The revised line of operating systems dedicated to Mac are called OS X. Yosemite is the second version of OS X since its reboot last year, when Apple switched from naming its annual OS X updates after big cats to places in California. It also neatly side-stepped the problem of where to go after 10.9 by avoiding the use of numbers altogether (although they do still exist in the geekier parts of the OS like System Information, where Yosemite is referred to as OS X 10.10).
So, what’s new? Quite a lot, actually, and nearly all of it in the name of greater consistency between OS X and iOS. That’s not to say that Apple is gradually merging the two operating systems – there’s no evidence at all that’s on the agenda. Nevertheless, several alterations and additions in Yosemite do tie OS X more closely with IOS 8.
Even in the early days of its tenure, Yosemite can already be counted as a success in one way. According to metrics company Net Applications, Yosemite accounted for 36.6% of all instances of OS X, setting a new Mac adoption record in the process. Like OS X Maverick that came before it, Yosemite was made available as a free download, racing out of the traps on October 16. In comparison, Mavericks, which hit the App Store on October 22, 2013, gained a Mac-only user share of 32% after its first month of availability.
Apple has released an update to Yosemite, bringing the operating system to version OS X 10.10.03.The new update brings a number of performance improvements, bug fixes, enterprise features, support for the new Force Touch touchpad, a new Photos app, improvements to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth performance and more racial diversity with emoji. Additionally, 10.10.3 expands the number of supported Macs that can use 4K, 5K and Ultra HD TVs.
The most obvious change, visually at least, is the new interface. Yosemite does to the Mac what iOS 7 did to the iPhone and iPad. Its user interface is flatter – though not flat, there are still drop shadows and other nods to the third dimension, it’s just that now they exist for a purpose rather than being merely eye candy. No more glassy textures.
There’s more translucency in Yosemite than its predecessor Mavericks. Where once it was limited to the Finder’s menu bar, it now pops up in lots of places, including Finder menus and the sidebar of Finder windows. It’s been tweaked so that the underlying image is blurred and less distracting than in Mavericks, but we suspect it will still be a love it or hate it feature. If you do hate it, you can ‘reduce’ it in the Accessibility pane of System Preferences.
Perhaps the most controversial change in Yosemite’s user interface, however, is the switch in font from Lucida Grande to Helvetica Neue – another alignment with iOS. It takes a bit of getting used to, and for some it will never be right, but we found ourselves warming to it over time.
Some of OS X’s application icons have changed to resemble their iOS counterparts. iTunes, for example, now has a red icon instead of a blue one.
Not a huge amount has changed here, but there is one key addition: iCloud Drive. Your iCloud storage drive now shows up in the Finder and you can drag and drop files and folders to it just like any other location. It also displays the files you’ve opted to store there from apps like Pages, Numbers,
and Text Edit.Folders are now a brighter blue, but Apple hasn’t taken the opportunity to rethink its confusing implementation of tags, which is a great disappointment. For those of us who used to mark Finder files and folders with a specific colour to indicate action that needed to be taken, for example, the tagging system is an irritation more than an aid.
Hands up if you used Notification Centre in Mavericks? No, us neither. But Yosemite makes it much more interesting by adding a Today panel that works in a similar way to iOS 8’s Notification Centre. It displays your Calendar appointments, the weather, world clock, and other elements you choose. And it supports third party widgets too. Oh, and it’s another OS X element to be given the translucent treatment.
Spotlight in Yosemite is unrecognisable from its predecessors. Where once it slid almost apologetically into view underneath the magnifying glass on the menu bar, it now leaps into action in the centre of the screen.
It looks, and operates, much more like a launcher such as Launch Bar, Quicksilver, or Alfred than Spotlight of yore.
There’s a good reason for the change, however; Spotlight is now much more useful than it used to be. It hooks into online data sources to pull out information and display it on-screen. Type in the name of a movie, for example, and you’ll get a thumbnail image and a plot summary with credits courtesy of Wikipedia. Type in the name of a restaurant or hotel, and Spotlight will display a snippet of a map, along with details of the establishment and reviews from Yelp.
For local files, it displays inline previews of documents and, as before, can be used in lieu of a calculator when you’re in a hurry. It might just be enough to tempt you away from your favourite launcher.
Update: OS X 10.10 Yosemite can now update to Safari 9, which adds a new mute audio feature for tabs in addition to new viewing options for Safari Reader. It also brings improvements to privacy, compatibility and security, according to Apple.
The first impression Safari makes when launched is that it’s smaller and lighter than it used to be. Apple has reduced the height of the menu bar and the result is the loss of toolbar favourites. They no longer display by default, though you can switch them back on again from the Bookmarks menu.
New tabs now open with a display of tabs from the Favourites folder, rather than Top Sites. And those Favourites tabs appear again when you start to type in the address bar. A new tab switcher, accessed by pressing a button on the menu bar which is identical to the tab switcher in iOS, displays open tabs from all the devices connected to your iCloud account in the main window. You can navigate to any open tab, or close tabs on other devices.
The only other items on the sparse toolbar are a share icon, again identical to the iOS 8 share button, navigation arrows, and a button to show or hide the left-hand pane which displays Bookmarks, Reading List, and Shared Links. There’s no Home button.
The address bar is now even smarter, though, and works similarly to Spotlight. Movie titles display snippets from Wikipedia under the address bar, and hotels and restaurants show the same details as Spotlight. Click once and you’re given a more detailed preview, click again and you’re taken to the relevant website.
Besides the new icon, iTunes has had its interface overhauled. The Albums view looks even smarter than it did before, with better use of album covers’ predominant colours for backgrounds. And the Artists view now gets a similar treatment to Albums.
Navigation has been made less intrusive. There are only three options at the top of the window now: My Music, Playlists, and iTunes Store. View options are now in a dropdown menu on the right, and Movies and TV Programmes, along with other content, have been moved from a dropdown menu to icons on the toolbar. By default, only music, movies, and TV shows are shown, but an Extras menu item allows you to add more.
The iTunes Store has had an overhaul too, and is now as clean and crisp as everything else in Yosemite. Here too, navigation has changed, though not necessarily for the better. It took us a bit of poking around to find out how to get to the App Store, for example. It turned out that it’s hidden by default and you need to enable it from the same Extras menu that you use in the Library to view additional content there.
It seems as though Apple has deprecated the App Store in iTunes, at least in terms of making it easy to access, perhaps in recognition that many of us now buy iOS apps directly from the iOS App Store rather than iTunes.
There’s still no sign of iTunes Radio in the UK.
Yosemite allows Mac users to ‘mirror’ the Mac’s audio and video output to an Apple TV without either being on a Wi-Fi network. The two devices can create a peer-to-peer network to connect with each other. However, you’ll have to have the most recent Apple TV, released in March 2013, as older models don’t support the feature. And you still can’t mirror an iOS device on a Mac’s display in order to, for example, watch video stored on your iPad on your iMac screen.