Apple iMacs and MacBooks are set to get a big upgrade in the coming months in the form of a new operating system. OS X Yosemite, the follow-up to OS X Mavericks, is a massive update to Apple’s operating system that not only gives the software a new, more attractive design, but also adds a boatload of features.
The update, which will be available for free when it launches later this fall, also blurs some of the lines between Apple’s desktop OS and its iOS mobile operating system — though not nearly as much as Microsoft’s Windows 8, which can switch from a desktop-based to a tablet-friendly interface on the same computer.
You’ll even be able to make phone calls from your Mac with your connected iPhone.
There are a lot of great additions to Yosemite, but a handful of the operating system’s features stand out. These are the top five features of OS X Yosemite (so far):
1. Improved design.
Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 7, was a major departure from previous versions in terms of design. Apple is adopting some of these design cues into this new desktop operating system.
Icons in the dock at the bottom of the home screen have a leaner, less three-dimensional design, similar to those found in iOS 7. Even the Share button in Safari looks the same as iOS 7’s Share button. The operating system also has a new, crisper typeface that’s easier to read.
A big part of Yosemite’s new design is its translucent window effect. The feature gives everything, from the Dock to Finder windows to Safari’s command bar, a kind of frosted-glass look that’s somewhat reminiscent of the Aero design found in Windows Vista and Windows 7.
2. Notification Center.
The Notification Center in the current version of the OS, Mavericks, doesn’t offer much in the way of functionality beyond providing you with recent message and iTunes updates. But that’s all changing with OS X Yosemite and its new Today view.
Accessible through the Notification Center, Today provides you with customizable widgets including a summary of today’s and tomorrow’s events, current weather conditions, your calendar, stocks, and the ability to post to social networks.
A few of Today’s features were previously available in OS X Mavericks’ dashboard, but Apple brought them over to Today to make them more easily accessible. And if Today looks familiar, it’s because it’s a dead ringer for iOS’s Notification Center.
Once Yosemite is available for download, Apple says, more Today view widgets will be available, too, further improving the usefulness of the Notification Center.
3. Spotlight search.
OS X’s Spotlight search also gets a considerable upgrade with Yosemite. In previous versions of OS X, Spotlight was capable of performing only local searches of your computer. With Yosemite, however, Spotlight can search not only your Mac, but the Web as well.
If, for example, you search for a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, a Spotlight search will provide you with showtimes for the movie at nearby theaters, a plot summary, trailers, the cast and crew, and even its score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Search for a contact’s name, and Spotlight will automatically populate with the person’s information, including her phone number and email address.
Want a bite to eat? Type in your favorite food, and Spotlight will pull up the names and locations of nearby restaurants. You can also look for things like famous public figures: Spotlight will pull up a Wikipedia entry with information on them.
Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 offers a similar feature called Smart Search. It looks like Yosemite’s version will be easier to use.
4. iCloud Drive.
Apple’s cloud storage service, iCloud has long taken a backseat to the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive. They are easy to use and make sharing a snap, too. With Yosemite, though, iCloud may become your cloud drive of choice. That’s because Apple is finally treating iCloud like a normal storage drive.
You can now access your iCloud Drive through OS X’s Finder, just like you work with your local drive. You can even organize the drive any way you want and create new subfolders that are accessible through other iCloud Drive-compatible devices. So you can save your photos, videos, and any other files on your MacBook and open them on your iMac at the office.
OS X’s Mail has gotten some serious enhancements with Yosemite, too. The app’s new Markup tool lets you annotate and edit images and text within Mail without forcing you to open a new program. You can, for example, add highlights and shapes to photos and even sign documents using your MacBook’s touchpad.
That’s not all, though. Mail also makes it easier to send large files with its new Mail Drop feature. Mail Drop works by making your sent files accessible to your recipients via their iCloud accounts. If they don’t use iCloud, then Mail Drop will send them a link where they can download the sent files.
It’s a simple addition but one that will likely prove useful to people sending groups of images or videos.
Bonus feature we’re really waiting for: iOS 8 continuity
One of the biggest draws of OS X Yosemite will be its interoperability with Apple’s upcoming mobile operating system, iOS 8. Rather than existing in two separate worlds, the two operating systems will be able to talk to each other, letting you do things like make and receive phone calls, and send texts, from your Mac through your iPhone.
Working on a Pages document on your Mac? If your iPad or iPhone is nearby, you can pick up where you left off on your mobile device. You can do the same thing with Mail, Safari, Messages, Maps, and other OS X apps.
Using your iPhone as a WiFi hotspot will also be easier with Yosemite. If your wireless data plan lets you use your iPhone as a hotspot, then your Mac will automatically detect that your handset is nearby and treat it like any other hotspot.
OS X Yosemite will be out later this fall as a free upgrade. It will run on Most Macs and MacBooks dating as far back as 2009 and some iMacs from 2007. Check Apple’s website for further compatibility details.