It's a tall order for an OS named after Yosemite's 3,000-foot monolithic climbing challenge to match any corresponding comparison. The 11th version of Apple OS X, El Capitan, was announced June 8th, reached Developer Beta 2 status June 23rd, and is officially due in fall 2015. The new OS seeks to refine user experience while remarkably improving performance. Does it succeed? Yes. While El Capitan boasts no paradigm-changing innovations, there are sufficient time-saving nuggets included to make the release a winner.
Safari, Apple's integrated web browser, includes several tweaks. With El Capitan, AirPlay will enable streaming video to Apple TV without having to show the desktop's other contents. The feature comes in handy in marketing, advertising, and production meetings when seeking to sample video but not reveal email inbox contents, among other elements, that may happen to be visible.
Pinned Sites is another enhancement. When El Capitan users pin websites within Safari, the sites remain open, updated and accessible, as they'll remain active in the background. Pinned sites also will remain put on the tab bar's left pane for easy access. Financial services, media, communications, and government professionals are among those who will find the ability to more easily track news, financial markets, and other announcements a welcome innovation. Others, meanwhile, will simply find the feature simplifies accessing frequently-retrieved content.
Mail, potentially the single most important OS X business program, receives subtle but significant El Capitan upgrades. While no one new feature is life changing, several small incremental changes add up, especially considering the frequency with which the enhancements can be leveraged, thereby considerably simplifying your day and the manner in which you interact with the OS, Mail, and messages.
Smart Suggestions is a new feature in which Mail recognizes people or appointments within a message and lets you create a new Contact or Calendar entry using a single click. Considering the myriad vendors, clients, suppliers, colleagues, meetings, invitations, and conference calls we receive and juggle, it's clear the feature will make it easier and shorten the time required to create new contacts and appointments.
El Capitan introduces support for Swipe gestures within Mail, too. Gesture support helps users with a Trackpad and OS X to navigate and delete messages. Adding OS X gestures also standardizes the user experience, regardless whether you're using iOS or OS X.
Each time Apple introduces an OS X upgrade system, you can expect performance benefits. The same is true with El Capitan.
Apple claims its Metal graphics processing technology accelerates core animation and graphics rendering by up to 50%. Faster graphics performance results for nearly all common applications. Other subtle under-the-hood tweaks result in applications opening 1.4 times faster. Switching between apps should occur twice as fast as in Yosemite, and new messages should appear twice as fast. PDF files, essentially the business standard documentation, specifications, and legal agreement format, open up to four times faster in El Capitan than in Yosemite.
I'm already on record saying that business professionals should question multi-tasking's efficiency. But we all do it. El Capitan makes it easier to separate, view, and manage multiple active windows. The release enables automatically filling the screen with two apps you choose without requiring that you manually resize both windows. Thus, it's easier to write a report while reviewing sales data from within a web-based application, for example, or collect data from one application for formatting within a sales spreadsheet.
I became a fan of integrated desktop search a long time ago. Similar to a rear-window defroster, it's one of those items I don't remember how I lived without. In El Capitan, Spotlight becomes more intelligent. In addition to just searching keywords and identifying matches found in material stored on the hard drive, Spotlight will now deliver results for weather, financial markets, transportation services, and more. Best of all, you can type Spotlight questions just as you ask a question. There's no need to carefully enter specific critical keywords, just type your question as you speak. The Spotlight enhancement is yet another example of small but subtle tweaks included in the new OS that consistently add up and free small nuggets of time that can be collected and dedicated to more important tasks.
What are your thoughts about El Capitan? Let us know in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.