Apple's new desktop operating system adds a ton of productivity-boosting features for business users.OS X Yosemite, which succeeds last year's OS X Mavericks, is now available to download for free on MacBook laptops, as well as desktop iMac computers. In addition to a fresh interface redesign, you get revamped versions of Spotlight, Mail and Notifications Center; support for the new iCloud Drive, which backs up your files and makes them accessible from anywhere; and new features that let you link your iPhone, iPad and Mac computer so you can transition seamlessly between devices while you work.
If your work machine is compatible with the free upgrade, it can't hurt to install it. But bear in mind that some of the latest OS' best features will only work on newer devices. Read on for a full breakdown of what new features to expect in OS X Yosemite, as well as new details on how they can help you do your job.
Any machine that can run OS X 10.8 Mavericks or OS X 10.7 Lion, and many that can run OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, can also run Yosemite. But support for some specific features is restricted to newer machines (more on that below.)
Yosemite-compatible machines include:
- MacBook (Early 2009 or newer)
- MacBook Pro (Mid/late 2007 or newer)
- MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
- iMac (Mid-2007 or newer)
- Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
- Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
iOS 8-ompatible devices include:
- iPhone 5 and newer
- iPad 2 and newer
- iPad mini (all versions)
Yosemite marks the biggest single visual overhaul for OS X yet. The interface is flatter, cleaner and simpler than ever, mirroring many of the design changes Apple has made to iOS, its mobile operating system, since the launch of iOS 7 last year. In fact, the changes make OS X and iOS feel more like variations on a single theme, rather than wholly distinct operating systems. That's by design, since Apple is also making strides to unify its two platforms in other respects (more on this in the next section).
The company has mostly done away with the flashy visual effects on older versions of iOS, opting for a simpler look that's more modern and sophisticated. App icons are flatter, and textures and gradients are more subdued, or have disappeared altogether.
Meanwhile, a translucent effect has been applied to many visual elements such as sidebars and toolbars, which adds a nice sense of depth while you navigate around the desktop. But though the new interface changes are nice, they probably won't have a very big effect on your daily workflow.Credit: Apple
The best additions to Yosemite are a handful of features that Apple has grouped under the label of Continuity. In a nutshell, Continuity lets you link your Mac computer to your iPhone or iPad so you can quickly transfer files between devices, answer phone calls on your Mac and more.
Unfortunately, some of these features only work on newer Apple devices. Handoff and Airdrop, described in detail below, only work on Mac laptops or desktop iMac computers released in 2012 or later, and they must have Bluetooth enabled. Meanwhile, Handoff only works on the iPhone 5 and later models, and the iPad 4 and later models.
Here's a quick breakdown of the new Continuity features.
- Handoff: This new addition to Yosemite instantly beams in-progress documents, emails and more to your other Apple devices, so you can transition seamlessly among your Mac, iPhone and iPad while working. When you're drafting an email your Mac computer, for example, just pick up your iPhone or iPad and swipe up on the Handoff icon that appears on the lock screen to keep writing on your mobile device. It works between devices that are running either OS X Yosemite or iOS 8, and that are connected to the same Apple ID.
- Desktop calling: This Yosemite feature ensures you'll never miss an important phone call while working. By connecting your Mac to your iPhone, you'll receive an alert for incoming phone calls right on your desktop. Just click "Accept" to leverage your smartphone's cellular connection and take the call over your Mac's speaker and microphone.
- AirDrop: The revamped Airdrop feature provides another way to transfer files between two Apple devices. It's improved for OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, since you can now transfer files between mobile and desktop devices; previously, AirDrop transfers were platform-specific: OS X to OS X, or iOS to iOS. Just make sure your devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, then use AirDrop to beam your file over instantly.
Apple's iCloud was already a useful, if limited, tool for keeping your files backed up and accessible from anywhere. When you created a new document in the Pages word-processing app, for example, you could save it to iCloud. When you loaded Pages on another device and signed in using your Apple ID, you could view all the documents saved to your account. But the platform was pretty limited, since you could only view your documents when you opened Pages on another device. If you wanted to see those files on a device that couldn't run Pages, you were out of luck.
The new iCloud Drive service in OS X Yosemite is a more robust cloud storage platform that works a lot like Dropbox or Google Drive. Just drag any files into the iCloud Drive folder on your Mac computer to save them to the cloud. Then open iCloud Drive folder on any other Mac computer, iOS 8 device or even a Windows computer to view and access all your files at once.
Spotlight was already a good tool for quickly opening apps and tracking down files in previous versions of OS X, but the feature is a lot more useful in Yosemite, with a revamped interface and a ton of new functionality. Just click the magnifying glass icon at the top right corner of the desktop to launch the new Spotlight app in the center of your screen, and start typing.
In addition to files and apps, you can now seek contacts, find calendar events and even perform Web searches using Spotlight. Typing a name of a contact reveals that individual's phone number, email address, physical addresses, related calendar reminders and more, right in the sidebar. You can interact with almost every element of the search results: Click the phone number to initiate a desktop call; click the email address start writing a new message, or click the address to pinpoint that location on a map. Meanwhile, you can type the name of an app such as the Numbers spreadsheet editor to see recent documents you've opened using that app. You can also perform Web searches and even get answers to specific questions without leaving the Spotlight window.
The reinvented Spotlight app is a huge upgrade. It makes searching from your desktop as easy as searching within your Web browser, and maybe even easier. It's a great productivity booster to help business users find the information they need, right when they need it.
Notification Center: Now with widgets
Previous versions of OS X have a feature called Dashboard that lets you view a variety of widgets on your desktop, giving you a quick glimpse at the weather forecast, your calendar items, stock updates and more. That feature is disabled by default in Yosemite (you can still enable it again under System Preferences), but it's not exactly gone. Instead, its functionality has been largely incorporated into the new Notification Center, which has been remodeled to look like the Notification Center on iOS.
Like its mobile counterpart, the desktop Notification Center has two panels: "Today" and "Notifications." The Today panel is where you can view widgets — small persistent apps that update in real time. Calculator Calendar, Reminders, Stocks, Weather, World Clock and Social (which lets you quickly fire off posts to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn from your desktop) are enabled by default. Additional widgets are available to download, and are easy to install.
Meanwhile, the Notifications panel works like it did on older versions of OS X, providing a list of new emails, messages and other alerts in the order they were received. It functions pretty much like before, so if you didn't use Notification Center much before, this redesigned version isn't likely to change your mind.
The Mail app doesn't look or feel much different from before, but Apple has thrown in a few new features that will benefit business users. The first is Mail Drop, which provides an easier way to send especially large files via email. Just drag and drop attachments up to 5GB onto your in-progress email message, and they'll be automatically encrypted and uploaded to iCloud. When a second party receives the message, they'll be able to download the file as if it were any other attachment. Gmail has a similar feature, but it's only available if you access Gmail on the Web (instead of through a desktop email client), and it requires you to navigate through a few menus before your attachment is uploaded to Google Drive. Apple's Mail Drop streamlines the process considerably.
The other notable addition, Markup, makes it easier to annotate images, PDFs and other files before you send them. Just click the Markup icon over an attached file when you're replying to an email, then draw free-form; add shapes, arrows and text; and magnify parts of the image. It's a nifty addition for business users who want to make a few quick notes on a file before sending it off.
Overall, OS X Yosemite is one of the bigger updates to Apple's desktop operating system in recent years. It looks and runs better than ever, but it's the new continuity features that really set it apart from prior versions. Business users with more than one Apple device will really benefit from the ability to effortlessly transition between their Mac and their iPhone or iPad. Other new additions, like the reworked Mail and Spotlight apps, are just icing on the cake of this free update.