OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: Apple Core Apps

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 3 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about some of Apple’s Core Apps and I’ll wrap everything up, too.

yosemite

If you remember last time, I talked about Yosemite and iOS 8 integration. Here, I’m going to talk about some of the changes to some of Apples core apps, and will wrap everything up with my opinion of the current state of things in OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1.

Apple Core Apps
I’m going to hit these very quickly. Most of what you will see here shouldn’t be a surprise. Most if not all of Apple’s Core Apps are in flux and need work.  These should be considered usable for the most part, but also represent a work in progress. Things are still a bit bumpy here…

·    Safari
Everything that I’ve seen of the new Safari is pretty cool. It has a tool streamlined toolbar, and makes better use of screen real estate. The app is also faster and gives you more control over your privacy.  I haven’t had any issues with the app, and I use it for banking on my Mac.  I’ve been pretty pleased with what I’ve seen of Safari so far. It is perhaps the most usable of all the apps that I’ll cover, here.

·    Mail
Mail is one tool that I don’t use very much, if at all.  I could use it with my Gmail account, but since I have Chrome installed on my Mac and use it to work with all of my Google Services (read: Google Apps and Google Drive), there hasn’t been much need to do so.

The new features in Mail, however, let you send larger attachments more easily.  You can annotate documents, fill out forms, etc. right in a Mail message. The app is also supposed to be quicker, too.

The thing that gets me here is that sending attachments, even large ones is not so much mail client dependent, its mail SYSTEM dependent.  This means that regardless of how big of an attachment my mail client may support, the thing won’t send if either my mail service or the recipient’s mail service rejects that large attachment.  Sending any kind of attachment via email is also not secure, so if you send accounting info, or any kind of document with sensitive data, unless you’re using something like PGP on both ends to encrypt and decrypt mail, anyone sniffing packets between you and the destination can intercept and steal your data.

I like that Apple is making improvements to Mail.  I just don’t know how valuable they are in the larger picture of the whole, new, OS.  If you have an opinion here, I’d love to hear it as a comment in the Discussion area, below.

·    Messages
I’ve already given you the lowdown on Messages. You can see that in Part 2 of this series on Mac and iOS 8 Integration.  Messages is a great service and I use it quite a bit. Once Apple gets the inter-OS connectivity issues fixed, things will be much better.  This is going to be a huge gain on the Mac and OS X side of the fence… once things are working, that is.

·    iCloud Drive
When Apple announced iCloud Drive at WWDC, many thought Craig Federighi was describing a service that was very much like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive. It’s not.

iCloud drive is similar in that you can store any kind of files you wish to store on it, not just a file that was created by any iCloud compatible app.  You could conceivably store ALL of your documents there, and access them on your Mac, or any of your iDevices. You can even add tags and such, so it supports Finder related functionality for documents stored there.

From what I’ve seen so far, however, documents are transferred there, and then the local copy is removed. With services like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive, that’s not the case.  The local copy remains to allow you to make changes when you’re off line.

If someone out there is having a different experience than I am, please leave me a comment in the Discussion area below. I’d like to hear your experience and perhaps try to troubleshoot a bit…

·    iTunes 12 Beta
I was seriously disappointed here.
The functionality of iTunes hasn’t changed, but the UI has slightly. Getting to the Store is now done via a number of different links available with each media type you are working with in your library as opposed to the current way of crossing a line between your library and the iTunes Store once.  The whole experience is more local library focused, regardless of where you media is actually stored – on your hard drive or in iCloud.  I can see where it makes sense; but it is something to get used to.  Again, you have to think “media type” and not “my stuff” vs. “stuff in the iTunes Store.”

The problems I’m experiencing with iTunes 12 Beta aren’t due to the new interface, however. Again, Apple seems to be optimizing and changing code.  The app often freezes and has issues during synchronization with my iPhone 5.  I’ve had to hard reset my device (wake/ sleep button + home button until the Apple logo appears, then release) a couple different times due to either iDevice freeze or iTunes freeze or both.

The only way to get the app to come back on my Mac at that point is to force quit. Even without an iDevice burp, iTunes can still unknowingly lockup. I’ve noticed that the app can prevent my Mac from either restarting, logging out or shutting down if my iPhone is connected via USB cable and I try to do any of those three activities.  Even if you pull the iPhone before actually starting any of those processes, if iTunes is running, it can freeze when you try to restart, log off or shutdown.

You won’t know anything is wrong until you try to do one of those and your Mac just doesn’t do it. There’s work to be done here, and this is one area where I’m certain both developers and consumers will see an update before the app is ready for final release.

·    Spotlight
This is one area where I am really going to have to make a bit of a paradigm switch before I get used to new functionality here.

Spotlight has gone through a number of really big changes.  You click the magnifying glass and you get a spotlight bar in the middle of your screen. When you search for things, you now not only search your Mac, but you search Wikipedia, Bing, Maps and “other source” simultaneously.  This is huge, as Apple has effectively brought the entire internet to your desktop. Instead of having to open Safari or another browser to search for something, you just… search.  Spotlight goes out and fetches everything for you and then presents the results on your desktop.

I’ve never been much on Spotlight. I’ve used it in a pinch here or there, but I come from the old MS DOS 1.x – 6.x days, and I’m used to searching my document store folder(s) for content on my own. I’m very meticulous about how I organize my 3-4 NAS devices (I have over 12TB of storage on my home network) and can figure out where I have things pretty quickly.  However, I am a HUGE exception to the rule.

Apple doesn’t want you to do what I’ve done. That’s why they designed iCloud as they originally did.  They don’t want you to think about where you’ve stored stuff in iCloud (or anywhere else on your Mac, for that reason), they want you to use the right tool to do the job you need done, and your Mac will manage the data.  Spotlight complements this paradigm as it (truly) finds what you need (URL, document, text message, media, etc.) regardless of where it is now.

Conclusion
Here it is in a very clear sentence or two: OS X Yosemite is clearly still in beta at this point. With previous consumer previews from Microsoft for both Windows 7 and Windows 8, the OS was a little more consumer ready in my opinion.

That doesn’t mean that Yosemite isn’t usable at this point. However, the current state of things has me seriously considering reactivating my OS X Developer’s account.  Yes… I installed Yosemite on my only production machine; and yes, I did NOT install it as a VM.  This is what I get when I turn my Mac on and try to use it.  I don’t have an alternative Mac to install this on, and I don’t want to run anything in a VM at this point. That’s not a true use case for me, and honestly, I wouldn’t have gained as much insight as I’ve regurgitated here.

This is not what Apple recommends.  They don’t want you to lose or jeopardize your productivity or your data. I’m a big boy and decided to wing it, anyway. Unfortunately, that means I have to put up with all of Yosemite’s pitfalls and growth points until it’s more stable.

In my opinion, Yosemite Beta 4/ Consumer Beta 1 isn’t ready for the average consumer just yet. If you’re curious, wait for the full release.  Most of the cool stuff isn’t even available yet because it requires an iDevice running iOS 8.  In the meantime, I’ll have updates as things progress.

If you have questions, or are curious about something, leave a comment in the Discussion area, below, and I’ll do my best to answer it or write a full response as a column.

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