Feature Review – OS X 10.11 – El Capitan

Cursor Shake

If there’s one feature that EVERYONE knows how to use in El Capitan, its Cursor Shake. I’ve got a two monitor setup. I normally lose track of my mouse cursor when I take my eyes away from the screen for a long period of time (like when I step away for any reason) or when an app causes the mouse cursor to go to sleep or disappear.

With cursor shake, finding the mouse cursor on a large or multiple monitor setup is easy. All you have to do is shake the mouse back and forth. The mouse cursor will expand to about 10 times its normal size for a moment, making it easy to spot. Its probably the one feature you’ve been using most in any and every Mac or PC you’ve ever touched, but without the pointer auto expanding.

This is a huge benefit to multi-monitor users like myself. I have two 27″ monitors on my desk (one is a Thunderbolt Display, the other a regular, HDMI connected, HD display). I’m not going to get rid of either of them. Unless one breaks, I’m likely only to add another display to the mix. Its very easy to lose your mouse cursor after being away from your Mac for a while. Cursor Shake makes it instantly easy to find.

Spotlight

If you recall in the Privacy section, above, I made mention to some of the cool changes to Spotlight in El Capitan. You can now get results for weather, sports, stock quotes, web video and transit information. The biggest update, though is that now you can structure your query using natural language. This means that you can simply type a normal sentence into the Spotlight query box, and El Capitan will run on its merry way and find you what you’re looking for.

Spotlight 01

When you get results back, if the window is too small, you can resize it or move it where ever you want on your multi or single display desktop. Its pretty cool.

Searching for files is also easier. Using natural language expressions, Apple provides the following examples,

  • When searching for email – email from Harrison in April
  • When searching for files – budget presentation I worked on yesterday

You can also search Mail and Finder using natural language

Mail

Apple’s Mail app is one of the few remaining client based email apps in a world that is largely moving to a web services/ web app based world. However, if you’ve got the need or simply the desire to stay with an actual on-prem mail app as opposed to a web app like Outlook.com or Gmail, Mail continues to offer a decent alternative.

In its most recent release, Mail offers improved full-screen support and pointing device (track pad, or to an extent, Magic Mouse) enabled swipe gestures in Mail help you power through the chaos that is your inbox and concentrate on the true purpose of email – correspondence. Mail even allows you to keep tabs on your calendar and your contacts right from within Mail.

Mail 01

For example, if you receive an email mentioning some kind of date or appointment, like a flight, dinner reservation, or simply mention of something like that you can immediately ad that appointment to your calendar with a single click. If the note comes from someone not currently in your contact list, Mail will also let you quickly add them to your Contacts list, or update existing contacts with new information.

Mail has supported a full screen view for a while now; but in El Capitan, its been enhanced, and lets you manage all your email conversations at the same time. If needed, the active email message you’re working with will slide to the bottom of the screen, so you can access the inbox This is especially helpful, if for instance, you need to grab content from another message for inclusion in the current message. If you’re working with multiple messages, mail will display them all in a tabbed interface for easy access.

Mail 02

If you look at Apple Mail on both your Mac and on your iDevice, you’ll see that the interfaces are now much more similar. Apple is continuing its movement towards continued synergy between the two platforms. Because of this synergy, keeping your inbox to a manageable and managed level is easier. The two platform’s similarities now make managing and working with email all that much easier.

Notes

Notes, for some reason, is one of the most often used applications on an iDevice near you. Personally, I don’t understand this, as I never – and I really do mean, “never,” use Notes on my iDevice, or on my Mac for that matter, but if you DO… you’re in for a bit of a treat. The app on both platforms are now connected, and on the Mac side, its received some pretty cool enhancements.

Notes 01

You can now instantly create a list or checklist in a snap. You can also add a photo or even a video to a note, if you want. Remember when I said that the apps on both platforms were connoted? Well, now, thanks to the magic of iCloud, all the notes you create on your iDevice will appear on your Mac and vice versa.

Thanks to iCloud, there’s also greater integration between notes and other common apps between the two platforms. You can find an interesting URL in Safari and then save it to a note and access it on your Mac or iDevice when it syncs. If you have need of an address on your iDevice, you can find it with Maps on your Mac, save the address to Notes, and then access it from the Note on your iDevice and have Maps navigate you there. All you have to do is click the Share button to save new or existing items. It really is just that easy.

Remember what I said about checklists? Those are easily created from bullets. Create the list on your Mac. Check off the items at the <wherever> store on your iPhone. Poof! Your productivity just went up a notch or three.

Photos

Yosemite saw the discontinuing of iPhoto and Aperture and the formal release of Photos for Mac. Photos gives you the ability to share photos between your Mac and your iDevice. It also gives you the ability to do some basic editing. Well, at least in Photos under OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Under El Capitan, Photos gets a huge improvement boost.

Photos 01

Under El Capitan, Photos supports third party tools that will eventually be available form the Mac App Store. These editing tools or extensions will be available directly from within Photos. You’ll be able to use multiple extensions to help you with your photo editing tasks, including the native ones that come with the app. These extensions will eventually include texture effects as well as subtle filters to help enhance the overall look and feel of your photos.

Photos 02

Over and above this, library management has been improved. You can add location information to your individual shots or an entire Moment. You can name your favorite people in Faces with its enhanced and streamlined workflow. You can also sort albums and the photos in them by date, title or other sorting criteria.

Safari

Safari takes tabbed browsing to the next level and makes it easier to monitor the sites you love and visit every day. Safari now lets you Pin frequently visited sites. You can also easily mute audio with Safari to keep those obnoxious, auto playing videos from playing over other audio on your Mac.

Safari 01

The best thing about Pinned Sites, is that they stay open, updated and active in the background; and they stay where you put them, on the left side of the Safari Tab Bar. You can also use Airplay to stream video from any webpage to your HDTV or other compatible AirPlay device.

Maps

Maps 01

Maps has gotten a decent upgrade in El Capitan. Now with Maps on your Mac, you can not only get turn by turn directions on your Mac, but you can now get transit directions too. This is hugely important if the route to your destination includes a bus or a train ride, your directions will now include those directions and schedules as well.

Conclusion

OS X 10.11 El Capitan is definitely an evolutionary update from 10.10 Yosemite. If you have a Mac that can run Yosemite, then you can run El Capitan. I recently had someone ask me if they SHOULD run El Capitan, even on an older Mac running Yosemite.

Yes. You should.

100%, without a doubt, you should. Especially now, since you can use Office 2016 for Mac with it without it blowing up. More on that in just a sec…

Even if you don’t use any of the new features in Mail, Notes, Photos, Mission Control, etc. The speed improvements and the improved security features are enough to make this a must have for any Mac user. While SIP kinda killed TotalFinder for me (and I’m REALLY not happy about that. TotalFinder is much better than Finder alone), having the extra security updates that SIP, ATS and the new privacy enhancements in and of themselves is worth the upgrade. The speed boost you get with El Capitan, even on an older Mac, is worth the upgrade.

I will admit that I did not upgrade my Mac to El Capitan as soon as it was released. I didn’t. I am a huge Office user, so having Office 2016 crash every time you try to start one of the apps was NOT something I wanted to experience. Instead, I waited until the OS X 10.11.1 update came out, and THEN I upgraded my Mac. Prior to the upgrade, I kept my Mac on Yosemite and used Office 2016 for Mac without any issues.

So far, its been a good move, even though there are a couple of niggling issues with other third party apps (like Dock App, the app that controls the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock (full review is pending…)) I’m certain that those issues, as well as issues with any other third party apps, will get resolved in short order. I’m not worried about that at all, and honestly, you shouldn’t be either.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan by all accounts seems to be a solid operating system and is a fine evolutionary offering from Yosemite. If you get caught getting stuck on this version of OS X, you’d be in decent shape, likely for the life of your older, legacy Mac’s remaining life.

 

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