Desktops

5 things you need to know about Apple OS X El Capitan

Apple kicked off its Worldwide Developers Conference today with a few announcements about OS X El Capitan, which will be available as a free download this fall. There's nothing game-changing about this latest version of the Apple OS, but there were a few notable announcements. Here are five things you need to know about the upcoming update to Apple's computer OS.

1. El Capitan comes from the rock formation within Yosemite, itself the name for the current version of OS X (OS 10.10.x). That close connection suggests this is not a huge update. Judging by the features shown during the WWDC keynote, it isn’t. Still intact is the Yosemite interface, which many have described as “flat.” Apple showed no new fonts or colors with El Capitan.  

2. Search will emphasize natural language even more than it currently does. You might call it “use your own words” search, as Apple's senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi did during the keynote. A couple of examples: “Find the mail I ignored from Phil” and “Find all the documents I worked on five months ago.” Spotlight, Mail, and Finder will all use the improved search function.

3. Apple takes a page from Android and Windows. In particular, it seems that Apple is borrowing a few gestures pioneered on mobile Android devices. Split View, for example, lets you run two applications side by side and share info from one to the other. So, for example, you can drag a link from Safari into an e-mail message. Samsung was first to market in 2012 with a similar feature for its Android phones and tablets, you’ll also find it in Windows.

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4. A few new gestures have been added to Apple’s repertoire. You can mark an e-mail unread with one gesture and delete e-mails with another. Mission Control, which lets you easily switch among open windows and apps, has been improved with a few new gestures, including a three-finger swipe that provides an overview of Mission Control.

5. You can swipe your finger around on the trackpad or shake your mouse if you can't find the cursor on the screen. OK, it’s not the biggest OS improvement ever, but it made the list because we’re pretty sure you’ll use it.The small mouse cursor, which can be difficult to find, temporarily becomes large and easily visible. You heard it here first: You’ll use this feature a lot.

—Donna Tapellini

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