OS X 10.10 Yosemite - in-depth preview

Apple showed off OS X Yosemite in its WWDC 2014 keynote in June. Over the past few weeks Macworld's Jason Snell has been testing a beta version of Yosemite, so we've put together a preview of OS X 10.10 based on his findings, so that you'll know what to expect when OS X Yosemite is launched this year.

You can expect to see and hear more about the new Mac operating system over the next few months as we ramp up to the launch in autumn 2014. For now, we've gathered together some of the most interesting features revealed by Apple and added some of what we have learned via the beta. We'll update this article when and if we get more information about OS X Yosmite.

Watch as we discuss our favourite new features in iOS 8 and Yosemite.

Mac OS X Yosemite 10.10 preview: new look, OS X redesign

One of the biggest talking points when it comes to OS X 10.10 is the design. After all, iOS underwent an enormous redesign in 2013, so it was thought that the same might be in store for Apple's Mac operating system in 2014. Many expected a new look because Apple's senior vice president of design, Jonathan Ive, has been working with senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi on the new version of OS X, heading the redesign of Mac OS X for OS X 10.10. Therefore it was no surprise to see some of the flatter, more minimalist aesthetics as seen in iOS 7, when Apple showed off the new operating system at WWDC in June.

For some time Apple watchers have been predicting that Apple's operating systems, iOS and OS X, will eventually evolve into a single operating system. Some expected that Apple's next OS X would become even more like iOS, but while there are some shared elements (translucency, brighter colors, flatter icons, and typography), the two operating systems are still quite separate. This is no surprise to us, back in January, Apple's Phil Schiller told our sister title in the US: "We don't waste time thinking, 'But should it be one [interface]? How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?' What a waste of energy that would be."

At the time Craig Federighi, added: "The reason OS X has a different interface than iOS isn't because one came after the other or because this one's old and this one's new. Instead, it's because using a mouse and keyboard just isn't the same as tapping with your finger."

So, while there is to be quite a design overhaul in OS X, with the key difference being that Apple has dispensed with the 3D design elements of old in lieu of flatter, more colourful surfaces, the interface changes that are coming to Yosemite still indicate that Apple intends to keep iOS and OS X separate. 

Read more about Yosemite here:

Visual changes in Yosemite

One of the most obvious changes to the OS X interface is the red, yellow and green buttons that are used to close, minimize and expand a window. These buttons are now flat circles. The key difference is that when you hover over them, unlike in Mavericks where you see a – and + sign on the yellow and green buttons, the green button will now show a symbol for full screen mode. You will still be able to increase the size of a window as you do now, but you will need to press the alt/option key when you click the green button.

Another change is the way Apple has simplified the menu bars around Yosemite. With most Macs a lot wider than they are tall, Apple has made some design choices that make the most of the limited screen height available. For example, Apple has reduced the height of many window title bars in Yosemite. For example, those red, yellow and green buttons have dropped down so that they are not using up a whole line of screen retail estate. In Safari these buttons appear on the same level as the address/search bar. Merging the toolbar and title bar will also help people working on a cramped 11in MacBook screen. Our only concern is that this does mean that the title of a page in Safari, and the name of the document you are working on in your word processor will also not be visible.

Retina display clues in Yosemite, transparancy and more

It's now two years since Apple introduced the Retina MacBook Pro, but we are still waiting for a Retina display iMac and a MacBook Air with Retina display. The wait may soon be over; many of the elements of the design of Yosemite suggest that Apple has plans to introduce Retina displays to the rest of its line up of Macs, and maybe to its Thunderbolt Display (which hasn't been updated since it launched in 2011).

The clues that suggest that Apple has Retina displays in mind when designing Yosemite include the use of the Thin Helvetica Neue font as the system typeface rather than the thicker Lucida Grande font. The thinner font is suited to high-resolution displays.

Other subtle design changes include an increased use of transparency. Some interface elements are semi-opaque so that a blurry version of the window behind can be seen. For example, the Messages sidebar is translucent. As far as we can see this serves no useful purpose, but at least it doesn't appear to affect readability.

This use of translucency around the operating system is to "give you a sense of place," according to Apple. Some people are bound to hate the translucent menu-bar, if you do it is possible to reduce the transparancy in System Preferences.

The Wi-Fi icon on the top right is thinner, and the battery icon on a laptop looks like the iOS battery icon.

The blue buttons in dialogue boxes are flatter, feature a different share of blue, and no longer pulse.  

There is a new Dark Mode option. This offers darker menu bars and light letters, perfect for working in dark environments.

The Dock and Icons in Yosemite

As we note in this article: comparing Yosemite icons with Mavericks icons, Apple's design team have been busy redesigning icons the result being that we now have a more attractive bin instead of a wire trash can and the Finder Icon has had a facelift and looks a whole lot more smiley. The new icons include a fun new Finder icon, a new 'trash can' for the bin, and the iTunes icon matches that of iOS.

The translucency that Apple has added to the interface can also be seen in the Dock, which no longer looks like a 3D shelf, it is simpler and flatter and a black dot below an application now indicates that it is running rather than the current subtle glow. 

As you can see, iTunes shares its icon with the iTunes on the iPhone.

Read our best new features in Yosemite article.

Notification Centre in Yosemite

With Yosemite, Notification Center no longer slides a Mac’s entire interface off to the left in order to pop out from the right side of the screen. Now, Dock-like, it slides in on top of the right side of your screen while you’re using it.

As in iOS, there are now two tabs at the top of Notification Centre: Notifications and Today. This is more like the iOS version of Notification Centre that shows: Today, All and Missed.

[Read about the Notification Centre in iOS 8 here]

What's in the Today tab?

All the new additions to Notification Centre can be found in the Today tab. As it does in iOS, Today gives you an overview of what is happening today, including Calendar appointments. It also includes an Edit button, click this and a second column appears beside Notification Centre slides out showing a complete list of items you can add to the Today view, you can also use this list to pick items to remove from the Today view and reorder the ones that are included.

Where are the Widgets in Yosemite?

This list of things you can add to the Today view includes Widgets such as Stocks, Weather, Reminders, Calculator, and World Clock. New Widgets include Social (for posting to Facebook and Twitter), and Messages.

Developers can create these Widgets - little code snippets that display things like the current weather, sports scores, bidding in online auctions - and sell them on the Mac App Store. You can add these Widgets from the Mac App Store to Notification Centre, as well as customize and edit your Today View. Apps can also export Widgets into the notification center Today view.

Some of these Widgets can be configured. If you hover over a widget you will see an i in a circle, if you click it you can change the widget settings, for example, add or remove cities from the World Clock widget.

The Widgets that are available by default are similar to those that appear in Dashboard (if you ever go there other than by accident). However, you can add more widgets. When you click on Edit in Today view you will see a link to the Mac App Store and you can download widgets from there. Apps will also be able to supply widgets.

Does this mean Dashboard is dead?

With the arrival of Widgets in Notification Centre it certainly looks like there will be no need for Dashboard, which was introduced in 2005 with OS X Tiger. Dashboard is from an era when using web-based technologies to write lightweight applets seemed like a good idea. Now we are in the App Store era and we can expect these widgets to be a lot like their iOS versions. Designing Widgets never really took off, but thanks to the popularity of the App Store we can expect many widgets to be vying for our attention.

Spotlight in Yosemite

Like Dashboard, Spotlight arrived with OS X Tiger back in 2005. In Yosemite Spotlight gains a new look and much more functionality.

The first major change is that Spotlight has a new location. The Spotlight icon remains in the top right of the screen, but when you click on it the window opens in the middle of the screen, rather than just below the icon. This allows more space for results, but it does seem disconnected from the source. However, you don't have to click on the Spotlight icon to initiate Spotlight. As now, you can hit command-space to open Spotlight.

There are two types of search results. Immediate and detailed. As you type the text is auto-filled with what Spotlight predicts you are looking for. Perfect if you want to launch an app this way. Type 'Cal' and Spotlight will predict that you wish to launch Calendar so you will merely have to tap Return to open the app. Wait a few seconds longer and Spotlight will expand to show detailed results from numerous data sources including news headlines, maps, the App Store, iTunes, Wikipedia, and (shock horror) Bing's web search (take that Google).

The results are shown on the left of the Spotlight window, sorted by source, while if you click on one you can see a preview of the information you need. Click Return to open the result of your search.

When we searched for a movie the results included a poster, its Rotten Tomatoes rating, run times, trailers and more. A search for a location retuned a Map of said location.

Spotlight also supports unit conversions, so you can find out what 80F is in centigrade, or how may dollars you get for a pound.

You will be able to preview documents in the Spotlight window, and do things like send an email or make a phone call from the interface. It looks like you can only do one Spotlight search at a time (unless you search through the Finder).

Calendar in Yosemite

The Yosemite Calendar app doesn't offer many new features, but there are a few that are worthy of note.

Calendar will learn from the previous events you have set up so that when you create a new event it will autocomplete with the likely date and attendees. If you regularly hold a meeting with team members, then when you set the event up for Team meeting it will offer to invite the usual attendees.

The Calendar has a new look for the week view which is reminiscent of iOS 7. There is also an all-new day view. You'll still see a two-pane view, but rather than the slightly pointless two column view (with all meetings for the day are shown on the left, and details on the right) you'll see a single schedule pane and an inspector pane that shows the details of a selected calendar event. This inspector pane allows you a lot of space to create new events – certainly preferable to the cramped space in the floating inspector palette.

As you can see from the image above, Calendar in OS X is almost identical to the Calendar in iOS 7.

Changes in Mail in Yosemite

Mail in Yosemite doesn't appear to have changed much from Mail in Mavericks, apart from a few slight interface changes. For example, the Show/Hide toggle that displays your mailbox list is now labelled Mailboxes. However, Mail is getting a much needed upheaval in OS X Yosemite. Along with a new look user interface, Mail is also gaining some useful new time-saving features.

Markup in Mail

The first of these Mail time savers is the ability to notate a PDF or image from within Mail. This Markup feature allows you to add annotations to images and PDFs from inside Mail. You simply click on a file and an icon appears in the top-left of the preview. If you click this and select Markup the item will zoom out and a toolbar will appear above it.

Markup is a great example of the Extensions technology that Apple is introducing in Yosemite and iOS 8. This new technology means that code from one application can appear in another application's window.

The Markup extension lets you draw lines, shapes, text and more on a PDF or image without leaving Mail. You won't even need to leave Mail to add a signature to a PDF. Presumably other developers will be able to add their own extensions to Mail using this Extension technology.

When we tried to use the Markup tools we didn't find them as simple to use as we would have liked. We felt like we were using a separate program but without keyboard shortcuts or a menu bar. For example, when we pressed Command-Z to undo a mistake it didn't work. The controls on offer are simple - perhaps more like an iOS app than a Mac app. Once we got the hang of the controls we were able to do the job though. It seems likely that by the time it launches Apple will have made some improvements.

Mail Drop and Yosemite 

The other new time saver in Mail is Mail Drop, a new feature that will automatically upload an attachment that is larger than 5GB to iCloud when you try and email it. When the recipient receives the email the large file will automatically be downloaded - as long as they are on Yosemite. Everything happens behind the scenes. 

Mail Drop will likely be a godsend if, like us, you frequently send large files to colleagues and friends. Before Yosemite the only way to share these oversized files without breaking your mail server was to upload them to DropBox or use another file sharing service, like Mail Big File. This was simple enough, but it wasn't something you could do in one step – inevitably you had to upload the file, and then cut and paste a link for the download into the email you were sending, hoping that the person at the other end would then download the file.

In Yosemite this whole process will be simplified to such an extent that you won't really know it's happening and nor will your recipient. Everything is handled by Mail. The upload/download of the large file still happens, but it's behind the scenes. If you wish to send a large file just drag it into the email to attach it as you would a smaller file and send. In the background Mail will upload the large file to a temporary holding bin on Apple's servers.

When they receive the email Mail will download the file automatically (it will look as if it arrived with the email) as long as they are using Yosemite. Otherwise they will see a download link to retrieve the file. The recipient has 30 days to download the file before it disappears. This is a very direct solution to a common multi-step workaround.

Safari 8 - Safari in Yosemite

The new version of Apple's web browser will arrive with Yosemite when the new OS X launches this autumn. The first thing you will notice about Safari 8 is its simplistic new look. Safari in Yosemite gains a clearer, cleaner interface that is designed to make navigation simpler. This means that some of the features you expect to see in the toolbar don't appear to be there - but they are. For example, you will see your Favourites grid if you click on the new Smart Search Field.

Like other programs in Yosemite, the Safari title bar has been slimmed down and simplified. The red, orange and green buttons have dropped down to the same level as the address/search bar and the forward/back and share icons. As a result there is a lot less space for the full URL so you will only see the name of the host. You will only see the fill URL on the Tab Bar so if you want to see this information you need to have the Tab Bar open. 

This minimalist look is more like what you see currently in Safari for iOS on the iPhone. Minimalising the URL bar makes sense on the iPhone where space is limited, but on a large screen it doesn't really make sense to take useful information away from the user. Another effect of cluttering the toolbar this way is it makes it difficult to move the Safari window around the screen, as you need to find an area that it available to click and drag – and much of the tool bar is used up by buttons.

It's also annoying that the names of bookmarks in your Favourites Bar are now centred, which means things move around if you add a new Favourite or resize the window. If you have a lot of Favourites locating the one you want may be more difficult.

New features in Safari 8

Luckily, Apple hasn't only removed features from Safari, there are also some new features. Many of these additions come from iOS.

The new Favourites view looks more like what you see when you tap the URL/Search Bar in Safari for iOS: the browser window fills with the contents of your Favourites bookmarks. In Safari for Mac this page is translucent so you can see what is behind in the browser window. This view can be your default for Safari, opening every time you create a new tab. It strikes us that it's a bit similar to the Top Sites view, and that both essentially do the same thing.

Tab View in Safari 8

Also new in Safari are the Sharing and Tabs buttons in the top right. The Tab View button takes you to a birds-eye view of all your open tabs (on all your devices). If you have opened multiple pages on one site, those tabs will be stacked.

The Tab View is similar to an existing feature that you may have seen if you use a trackpad. If you pinch on a trackpad when using Safari currently you will see the contents of all your open tabs in a slideshow view and you could swipe through each one. This view is now gone, and the new Tab View can be accessed by pinching on the trackpad or by clicking on the new Tab View button in the toolbar. You will see a grid of thumbnails of all the currently open tabs including a list of the tabs open on your other devices that are synced via iCloud.

If like us you only ever see the current Tab View when you accidentally zoomed out on a page in Safari, you might consider it a nuisance. The addition of iCloud Tabs could prove useful though.

Sharing is designed to be simpler in OS X Yosemite - when you click the Share icon to share a webpage you will see a list of recent recipients, so you can send to one of them with one click. There is also easy access to the sidebar for bookmarks, reading list, and shared links. And your view of Shared Links will (at last) include RSS feeds you have signed up for.

Searching in Safari for Yosemite

One useful feature in Safari in Yosemite is an enhancement to the autocomplete options when you type in the URL/Search bar. Safari will search Wikipedia, Maps, iTunes and news, just as happens in Spotlight. It makes using the browser as a reference tool easier. You can jump straight to the relevant Wikipedia page, for example.

Another new feature is Quick Website Search that allows you to search a particular website's content. So searching "Netflix star trek" will take you to a page of Star Trek results on the Netflix site.

Private Browsing for Safari

Those who are concerned about just how much Google knows about them might like the new Private Browsing mode in Safari. These new privacy settings make it possible to create a new private window for browsing the web. All the content in that window will stay private, and you will be able to tell which window is private by its colour.

Private Browsing has been a feature in Google Chrome for some time. It allows you to choose a New Private Window from the File menu and search anonymously. Search in this window and your webpage history will not be saved and your cookies won't be shared. You can tell if you are using a Private Window because the address bar is dark.

Currently if you want to browse privately you need to enable the Safari-wide Private Browsing mode from the Safari menu. This feature will no longer exist in the new version.

Safari’s Private Browsing won't completely obscure your browsing habits. Your device’s internet address and some other basic information about your computer will still be passed on to servers.

This isn't the only way Apple is helping us to surf in secret. Apple will integrate of the DuckDuckGo search engine, which is committed to not collecting or tracking the personal information of its users.

There are some interesting tweeks to the search results Safari will return. If you perform a search you can see not just a Google search result, but also the results of a Bing search, a Spotlight suggestion, results from Maps, and a snippet from Wikipedia. People are going to get the impression that Apple doesn't like Google very much.

System Preferences


We are hoping for a bit of a simplification of System Preferences, so far it looks like Apple is adding Extensions where you can enable and disable the extensions that appear in the Services and Share menus and widgets for the Today view within Notifications. When we areked readers what they want from OS X 10.10 one suggestion was that System Preferences could be more like Control Centre.

Yosemite Continuity: Better integration between Mac and iPad/iPhone

Apple is introducing a handful of features that aim to make it easier to work with, and switch between, all your Apple devices, Mac and iOS. Apple intends to make switching between your Mac and your iPhone or iPad as seamless as possible. The collection of features being introduced for this purpose will also help the company sell Macs to iPhone users, and vice versa.

AirDrop

As we all hoped, Apple is working on making AirDrop work between the Mac and iPad and iPhone devices. AirDrop arrived on iOS with iOS 7, and had existed on Macs for some time, but the two were unable to communicate due to differences in the technology required (the iPhone and iPad use Bluetooth in conjunction with WiFi, while the Mac just uses WiFi). This difference means it isn't currently possible to easily drop files from mobile to desktop or laptop. Apple has confirmed that OS X 10.10 will change that when it launches. 

AirDrop isn't the only feature that will provide better integration between your Apple devices. Apple referrs to this collection of new features as Continuity.Continuity consists of the following new features, in conjunction with AirDrop.

Handoff

If you are running OS X Yosemite on your Mac and iOS 8 on your iPhone the software on both devices will be aware of some of the actions you are performing on the other device. So, for example, if you are composing a message on your iPhone, and your Mac is nearby, it will be aware of this and the Mail icon in the Dock will prompt you to continue composing the message on your Mac.

Similarly, if you are browsing a webpage on your Mac, you will see a Safari icon in your iPad's lock screen which will give you easy access to the same page on your iPad.

SMS text messages

With the arrival of OS X Yosemite you will also be able to view SMS messages on your Mac, not just iMessages that come in from the Apple servers. This will mean that even text messages that come in from your friends who don't use iPhones will be viewable on your Mac (and you will be able to reply to them from there).

Messages

Messages is also set to get some updates in Yosemite. The new Soundbites feature is perhaps the one which will make the biggest impact, although we believe it will be more common in some countries – apparently in China, where typing is more complicated, sending voice messages is popular.

Soundbites adds a microphone button next to your chat window. If you click it you'll be able to record a brief audio message and send it via iMessage. We expect that feature will be more popular in iOS 8 when it arrives on iPhones and iPads. We're not sure that we will use Soundbites rather than sending text messages – to leave or receive a Soundbite you would probably want to be in a reasonably quiet location where you were unlikely to be interrupted, and in such circumstances you might as well phone. It's why we tend to type text messages rather than use the built in dictate function. Still, you might prefer to send a quick audio message rather than phone and disturb your recipient.

However, in our testing Soundbites worked well, although the audio quality wasn't great – more like a lousy telephone connection than computer audio. The chat window didn't give much away about the audio message either – just showing a bubble with the play button and the waveform. If you wanted to track down a particular audio message it would likely be a case of listening to a few until you found it. We'd like to see Apple integrate its voice recognition technology into this so you could search the Soundbites.

Soundbites isn't the only new feature in Messages. Group iMessaging gets a boost. Group messages gain a new Details button, which, when tapped, brings up a number of options. These options include the ability to share your locations using the Find My Friends infrastructure and a shortcut to a map that shows where everyone taking part in the conversation is located.

You can also place a phone call, start a new chat, FaceTime your friends, or add and remove participants from the Details window. You can also give the chats a distinct name to make locating them easier, such as "Holiday plans".

One popular feature is likely to be the ability to leave the conversation, or just turn off conversation notifications. If you have talkative friends you can select Do Not Disturb on that particular conversation and you will no longer receive a notification every time someone in that discussion replies.

 

Phone calls in Yosemite

We began to wonder at this point if the rumoured big screen iPhone is in fact a Mac. It turns out that in Yosemite you will be able to receive phone calls on your Mac, even if your phone is at home. When someone rings you, you will be notified of the call along with their caller ID (so you can reject them if necessary). You can also make a call from you Mac, straight from Contacts or by clicking a phone number on a webpage. 

iCloud Drive

It looks a bit like Apple is trying to take on DropBox with iCloud Drive, although perhaps this is the what  iCloud should have been from the start.

With iCloud Drive, all of your files associated with apps on both your iOS device and your Mac will be accessible from the Finder. Until now you couldn't view all your iCloud-stored documents because some of them were locked away within the actual apps. With Yosemite all the data you save to iCloud will be available to view and access on any device.

You will get 5GB of storage for free, and that will include space for your documents, your photos and your backups.

If you need more storage you can get it, and luckily it's quite cheap. For $1 a month (proabbly £1) you will be able to get 20GB, or for $4 a month you can get 20GB. Apple's going to offer up to 1TB storage, for a price.

It's not yet clear if you will be able to share your iCloud Drive with other people in the way you might currently with DropBox - sending people a link to download, and asking people to upload things to your dropbox. But Apple does appear to have a solution for this that will work in the background, with a Mail acting as the go between when you wish to share larger documents. We presume that these shared documents will eat into your iCloud quote, but we don't know for sure yet. Either way, it seems like a simple solution to a annoyance many of us have with iCloud right now.

Read our iCloud alternatives article and 6 things you need to know about Apple iCloud Drive for Mac

Mac OS X 10.10 preview: features that weren't revealed

We expect that there will be more feaures in OS X Yosemite than Apple previewed at WWDC. Many of the features described above are also likely to evolve in the run up to the launch. However, there are a couple of features we hope to see in the final version:

Siri and the Mac

Siri wasn't revealed as a new feature in OS X despite the fact that several reports from around the web had suggested that Apple is working hard to do just that.

Siri is likely to become available to other apps via Extensibility. You can also expect Siri to get even cleverer, Apple is said to be hiring speach recognition experts to work on Siri's neural network algorithms.

Control Centre

Another feature that's been talked about, but wasn't revealed is Control Centre. Maveicks already has Notification Centre, a feature that originated on iOS, so Control Centre could be next for quick and easy access to Mac features and settings.

For some food for thought about other possible new features in OS X 10.10, visit our OS X 10.10 wishlist.

There are some features we hope Apple doesn't include, though, which you'll find listed in our 8 features Apple should ditch article.

Mac OS X 10.10: price

In a surprise move, Apple made OS X 10.9 Mavericks free when it arrived last year, and Apple will do the same again for Mac OS X 10.10. We have more information about the price of OS X Yosemite here

If you want to find more about how to prepare your Mac for OS X 10.10 and whether or not your Mac will be able to run it, visit our 'Should I upgrade from Mavericks to OS X 10.10' article.

Want to try our Yosemite for yourself? Find out how to get Yosemite now in our article: Top 5 ways to get OS X Yosemite for free.

OUR VERDICT

The next version of Mac OS X could be the most exciting we've seen in a long time. It's not just the look of OS X we're excited about – AirDrop and the integration with the iPhone make for great new additions to the feature set, and we're certain that's not all Apple has in store.