Yosemite

Apple announced the next version of their desktop operating system at yesterday’s WWDC keynote — OS X Yosemite. The new OS will be released for free this fall and was made available to registered developers yesterday. Apple is also doing something different this year by making Yosemite available to select non-developers with their OS X Beta Program.

There’s a ton of new features in Yosemite and it looks like it’s going to be a solid release that everyone’s going to want to get their hands on. If you’re at all interested in the OS X Beta Program I suggest signing up early, it’s going to be very popular and is limited to the first million registered users.

Design

Apple has slowly been refining the user interface of OS X since the public beta release of OS X 10.0 in 2000. And, these refinements continue today with small changes like replacing the green zoom button in the upper-left corner of windows with a fullscreen button. I switched from Windows to the Mac in late-2006 and was always confused by the zoom button, it never did what I expected it to do (switching from Windows I expected it to work like the maximize button). It was also a button that I never use, ever. The only times that I’ve used it during the nearly eight years that I’ve been using the Mac was to see what it would actually do. I’m glad they’re making this change and I expect it will be more in-line with what users have expected the zoom button to do all along.

Windows in Yosemite have also seen some changes with translucencies being used in both the title bar and sidebar which gives users a better sense of “where they are” in the operating system. This along with a new system font (I believe it to be Helvetica Neue), new icons for system applications, and an optional dark mode gives Yosemite a distinct look that sets it apart from previous OS X releases.

But my favorite design change is the dock, which eschews the previous shelf design for a cleaner, flat look that uses the same translucencies that can be found in other areas of the operating system.

Notification Center

There’s some great changes in store for Notification Center which always felt like it was tossed together on OS X and not properly thought out. The addition of the Today View is huge, as Apple is positioning it as sort of an updated Dashboard with the ability for third-party applications to extend its functionality with widgets. Today View has weather, stocks, calendar events, and more built-in, but I’m excited to see what developers think of for adding functionality to Notification Center.

I could imagine a delivery status widget being added to my Today View to keep tabs on when to expect the arrival of packages. I can also imagine a site like PucaTrade (a Magic: the Gathering card trading site) developing a “send cards” widget so I can see available trades at a glance. I really see Notification Center becoming an important part of my computing experience with the ability to see all sorts of important information in a glance-able form.

Spotlight

It’s easy to think that many other application launchers got Sherlocked with this update to Spotlight — it clearly took some design cues from other application launchers on the market. But, it doesn’t seem to have the wide range and depth of features that other application launchers have.

Andrew and Vero of Alfred have already commented on their position in the Launcher market in regards to Apple’s new Spotlight announcements:

What you have to remember is that Spotlight’s primary objective is to search your files and a small handful of pre-determined web sources. Meanwhile, Alfred’s primary objective is to make you more productive on your Mac with exceptional and powerful features like Clipboard History, System commands, iTunes Mini Player, 1Password bookmarks, Terminal integration, fully bespoke and customisable user-created workflows and much, much more.

It’s clear to me that Spotlight exists in a difference space from other launchers and appeals to very different types of users. I’m not at all worried about Alfred’s ability to succeed in a world in which Spotlight has similar functionality. Power users will continue to use their launcher of choice and new power users will still look to other launchers for functionality that Spotlight does not provide.

iCloud Drive

The triumphant return of iDisk. Not only does iCloud Drive allow you access to files saved by applications that make use of it as a data storage service, but you will also be able to save other documents and files to your iCloud storage from within Finder and organize them however you’d like.

All of the files saved to your iCloud Drive will be accessible on all of your Macs, all of your iOS devices from within an application’s iCloud file picker, and even on Windows via the web.

I’m not sure how useful I will actually find this service — I had an iDisk back in the .mac days and never used it. But, there have been more than a few times where my girlfriend needed access to a file that was saved on her Mac at home and texted me to email it to her. I think she’ll find iCloud Drive to be very useful, simply saving documents for current projects on iCloud so that she can have access to them wherever she is.

Mail

The two landmark features of Mail on Yosemite are Maildrop and Markup. Maildrop allows you to no longer worry about a mail server’s attachment size limitations. Large attachments are sent through iCloud instead of through the mail server and then rendezvous at the recipient’s email inbox. Recipients that don’t use Mail will be given a link to download the attachment from Apple’s servers.

Markup gives you the ability to annotate images and PDFs from within the compose window. You’ll be able to sign PDFs and point out specific sections of an image with arrows, circles, or text. The markups are then added to the image or PDF to be sent to the recipient.

Safari

Apple has added some wonderful enhancements to Safari under the hood allowing it to continue it’s dominance over other web browsers when it comes to speed and capabilities. And there are plenty of user-facing features as well, such as:

  • Spotlight suggestions in completion menu.
  • New sharing features with a list of most recent recipients.
  • A brand new tab view that gives you a bird’s eye view of all of your open tabs.
  • Favorites Bar favorites are now accessible when you click on the URL/search bar.

There wasn’t really a lot of “whiz, bang, boom” features in Yosemite — instead Apple showcased many smaller features that add up to a solid OS release. A lot of users are interested in big sweeping new features. but I tend to prefer OS releases like this that focus on smaller refinements that help me use my computer more productively.

I have signed up for the OS X Beta Program and hope that I’m one of the select few that receive access to it. I have an iMac in the other room that I’d love to install Yosemite on to get a feel for the new OS before it’s official release this fall.

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