OS X El Capitan Review

The new version of Mac OS X is here!  It’s not a major upgrade; Apple said that they’ve got a big focus on performance this year, just like in iOS 9.  However, there are some new features that are definitely welcome.  Interestingly enough, several of them are features that started on iOS.  I think that says a whole lot about the world we live in now: mobile is becoming more important that desktop.

There’s several apps that I use a lot that have gotten new features, but I want to start with an OS-wide feature: split view.  This is actually similar to the new iPad split view features on iOS.  You can now run two apps next to each other in full screen.  Simply click and hold on the green full screen button on the first app, then drag it to one side.  You’re then presented with thumbnails of your other apps to fill the other side of the screen.  Once you’ve got these two apps open, you can leave them at half and half, or you can drag to give one of them more room.  This is definitely a useful feature (one that I’ve missed since coming to the Mac – Windows added this feature in 2009).

Next up is the mail app.  This one’s short and sweet: you can now swipe left and right on messages to mark them as unread or delete them – just like in iOS.  I use this feature all the time on my iPhone, and I’ve definitely wished I had it on the Mac.  Now I do!

After that comes the app I used more than any other: Safari.  Safari has added a feature called pinned sites.  This allows you to leave certain tabs open in the background, permanently, without them taking up lots of space in your tab bar.  It’s great for sites you use all the time.  I haven’t decided which (if any) sites I’m going to put there, but it’s definitely a cool feature.  Also, Safari has added a way to see which tabs are playing sound and mute them, also helpful!

The last thing I want to talk about it the photos app.  It finally allows you to geotag photos!  Both Photos for Mac and iOS already supported viewing geotags, and the iOS Camera app could geotag its photos, but neither one allowed you to edit or add geotags.  I had an app for this both on the Mac and iOS, but it was a pain.  Now, you can finally do this directly from Photos for Mac.

Even though there aren’t any crazy new features in OS X El Capitan, it’s still a solid update.  I mentioned performance at the beginning but I didn’t really talk about it yet: this update hasn’t made my computer feel any faster or slower (although that SSD I put in last spring helps).  Same as iOS 9, I’d say no change is a good thing (last year’s update definitely made it slower).  So all in all, I’m a happy customer, and I’m feeling good about how long my Mac will last.  That’s definitely a feeling Apple should want to cultivate in their customers.  ••


OS X Yosemite Review

Last Thursday, Apple released the latest update to the Mac operating system, OS X Yosemite.  After using it for the past week and a half, I must say that I really like it.  Most of the changes were aesthetic, giving OS X a new, iOS 7-style look and feel.  In addition to these changes, we also saw some new features, most notably Continuity.

As you can see from the screenshots, much of the UI has gotten a flatter, more transparent look.  This is actually what I expected when I upgraded to OS X Mavericks last spring.  I bought my Mac used, and it was running OS X Mountain Lion when I got it.  Since I didn’t have a Mac when Mavericks came out, I hadn’t paid much attention to what it looked like.  Seeing the similarities to iOS 6 in Mountain Lion, I just assumed that Mavericks would have iOS 7-like graphics.  I was wrong.  This seemed odd and disjointed to me, and I’m glad that OS X and iOS are back on the same page visually.

Aside from the UI, the other really cool feature in OS X Yosemite is Continuity.  Continuity is actually a collection of features that makes the Mac, iPhone, and iPad work closer together.  For example, before Continuity, you could send iMessages (text messages to other Apple products) and do FaceTime calls (which, again, can only happen between Apple devices) on the Mac and iPad.  If you wanted to call or text someone with an Android, you’d have to use your iPhone.  Now, with Continuity, you can use your Mac and iPad to make calls and send texts to any number, as long as you do still have an iPhone.  The feature of Continuity that I’m most excited about though is called Handoff.  I talked about Handoff in iOS when iOS 8 came out last month, but now that the Mac can participate, Handoff is really going to be useful.  Basically, with Handoff, your devices are aware of what you’re doing on your other devices nearby.  This works over Bluetooth.  Say, for example, that you start writing an email on your iPhone, then decide that you’d rather not use that tiny little phone keyboard.  Normally, in order to switch to your Mac, you’d have to email the draft to yourself, then pick it back up on the Mac.  With Handoff, your Mac notices that you’re writing an email on your iPhone, and puts an extra “Mail” icon to one side of your dock.  This icon represents the draft you’re working on.  To move the draft to the Mac, all you have to do is click that icon, and you’re good to go.  This is really cool in principle, but I found that it doesn’t always work correctly in practice.  Still, I hope Apple irons out the kinks in order to make this new feature shine.

The last thing I want to talk about is speed: OS X Yosemite seems slower than OS X Mavericks.  Believe it or not, I’m actually willing to cut Apple some slack here.  As operating systems advance, they are designed to be run on computer hardware that is advancing as well.  This means that new software will always be slower on old hardware.  Another thing to consider is that all new Macs now ship with solid state hard drives, so Apple engineers are creating software that is designed to be run on a computer with a solid state.  My Mac does not have a solid state, so it’s bound to be an extra little bit slower than newer Macs.  Even with this speed decrease, in general, I’m happy with OS X Yosemite.  There weren’t too many huge changes, but on the whole, the operating system seems to be getting slowly better.  Now all we need to do is convince Apple to start naming their operating systems after national parks in Georgia, instead of California.  How does OS X Kennesaw Mountain sound?  ••

My First Mac

2014 is the 30th anniversary of the Apple Macintosh Computer.  At the beginning of the year, Apple launched an online campaign asking people to tell about their first Mac.  Also on Apple’s website are these really cool stats about how people have used their Macs over the years.  At the beginning of the year, I didn’t have a Mac.  Having recently got one, however, I’d like to tell my story.

I’ve always used Windows PCs, and I’ve always been happy with them.  It wasn’t until last year that I really wanted a Mac.  It started when I wanted to learn how to make iPhone apps.  One internet search later and I discovered… you have to have a Mac in order to make iPhone apps.  I was crushed.  After deciding that I did really want to learn to make iPhone apps, I started to look into the Mac Mini.  Since I already had a desktop, I already had a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers that I could hook up to a Mac Mini.  However, a new Mac Mini starts at $600, and used ones on eBay (at least ones recent enough to get the latest version of OS X) cost upwards of $300.  It was at this point that I realized that even a used Mac Mini would be a somewhat major purchase.

However, there was another thought to consider.  I was going to need a laptop soon; if a new Mac Mini was $600, and a good Windows laptop was $500, should I just buy a MacBook?  This question was answered when a close friend of mine said he was selling his 2012 13″ MacBook Pro.

So long story short, I bought the MacBook Pro from my friend, and it’s worked out really well.  Because it was used, I got a good deal on it, but I didn’t have to deal with any of the risk involved with buying a used computer on eBay.  I’ll be honest: the Mac is really not that different from Windows.  There are no mind-blowing benefits that would make me suggest you all rush out and buy a Mac.  There are, however, many nice little perks.

I’ll start with something the MacBook is known for: weight.  My MacBook weights 4.5 lbs., a full 25% less than my Mom’s Windows laptop (at 6 lbs.).  The Mac’s battery life is also quite impressive.  The advertised battery life is 7 hours, but of course no laptop actually meets its battery life spec in real-world use.  I haven’t run the Mac until it dies to get an official battery life count, but after smaller tests I bet I could easily get 4-5 hours out of it.

Another thing I like about the Mac is the ecosystem.  As someone who already used an iPod Touch and an iPad Mini, the iCloud integration of the Mac is really nice.  It’s great to have a computer with calendar and reminders programs that sync with my iOS devices.  There are also other little iOS-like perks, such as notification center, which conveniently shows all my reminders and emails.

Basically, most things I like about the Mac aren’t big new features, but little things that are just really well thought out (this seems to be one of Apple’s strong suits).

In conclusion, I really like the Mac.  I’m not sure I’m a lifelong convert yet, but who knows?  Maybe I’ll really get used to the perks and not want to go back.  Remember what I said at the end of an old post about using Windows 7?  Looks like that opinion might be changing.  ••