Better multitasking, improved search functionality and smoother Web surfing will make you more productive in OS X El Capitan, the latest version of Apple's desktop operating systems for Mac computers. The upgrade is set to become available for free to consumers in the fall. The changes aren't quite as dramatic as the ones introduced with last year's version, OS X Yosemite, but these new features might still make your workday a bit easier.
Spotlight — OS X's systemwide search feature — has long been a handy tool for tracking down a specific file or document. Now it's getting a lot smarter, letting you use plain English to pinpoint the location of a file. For example, searching for "spreadsheets I edited last August about product inventory" should yield the correct results. Apple has also cleaned up the interface for Spotlight so search results are easier to browse.
If your desktop is cluttered by the end of the workday, El Capitan's new Mission Control feature might help. The feature shows you an overview of all your open windows in a clean and organized grid. From there you can close them, reorganize them or move them to a new virtual desktop space.
A few small features to the Safari Web browser might be small productivity boosters throughout the day. For starters, you can now "pin" tabs to the top of browser window, so your frequently accessed sites remain instantly accessible without cluttering up the interface. That might come in handy if you use Web mail or a browser-based word processor like Microsoft Office Online. Plus, Safari now shows you which tabs are playing audio, which makes it easy to terminate distracting advertisements.
PC owners can drag windows to either side of the screen for an instant split-screen view, which makes multitasking easy. Now OS X is bringing a similar feature to Macs in the form of Split View mode. Just drag two windows to the top of the Mission Control interview to see them side-by-side.
A couple of new email gestures will help you reach inbox zero before closing time. When viewing new messages in the desktop Mail app, you can now swipe right on your trackpad to mark messages as read, or left to delete them. Other new tweaks include the ability to click-and-drag images from old emails into your current draft, and open up multiple tabs when composing a new message.
Performance improvements might also make your workday smoother. Apple says that El Capitan has been streamlined for better system stability and faster multitasking. That should make basic tasks like launching and switching between apps feel zippier, and that could help speed up your workday.