Review: 10+ reasons Mac users need El Capitan

OS X El Capitan is a joy to use – here’s why you should prep your Mac for the new OS

Apple, operating system, iOS, OS X, OS X El Capitan, El Capitan, Mac, Macintosh

Today’s the day to install Apple’s latest iteration of OS X, El Capitan. I’ve been using the GM version for a few days - it’s a joy to use - here are 12 reasons you should upgrade.

Consider this

Some Mac users complain Apple’s too deeply involved in “iOS-ifying”the Mac. I can see their point to some extent –but I also recognize how important it is to make Macs immediately easy to use to any of the millions of new users migrating to the platform because they enjoy using an iPhone. The Mac migration is real  - Apple has grown its Mac business at scale exceeding the PC industry for a decade, so it makes sense to make the platform approachable and intuitive. Apple CEO, Tim Cook this week promised Apple has no plans to fully merge iOS and OS X, just to “make it easy to move from one device to another.”


Apple focused on improving the efficiency of both its operating systems this year. This means they are short of unnecessary legacy code. That’s significant, not just because you get real performance gains, but also because it opens up the opportunity for future innovations in the OS. Make no mistake, El Capitan and iOS 9 mark new chapters in OS development.


Case in point, Apple’s graphics technology, Metal. This accelerates system-level PDF rendering by up to 50 percent and webpage rendering by up to 40 percent. The graphics technology also fully exploits your Mac’s CPU and GPU, so you can expect up to 10 times the performance from games and pro apps. Most apps still use Apple’s Core Graphics features which draw on the power of Metal —but pro apps and games use their own graphics solutions and are fully driven by Metal. Things can only get better.


Many usability tweaks. The first is the cursor. Can’t find it? Just wriggle you mouse or trackpad and it will transform into a giant arrow to help locate it. Also:

  • Mission Control lets you create new desktop spaces just by dragging a window to the top of your screen.
  • Maps provides station maps, mass transit schedules and lets you export directions directly to your iPhone.
  • AirPlay video lets you play video from a webpage via Apple TV.


I’m chastened we still don’t have Siri support in Macs, though we do get much improved Spotlight search, with new reference sources (including Vimeo, Vevo and others) and support for natural language queries, such as “find documents I edited in April”.


New Safari features include the capacity to mute audio. This is useful when some video ad sparks up in one of your tabbed windows –you don’t need to find the offending ad, now you can simply mute audio in the browser while keeping your system audio active. You can also Pin windows (at last), this is a little like tabs in the browser, except that pinned windows remain active and when you click on links they don’t lose your place on the site.

Split screens

Future iPad Pro users will immediately feel at home with Split View, which lets you run two applications side-by-side in full-screen mode. To enter the mode click and hold the green button at top left of the application window and you can place another window beside it. Click the border between the two to change the space the apps get.


Mail can recognize new people or events in messages and then lets you add them to your contacts or calendar with one click. iOS users will quickly understand that you can now swipe to delete a message.


At last, Notes are worth having around! Not only can you actually store stuff (pictures, videos, audio, Map locations, Numbers spreadsheets, presentations, Web pages, PDFs and more) inside Notes, but you can share files easily, use QuickLook and quickly create checklists. Evernote it isn’t but with iCloud integration making all your Notes available across all your Apple devices, it’s useful and familiar to any iOS 9 user to boot! Third-party developers will provide Notes support in future apps.


Lots of great improvements in Photos, but for me the standout feature is support for third-party editing extensions within the OS X application. This means you can download third-party imaging apps from the Mac App Store and access them from within Photos.


Fast and responsive the new release remains as easy-to-use as any previous OS X upgrade, so I’m looking forward to installing it on all my Macs. I think El Capitan is a significant release that will enable Apple to add further refinements to its OS in the years to come.

Get it

El Capitan supports most Macs released since around 2008. To install the upgrade you’ll need at least 6GB of space, and please, please, please back up your system first. While you can update directly from OS X Snow Leopard it’s best to install the new OS on top of the most recent OS, Yosemite.

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