Apple touted its newest version of OS X, El Capitan, as primarily a stability update and refinement to its predecessor, Yosemite. As a result, El Capitan offers mostly under-the-hood refinements, but there are some useful new features as well. Here are the biggest and best.
See also: Mac OS X El Capitan will not start up after update, fix
Ever since Windows 7 was released with its Aero Glass window snapping feature, numerous utilities have created similar implementations for OS X. With El Capitan, finally, Apple decided they would bring this feature to OS X natively.
But as Apple does, it has its own take on it, called Split View. While Windows and most utilities enable their windows snapping by dragging a window to the screen edge, Apple decided to make Split View an off-shoot of their full screen window functionality.
Yet, although Split View is one of the biggest and most significant features in El Capitan, it’s also one of the easiest to miss.
To use Split View, click and hold on a window’s green zoom button until the window moves and half the background becomes shaded. Release the window onto either side of the screen, then choose the other window to fill the rest of the screen. You will be taken to a full screen desktop, with both windows side by side. You can adjust the mid-point by clicking and dragging, and you can swap out one of the windows for another by using the Mission Control function and moving the mouse to the top of the screen. To exit, click on the full screen zoom button again, which will return one window to the desktop, leaving the other in full screen.
Notes is More Powerful
Apple has really worked hard to keep Notes a simple to use productivity app, while making some additions that significantly improve its usefulness.
One of those is the ability to create checklists, which can be used for everything from a grocery list to a running list of home improvement ideas to undertake one day. To create a checklist, it’s as simple as clicking on the new Checklist button in the toolbar.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and so hopefully another new addition to Notes will leave you writing less to say more. Now, you can include photos and videos inside a note. To add a photo or video, click the button, or simply drag and drop.
But you’re not limited to photos and videos. Notes can now also store attachments. You can also store documents, web links, map locations, PDFs, and more by dragging and dropping them into a note.
Need to find an attachment fast? No problem. Notes lets you browse by attachment with the new Browse Attachment button in the toolbar.
New Version of Safari
Perhaps the most obvious and often used enhancements of El Capitan come in the form of a new version of the Safari web browser, which has a slew of new features – which mostly catch Apple up to their rival browser, Google Chrome.
Now, you can set aside (pin) certain tabs in Safari to be easily and more quickly accessed – perfect for that work email tab that you want to check often and check quickly without having to reload. And by work email, you know we mean Facebook.
Don’t you hate it when suddenly and out of nowhere, your computer starts making noise because some web page in another tab decided to start playing some kind of video or audio? Well, El Capitan’s Safari addresses that. From now on, whenever a tab is playing audio, a speaker icon appears on its tab. To quickly mute (or unmet) the audio, all you have to do is click on the speaker icon.
Rounding out the biggest of the new Safari features, for the Apple TV owners, you can now send video from pages like YouTube directly to your Apple TV without having to mirror the entire desktop.
See also: FaceTime for Mac not working, fix
Other Mini Features
While three main features may not seem like a lot, it’s important to remember that this is by Apple’s design in what has come to be called a “tick-tock” development cycle. Apple deliberately makes bigger changes every two years, using the in-between year as a chance to refine and enhance, rather than push out bold new designs or programs.
That’s not to say that El Capitan is sparse, however. There are many new features that “just work” and make your computing life better. Here are some of the highlights, but a full list can be found at http://www.apple.com/osx/all-features/.
* Calendar now uses your location information to suggest a good time to leave for events based on current driving conditions.
* Mail now works great in full screen – not having to open a new window to compose a message.
* Mail also now works better with Gmail.
* Maps has added Transit directions for major metros.
* Photos can now use external editors (extensions) to edit photos.
* Spotlight now searches more places and brings in more data, to be even more useful.
* If you can’t find the mouse cursor, just make a shaking motion back and forth, and it will temporarily magnify itself to be easily found.
* Disk Utility has been dramatically simplified.
* El Capitan is dramatically more secure from online attacks, hacking, and malicious software.
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.