Apple flattens OS X, takes a road trip to Yosemite
June 2, 2014
The world may not be flat, but Apple's entire world now is. After last year's iOS 7 brought a flatter and cleaner design aesthetic to Apple's mobile operating system, the just-announced OS X Yosemite completes the transition, bringing Jony Ive's software sensibilities to the Mac's software.
OS X 10.10 continues Apple's naming shift from cats to California landmarks, going with "Yosemite," the world-famous national park that sits in the eastern part of the state. As the 10th full version of OS X, 25th anniversary of WWDC and the 30th anniversary of the first Macintosh, it seems appropriate that Yosemite marks one of the biggest cosmetic overhauls in the Mac operating system's history.
Gone is the classic shelf theme from the OS X dock (complete with shadows and reflections), replaced with a simpler and flatter dock, that's essentially a row of icons inside an elongated bar. Most of those icons got the flat treatment as well. Many OS X apps, like Messages and Maps, are spitting images of their iOS 7 and 8 counterparts.
But Yosemite isn't all about looks. OS X 10.10 also marks one of the most feature-rich updates in years, including the most synchronicity we've ever seen between OS X and iOS. That's led by Handoff. If you have an iPhone or iPad sitting near your Mac, Handoffs makes tasks like email drafts, iWork projects or Safari web pages instantly accessible between devices.
So if you're drafting a paper in Pages on your Mac, a Pages icon will sit on your iPhone's lock screen. Swipe up and the document from your Mac will instantly open in Pages on your iPhone. Conversely, if you're drafting a text message on your phone, a Messages icon will be waiting in your Mac's dock. Tap on it, and finish up your message on your MacBook.
Speaking of messages, OS X Yosemite now automatically syncs calls and SMS between iPhone and Mac. So you can initiate and receive calls or text messages (not just iMessage, but actual SMS to non-iPhone users) right from your OS X desktop. You can highlight any phone number in OS X, and a right-click context menu will give you the option to immediately call it.
Yosemite also has a quick tethering feature that should help make up for the lack of cellular data in MacBooks. If you're on the go without Wi-Fi, just click on the name of your iPhone in the Yosemite menu bar (it will already be waiting there) and a data connection will instantly be set up. No need to mess with the iPhone at all. This obviously won't work with Android or Windows Phones, so it's yet another move by Apple to move you into an iOS-only walled garden.
Another big Yosemite update comes from Spotlight. Apple's system-wide search feature takes a big step forward in the latest version, with a floating search bar that pops up in the middle of your screen (this will look very familiar to users of 3rd-party Mac launchers like Alfred and Quicksilver). Results from not just local apps and documents, but also web sources like Wikipedia will instantly pop up in Spotlight results. For something like a Wikipedia entry, you get a quick summary in the results, but a quick click on it will load the full page. See what Apple is doing here? It's, in some cases, cutting out the Google middleman.
iCloud also takes a big step forward in Yosemite. Up to this point, iCloud left the file system in the background, instead silently syncing each app's documents, without any interaction from the user. Yosemite adds iCloud Drive, which moves Apple's cloud service much closer to rivals like Dropbox, Box and Google Drive. Now you can browse the documents saved for each app (iOS or Mac) straight from Finder. You can also add your own personal documents to iCloud Drive. Everything syncs between OS X, iOS and, yes, even Windows.
Apple's Safari web browser also has a cleaner and simpler interface in Yosemite, with most of the information you need condensed into one toolbar. If you need your favorite sites bar, that now lives just a click away, in the search/URL bar. Spotlight results will also load in the Safari bar.
Mail wasn't left out of the fun, as Apple gave its email app a long overdue visual overhaul (it now looks a lot more like iOS Mail). The company added a lot of punch to Mail's features as well, as you can now annotate photo and PDF attachments straight from a message. There's also a new iCloud-based email attachment-saving feature that lets you upload files (up to 5 GB) that the recipient can download directly from the link. The idea is to kill the problem of attaching large files that your recipient's email server won't receive.
OS X's Notification Center also got a few tweaks in Yosemite. The "Today" view, familiar from iOS, now lives in the Mac's Notification Center, showing things like upcoming Calendar events and even 3rd-party app widgets. You could say the Today view is evolving into Apple's answer to Google Now (though Siri is still notably absent from OS X).
OS X Yosemite will be available for developers later today. Non-developers will have the opportunity to test-drive the update through a beta program, later this (Northern hemisphere) summer. Yosemite's free public release will land this Northern hemisphere fall. You can read more at the source link below.
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