The Complete Guide to Mac OS X El Capitan (10.11)

Unfortunately, our review and round-up of new features to the OS X El Capitan 10.11 is not enough to give this operating system justice: it needs more coverage to let everyone know how awesome it is.

This new operating system rolled out with the goal of improving Yosemite’s user interface further and for giving Mac users a better experience. However, there are definitely still some features and improvements you may not be aware of. It’s not a feature-heavy update, but its new additions will likely cause it to go down as one of the best in recent memory.

In order to maximize it, here’s a guide containing its new features, capabilities, and the new additions Apple worked on:

Apple Mail

The Mail app is oft-ignored, with Mac users preferring to use third-party e-mail services instead. However, it’s new features could make you use it again. Here’s what they are along with how to use them:

  • Delete e-mails by swiping the trackpad to the left and mark it unread by doing so in the opposite direction – note that you do both with two fingers. This uses multi-touch button technology.
  • Tabbed e-mails. Click on the Compose button, then click outside the window and select Compose again. You can then switch through e-mails as though you’re using a tabbed browser.
  • Whenever someone unfamiliar sends you an e-mail, Apple Mail can now give you the option to add them directly to your contacts list.
  • The Mail app is now closely integrated with the Calendar app, giving you the option to quickly add appointments and events int your calendar.


The Photos app came with its own set of new features and improvements.

  • Whenever you’re going to share a picture, the app added the option to share it with the people you contacted recently.
  • There is an added category for screenshots. This is useful especially if you synced all of your devices together. Though most of us rarely upload screenshots, there are those who do so to brag about their in-game achievements or conversations they want uploaded on social on social media.
  • It now features support for 3rd-party extensions – you can download these on the Mac App Store.
  • Edit metadata. In El Capitan, you can now change geo tags and other bits of metadata on the Photos app. While viewing an image, simply click on the info button and drag the location pin to a new area.

Spotlight usage

In El Capitan, looks like someone in Apple received the memo and made Spotlight smarter and in turn, more like Siri. In a nutshell, it can now conduct searches by “natural language”. What exactly is natural language and how do you do this? Learn more about it along with others here:

  •  First off, accessing it. There are no new methods to do so, but just in case, you can access the app by clicking the little magnifying glass on the top right corner of your screen or by using the Command + Spacebar shortcut.
  • The Spotlight search box is also movable, unlike in Yosemite. We have no idea why Apple only thought of this now.
  • The natural search feature now allows Spotlight to conduct searches even if the user uses natural or conversational language. For example, type in “documents I worked on last Tuesday” and Spotlight will show you what you were working on last Tuesday in its search results. You can also use it to look for emails, simply by typing things like “email from Steve” or “email from Tim”.
  • You can now use Spotlight to learn about the weather not only in your current location, but in those throughout the world. For example, you can type in “weather in London” or “weather in Rome”.
  • Search for sports scores. Arguably one of its most useful features, simply type in a major league team name and it will display the score of their most recent match and their next few games. So far, Spotlight has been fairly limited to domestic leagues, but it may be on its way to supporting international games.

Split Screen mode

Reminiscent of Microsoft Snap, the Split screen mode is a nifty feature which allows you to open two windows at the same time, seamlessly access two programs at the same time, and of course, multitask. This feature is apparently one of the biggest draws of El Capitan. To enter this mode, simply do the following:

  • First off, choose which apps you want to run. In this particular example, let’s say you’re opening the Mail and the Notes app.
  • Make sure BOTH applications – the ones you want to be on split screen – are already running. Once one app goes into split screen, you cannot launch another one.
  • Once you’re all set, you’re ready to go split screen. First off, click and hold on the green button on the left hand side of the Mail app and drag it either left or right. A blue background occupying half the screen will appear where you will drag the window. Drag the Mail app in any of those.
  • After which, click on the next app (it’ll be open via Mission Control) you want to split the screen with Mail, which in this case, is Notes.
  • If you want to resize one of the apps, simply click and drag the thin black bar separating them and drag left or right.

This feature may not be original or groundbreaking, but it’s extremely convenient. It allows Mac users to transfer email entries into their calendars quickly, create a slideshows while using a word document as a reference, and watch a sports event via live stream while writing a story about it.

Safari guide

We won’t be taking a trip to an African safari, but rather, we will be going through a Safari browser. This browser has always been behind Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Apple hasn’t given up and made Safari as awesome as possible in El Capitan. It has a few new features – here they are and how to use them:

  • Airplay, stream videos from Safari to your Apple TV – to stream YouTube videos and ones from other video-sharing sites, simply look for the Airplay icon in compatible web videos, click it, and select the option to stream. Remember though, not all videos online can be streamed!

  • Pinned Sites – this feature is present in a number of web browsers and thankfully, Apple has added it to OS X El Capitan. Simply drag the tab to the left of your browser to pin it. They will stay active in the background and continue loading.

  • Mute tabs – this feature in Safari’s El Capitan is heaven-sent: whenever you open a window with annoying autoplay videos and ads, you are given a mini heart attack. An audio icon will show up on tabs with playing sounds – click on the icon to immediately mute the tab. You can also mute all other tabs in a single click as well.

  • Share button – you can easily share anything you stumbled across the web through this, may it be via e-mail or to social networking websites like Facebook and Google. There will be no need to copy + paste and log on to those websites. You can easily share something with with just a couple of clicks.

The new Safari is also armed with developer kits (to test website responsiveness and mobile compatibility) and an improved reader mode.

New Notes Features

As Apple puts it: “you can now collect more than your thoughts”.

Not only can you sync your notes to all devices, you can now add different elements, including photos, links, videos, and PDFs on a single note by just dragging and dropping. You can also save content from other apps, like Safari and Calendar, to your note: simple click on the share button and select the Notes app from the drop down bar that appears.

Checklists, useful for reminders, shopping, and for keeping your workflow smooth, can be added in just a single click.

The revamped Notes app also has the Attachments folder, wherein you can view all of the files you attached. This is extremely handy, considering that most of us lose track of the files we attach. These are divided into folders: photos and videos have their own folder, along with linked websites, maps, audio and documents.

Its best addition so far is giving users the ability to draw sketches, which can then be attached into any note.

Other new features include a closer integration of the Calendar and Mail app, and transit data in Maps. You can also hide the Menu bar to make space – perfect for smaller MacBooks. Shake your mouse or rapidly stroke your trackpad to make your cursor larger. This comes in handy if you’ve lost track of your pointer due to your screen being swamped with tasks to work on.

Overall, El Capitan is not a feature-rich operating system, but it’s definitely worth the upgrade. We hope this guide helped you out and if you have more tips, please don’t hesitate to speak up in the comments.

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