Getting to Know El Capitan, or OS X 10.11

OS X El Capitan 10.11, will be the newest operating system of Mac computers worldwide. It will succeed Yosemite, which was released last June 2014. If you’re wondering where Apple got the name from, it’s from a towering 3,000-foot granite monolith at the Yosemite National Park (see the pattern?).

The release is likely highly anticipated by most Mac users, considering the few bugs and issues Yosemite (which is still a fairly good OS) had. If you’re planning to upgrade at the start of the launch and if you’re clueless of what El Captain brings, let’s get to know some of its features, capabilities, and other details.

When will it be launched?

Apple will roll out El Capitan two weeks after iOS 9 and watchOS 2’s release on September 30. Like its predecessor, it will be available as a free upgrade on the Apple website.

Which computers are compatible?

Natural language search in Spotlight. Photo by Apple.
Natural language search in Spotlight. Photo by Apple.

Unfortunately, El Capitan can’t be downloaded by everyone – if you’re Mac is old be prepared for some issues. Only the owners of the following computers can download and install the OS:

  • iMac – those released after mid 2007
  • Macbook – late 2008 Aluminum, or Rarly 2009 or newer
  • MacBook Air – Late 2008 or newer
  • Mac mini – Early 2009 or newer
  • MacBook Pro – Mid/Late 2007 or newer
  • Mac Pro – Early 2008 or newer

If your computer hasn’t been mentioned in the list, then you will have to stick it out with your current OS, which can be problematic once apps can’t update because your OS is a little too outdated.

Will it perform better than Yosemite?

According to Apple and the beta testers, El Capitan performs better compared to its predecessor (after all, it’s an upgrade). Here are some of the numbers:

  • Up to 1.4x faster application launch
  • You can switch to different apps up to 2x faster
  • First Mail messages are displayed up to 2x faster
  • Up to four times faster in previewing PDFs

Improvements? Let’s check Spotlight first

Natural language search in Spotlight. Photo by Apple.
Natural language search in Spotlight. Photo by Apple.

Spotlight has been fine-tuned by Apple: it is smarter and more responsive. Though you can’t order it around like Siri, it now sports natural language search: in a nutshell, this allows you to search for anything on Spotlight by typing in a conversational manner, like putting in “the word document I worked on last Tuesday”.

Unlike Yosemite’s Spotlight, the El Capitan version can be resized and moved around (finally!). It also has improved capabilities for searching sports, weather, and the stock market.

Mail upgrades

A screenshot of the improved Mail app. Photo by Apple.
A screenshot of the improved Mail app. Photo by Apple.

While most of us don’t use the much maligned Mail app (if you do send me an email using it, I’m curious how you like it), that app has its fair share of improvements in El Capitan, including an improved full-screen support. Swipe gestures have also been optimized – it will be similar and comparable to how you do it on iOS devices.

It’s also relatively smarter and more convenient. For example, if you receive an e-mail inviting you to an event, Mail can recognize it and you can add reminders into the Calendar app in just a click. If the e-mail you corresponded with isn’t in your contacts, you can add them to your address book in a click.

Safari’s new features

Safari now has permanent tabs, which Apple calls Pinned Sites. It’s a page out of Google Chrome’s book, but nevertheless, it’s a welcome – and a long overdue – addition. If you open a website and it plays a video of an ad, don’t fret: you can mute all tabs in a click or select ones you don’t want to hear.

You can use Airplay to stream a video from a web page to your Apple TV without having to view it on your screen

Naming the Notables

Other notable improved features are the improved Mission Control, Notes, Photos, and better Chinese and Japanese language support. Metal is still there, and the Split View is sleeker.

We can safely say El Capitan is Yosemite on steroids. Upgrading to it is a definite must, and you can do so via the Mac App Store.

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