared lists (Which are not viewable on the Watch OS)?
  • Not as far as I know, they're just meant for the Note itself.
  • With a small break from 2007 or so to 2009, I've been either "Mac first" or sometimes even "Mac only" ever since 2000. I will admit that I have totally fallen in love with Windows 10, having been running the insider preview on an old junker laptop since preview day one. I bought a cheapie Windows 2-in-1 (a Nextbook Flexx 11, specifically) that I'll upgrade to 10 at RTM (July 29), and also plan on building a meaningfully powerful gaming PC based on 10 within the year. So one way or another, I'm "going Windows". My original plan was to go "dual format", doing all things "Gaming and Office" on Windows, and pretty much everything else primarily on Mac. But I've been so impressed with MS of late that I was really very seriously starting to consider just not replacing my aging Mac at all and going "Windows only" for the first time in almost a decade, and for the first time EVER as a willful, conscious decision... ...however, El Cap is sounding great! So now I'm back to thinking the dual platform thing is more likely the way I'll go, and re-up on my Mac fandom when I can afford to buy a higher end Mac Mini. In fact, iOS9 sounds really good too! Historically I've been pretty meh about iOS, feeling pretty blah about my iPhone 5 when I had it, and was really happy when I went back to Android last summer with the Note 3 I'm currently typing this on. But now I'm actually kinda excited about 9, and am looking into getting a cheap iPad Mini just to get in on the action. So what would it take, then, to make me consider going back to Apple-only? Well, that'll be a really hard sell with as nice as I feel the upcoming crop of Windows stuff is. But in order for me to even take the prospect seriously, Mac will need to become a serious competitor with Windows on gaming, both new stuff (aka steam stuff), as well as the retro gaming console emulation scene, and in old DOS emulation. Though Metal IS really exciting because it puts that scenario into the realm of remote possibility, where it had been pretty much out of the question before - kinda like Windows 10 does with Windows Phone's shot at market success. I'll also want to either see Mac versions of Office wow me as much as their Windows counterparts and/or have Apple's own offerings improve to a level where they make Office unnecessary. Also, even though my cheapie 2-in-1 is an off-brand, and not a "real Surface", it's still "a Surface" in the way it works, and the Surface approach is BRILLIANT! It'll be even better when 10 hits as 10 desktop and 10 tablet are meaningfully different - unlike Windows 8 where desktop mode is too much tablet, tablet mode is too much desktop, and there's virtually no difference between the two modes. With 10 installed, snapping the keyboard off that Flexx will really change the experience beyond just the form factor. I just don't see how Apple could really approach anything like that kind of experience with its current iOS/MacOS divide. So I probably won't be going back to "Apple only" anytime soon...BUUUUUUT...thanks to El Cap and iOS9, there's at least a very good chance I won't be going "Windows only" anytime soon either. :-) Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • BTW, Office 2016 for Mac is available today for Office 365 subscribers, so that might take care of one of your points.
  • Office 2016 won't wow anyone if they use Outlook on Windows with a Microsoft Account and enjoy the feature of Outlook and the integration it has with Microsoft's services. Additionally, OneNote is equally anemic on Mac compared to the Windows counterpart. Anyone who uses either of those two applications heavily, is going to need Windows. There is still no Access on Mac (not surprising at all, but still an issue for some) and Publisher (few users depend on it) is still Windows-only. If you use mostly Word/Excel/PowerPoint (the latter of which I honestly don't find any worse than Keynote and it's actually then more capable of the two), then Office:mac 2016 is amazing. But its superior feature set, and vastly superior performance (especially load times, where Windows has a huge advantage over OS X and this matter for people who work in these apps a lot but don't keep them running 24/7) are still a selling point for Windows as a platform. Additionally, if you have a Personal Plan, but have i.e. a Windows Laptop or Desktop and a MacBook or iMac, you have to choose which Platform to run Office on, and regardless of Form Factor, Windows is always the winner due to performance, integration of the apps (the way Outlook/OneNote Integrate with each other and with the other Office Apps like being able to put Excel Tables in a Note, etc.), and a still (but narrowing) feature parity advantage over the Mac versions. I have to add, however, that Windows 10 doesn't really solve the issue of Windows not being a Tablet Operating System. It's still a Desktop System and for the majority of people who do real work on Windows, you simply can't get much done with the Tablet apps available for the platform. This is especially true for those people who don't want a humongous Windows Tablet/Convertible like a surface. An iPad Mini has 50x the usability of 8" Windows Tablets with twice the Specs simply because Apple has an OS designed primarily for that form factor and an app ecosystem to bolster it.
  • Fantastic review… Thanks!!! Did Apple re-add the missing address book access (icon) in Mail? They removed it in Yosemite forcing users to add recipients one at a time or forcing users to open the address book app, selecting recipients and dragging them into the mail app window… Kind of ridiculous considering that it used to be so easy. Thanks again!
  • split view should be great and the improved search, looking forward to these mac updates moreso than iOS...
  • Is it only me who like the name 'OS X El Capitan' and how it sounds so much
  • If you use column view in Finder a lot—DON'T think of trying 10.11, or you'll regret it seriously!
  • Why?! What happened to column view? they didn't take it out, did they?
  • No, it is still there in the beta—but try it and see.
  • Earlier you say we would regret trying it seriously. Why not then tell us what happens?
  • Has the bug in Mail been fixed, where, if you had a MS Exchange email account, your emails sent to non-Exchange users would look messed up, large Times New Roman fonts, incorrect formatting, etc?
  • not anyway close to windows 10...
  • Yea, Windows 10 is certainly a more exciting update than this, but I'd say Yosemite was a bit more exciting than Windows 8.1 so tit for tat. I think the next year or two will say more for how the platforms stack up in development moving forward than this one. Apple had no choice but to take a step back and address things like Performance and get a decent Graphics API out for their OS because they didn't want to keep stay beholden to OpenGL and Yosemite performance isn't really something to fawn over. Then there were the bugs with Internet Connections and things like that. They also needed to add some features in some places (Photos) and add capabilities to some of their Apps which had fallen completely out of favor with their users in lieu of 3rd party alternatives (Notes vs. Evernote/OneNote). I do hope they have a big iWork update coming, otherwise I don't see why any can honestly use it over Office 2016 unless they were really really averse to paying the subscription (but in September you can buy it off the Shelf for $129 most likely, anyways).
  • Looking forward to the edit data feature in Photos. That's the only gripe I have since getting my first MacBook Pro.
  • Mac Marketshare is actually barely growing, and PC sales shrinking is an indicator of how great of a lifecycle PCs have these days. PCs from 7 years ago can run the latest version of Windows flawlessly so there isn't really a reason to upgrade the way it was a decade or more ago. The fact that Metal is promising 40% faster load times kind of makes me curious as to why OS X load times were so slow to begin with. The latest Office 2016 has awful load times on OS X compared to even 10 year old Windows Notebooks with 5400 RPM Hard Drives running Windows 7, and it's something that I noticed immediately when I got my iMac. Things just take... forever... to load. I really hope Metal Delivers on that promise. It is sorely needed.
  • SPLIT VIEW! You have no clue how useful it is when writing 20 page reports. Productivity is gonna go up! Finally Apple!
  • First of all I feel that credit should be given where credit is due and first that holds true here so thank you Rene for your usual well written story.
    IMO I don't see any negatives about the new OS for the Mac at least on what was addressed in this article. I am excited to have it released to the public so with me having just bought a new MBA (early 2015) release it only means as I look at it that I get to look all over and learn new things and how it affects what I have already learned in the short month I have owned it. Anyway I am glad I took the time to read this, Once again thank you for the story and recap and maybe you would consider a followup for us newbies on the best way to update such as backing up etc since this would be my first major OS update on a Mac and don't want to screw it up... LOL :)
    I hope ond look forward to a followup for my request.
    PS I also look forward to the many MB articles Peter Cohen writes as well.