Apple opens a public beta programme for OS X Yosemite today – and the South China Morning Post can give a sneak preview of what’s in store for users after spending two days trying out the system.
The technology giant is offering 1 million Mac users the chance to sign up on its website to test the new version of its Mac desktop operating system – designed to work together with the iOS mobile platform running on the iPhone and iPad – before its anticipated launch this autumn on the MacBook and iMac.
Here’s the pick of the new features provided by Yosemite:
- There is no other way to put it: Jonathan Ive, senior vice-president of design at Apple, has led the OS X makeover to produce the most beautiful desktop operating system in the industry. Elegant translucent sidebars are immediately apparent when opening applications and websites on the desktop. Using a MacBook Pro with Retina Display, it was sheer fun to open one window after another and check out the magical, see-through sidebars. Each open window provides a hint, not detailed images, of what is behind the translucent edges. This gives users a sense of context, especially when working with multiple apps. The desktop’s wallpaper even shows through the sidebars. The toolbars allow the user to catch a glimpse of whatever content is behind them.
- The dock at the bottom of the desktop has a sleek new look, with updated app icons that are easy to identify. The eye will inevitably be drawn to the right hand-side by the new white trash can — a very chic choice for a wastebasket — which replaces the previous metallic mesh garbage icon that looked like it was bought from Ikea. Along with the translucent elements, the redesigned dock bears testament to how important details are to Apple’s software designers, and explains why the user interface on other systems seems very lacking.
- The new Today view in Yosemite’s Notification Centre will look familiar to iPhone and iPad users. Simply use a two-finger swipe from the right edge of the Mac’s trackpad to open the notification centre. It summarises the day’s events on the calendar, reminders, tomorrow’s schedule and even upcoming birthdays. It also has the weather and clock for selected cities, up-to-the minute stock and index data, and links to a user’s social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. A bonus here is easy customisation by adding widgets, such as ESPN SportsCentre, which can be found on the Mac App Store.
- Click on the Spotlight search function at the top menu and it instantly appears as a search bar, front and centre across the desktop display, like Google’s search engine page. You can also access Spotlight by using the command-space bar keyboard shortcut. Users can look up information from Wikipedia, Maps, Bing, iTunes and other sources, as well as convert units of currency and measurement. The terrific part here is the handy, informative previews of matches that appear to the right of the Spotlight window. Interaction is also a big deal. Looking for a friend in Central the system pushed out the person’s details from the Mac address book. The Maps function popped up as soon as I clicked the address and located the building.
- Privacy is a huge deal on the updated Safari Web browser, which executes faster than before when visiting websites. It now provides a separate window for private browsing, while keeping other windows on regular mode. Private browsing does not save a user’s history, and all cookies and other data from websites visited are deleted when the window is closed. That confidential browsing seems ideal, for example, to journalists on the job in efforts to protect the identity of a source and cover any obvious digital trail. To Shallow Hals who visit inappropriate NSFW websites on their office break, you’re safe, too. Privacy-aware users might just depend less on Google because of another addition. DuckDuckGo, a search engine that does not store a user’s personal information or search queries, is now a built-in option when using Safari’s Smart Search Field. No surprise here: it worked as advertised.
- Users will find it much easier to annotate, edit and work with attachments in the updated Mail app. The Markup toolbar makes it simple to add texts and shapes to images and PDF files. There are currently other apps available that accomplish the same thing, but it seemed easier to use this feature. I drew a rather imperfect circle shape on an object in a photo using the trackpad. MarkUp intelligently tidied up what was drawn. There was no need to leave Mail, save a new file and add it back the email thread. Mail automatically uploaded attachments to my iCloud online storage account when these were too large to send through the office email system, which is the usual case. I simply dragged the attachment into the app’s compose window and Mail handled the rest. Users will also find that Mail transmits an attachment securely to iCloud, where it is stored encrypted. Attachments are stored in a user’s iCloud account for free and do not count against free space.
Apple is encouraging users who sign up to test Yosemite to provide feedback if they discover flaws or errors which professional developers have not so far found.
Developers have been putting Yosemite through its paces since the new OS X version was introduced at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco last month.
This is the first time that Apple has opened a public beta for an unreleased version of OS X since 2000, when regular Mac users who signed up had to pay for the privilege. This time it’s free.
Those who receive access to the public beta of Yosemite must first back up all data on their Mac before downloading the software. Precaution is necessary when testing any unreleased software because bugs will surface occasionally, the developers warned.
Apple has suggested that users with multiple Mac computers should test Yosemite on their back up machine, not their primary apparatus.
The Post did not get the opportunity to have a dry run of iOS 8, Apple’s updated mobile operating system.
Apple says that operating system upgrades will make working across Mac computers, iPhones and iPads more fluid than ever.
Watch: A peek into Apple's new OS: Yosemite