Technology

Apple Mac OS-X Yosemite first impressions: Gadget Watch

Andrew Sadauskas /

Most of the attention out of Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference (WWDC) this week has focused on the debut of the newest version of iOS, dubbed iOS 8.

Alongside the update, Apple has also unveiled the latest version of its operating system for its Mac desktop and laptops, Mac OS X Yosemite.

A developer preview of OS-X Yosemite will be available to download, ahead of a full official release as a free update coming in the near future.

So what sort of first impression has Yosemite made? It’s time to find out.

Key features

The major feature of Yosemite is a new interface, which brings it into line with the flatter style introduced into iOS 7.

A key new feature is increased interoperability with iOS 8. The improved interoperability means users will be able to use their Mac as a speakerphone for their iPhone, read and send their iPhone messages from their Mac, or use a feature called Handoff to pass activities from one device to another.

Apple is also adding a new file storage platform to iOS called iCloud Drive, which is similar to competing services such as Google Drive, Microsoft’s One Drive or DropBox, with the new cloud hosting service integrated into the Finder.

The upgrade adds Google-style system-wide search capabilities to Spotlight, as well as searches initiated from Safari. A single search will now display suggested websites from Bing, Wikipedia articles, iTunes, the app store, news, nearby faces, iBooks and movie show times.

Another new feature is the addition of widgets into the notification pane, allowing for quick updates about the weather, stocks, calendar events and social media updates.

Other upgrades include the ability to send attachments up to 5 gigabytes in size in Mail and the addition of private browsing support in Safari with support for Duck Duck Go, a search engine that doesn’t track user queries.

What do the reviews say?

AppleInsiderviews Yosemite as being a step on the journey between the three-dimensional aesthetics traditionally used in Mac OS-X and the flat style used by iOS:  

Overall, OS X Yosemite sits in an uncanny valley between its more detailed heritage and the spartan adornment of iOS under Jony Ive. Some icons have an odd mix of flat and three-dimensional elements, for instance, and new form control animations — such as the new slide/blink combination when switching radio buttons — are slow and give an impression of lag in the operating system.

For Polly Mosendz at The Wire, a key highlight is the improved search functionality in Spotlight:

Spotlight got a major makeover, and is far more useful now. With a simple click and only two or three letters, you can launch full searches into just about anything. If you search a name, it will compile everything from that person: Emails, reminders, images, maps of locations suggested, events, contact information; even movie listings if you are discussing viewing a movie in an email together. That’s incredibly convenient, though perhaps a little invasive in the opinion of some.

Mario Aguilar at Gizmodo acknowledges the release is still unfinished, but has a number of promising features:

After some time using the biggest features in the new OS in a developer preview, I think Apple’s on to something.

Last year, Mavericks added fully-featured Notification Center and with Yosemite, Apple made it way more useful. Though the Mavericks notifications worked very well as popups, I never found myself peering behind the pane very often to check my notifications. Now, Apple has divided its Notification Center into two different categories. One shows notifications as we were used to them before, the other shows a “Today” view with a combination of upcoming events, reminders, current weather, and stocks. In addition to replicating some of the functionality of automatic assistants like Google Now, it also signals that Apple might be phasing out widgets even more than it already has.

Still, the overall concept of the Notification Center doesn’t feel like it does enough yet for me to be looking at it all the time.

Finally, Karen Haslam at Macworld says there are still a few missing features that possibly should be added to the final version.

Reports in early April suggested that Apple is planning to add Siri to the next version of OS X. The operating system already has dictation integration, which is one aspect of Siri’s voice recognition abilities.

Apple hasn’t revealed whether Siri will make it to the Mac, however. We’re not actually convinced that there is a place for Siri on the Mac, other than for Accessibility. We can’t envisage an office full of people talking to their Macs (mind you, with the integration of phone calls, who knows).

What’s the consensus?

Ultimately, whether or not Mac OS X Yosemite’s changes in aesthetics are a step in the right direction or not will be a matter of taste. It’s also important to note that there is still a lot of work to be done before it’s ready for a final release.

Nonetheless, most of the feedback so far is positive, which will no doubt be heartening to Apple.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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