OS X 10.10 Yosemite - in-depth review

It’s been in beta since Apple previewed it in July, but now Apple has launched OS X Yosemite and we’ve been using it for a few days, here’s how we’re finding it so far.

Read more about Yosemite here:

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 Yosemite is the new design elements. 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 was working with senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi on the new version of OS X, heading up the redesign of Mac OS X for OS X 10.10. Therefore there is no surprise to see some of the flatter, more minimalist aesthetics we first met in iOS 7 in Apple’s new Mac operating system.

However, iOS and OS X have by no means evolved into a single operating system, as some had feared. 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’s been 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 arrived in Yosemite suggest that Apple still intends to keep iOS and OS X separate. We look in more detail at these interface changes below.
 

Here’s some Yosemite installation advice:

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. Press the Escape key to return to the normal view from full screen view.

This makes absolute sense, after all the old enlarge button was a little redundant and the full screen icon, while useful was hidden over the other side of the screen, which was rather disconnected from the other tools that performed a similar function and therefore quite un-Apple, we thought.

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. More on this below.

Not sure which Mac to buy? Read our Which Mac buyers guide

What’s the competition doing? Find out How Windows 10 is even more like Mac OS X and Mac OS X Yosemite vs Windows 8 comparison review

Retina display clues in Yosemite, transparancy and more

With the arrival of the Retina 5K iMac it is no surprise that there are elements in the design of Yosemite that appear to be developed with retina displays in mind. Changes 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. This is great on Retina displays, but we feel that system fonts on our 2009 iMac seem a little blury now. Hard to tell if we just need new glasses...

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 menu bar at the top of the screen is opaque, and 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 elements, if you do it is possible to reduce the transparency in System Preferences > Accessibility > Display > Reduce transparency.

Looking at the menu bar at the top of the screen you will notice the Wi-Fi icon is thinner, and the battery icon on a laptop looks like the iOS battery icon.

You'll also notice that the blue buttons in dialogue boxes are also flatter, featuring a different share of blue that no longer pulses.  

There is also a new Dark Mode option. This offers darker menu bars, perfect for working in dark environments. We’ve got a tutorial on how to turn on Dark Mode here.

The Dock and Icons in Yosemite

As we note in this article: comparing Yosemite icons with Mavericks icons, Apple's design team has 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. Those aren’t the only icons to have had an iOS-style, more friendly, facelift: the iTunes icon is now red and closely matches that of iOS, as does the Safari icon. System Preferences is now just one cog, rather than three, Preview is now a generic seaside scene rather than a plastic looking child, etc.

There are a few icons that have changed, but strangely aren’t the same as the iOS counterpart, these include Calendar, which still looks like a desk calendar, but a more modern one, Calculator, which has more detail than the iOS icon, and Messages, which is a blue speech bubble rather than a green speech bubble. It seems strange that Apple would redesign some of its icons to be the same as the iOS but not others. 

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 Mavericks’ 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, overlapping folders on your desktop, or apps if they are running on that side of the screen (you can’t activate Notification Centre in full-screen mode).

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.

We prefer this new view to the muddle of pointless notifications we used to see in Mavericks – frankly we didn’t use it because it was a mess. Now we can actually see useful information if we click on the Notification Centre icon.

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?

The 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).

If you were hoping for more widgets, you may not have long to wait; more are likely to become available as time progresses. Developers can create their own widgets and sell them on the Mac App Store. In fact there are already some there including a Brightness widget for changing monitor brightness and a widget for Battery diagnostics. You will be able to download these widgets from the Mac App Store and add them to the Today view in Notification Centre. Apps can also export widgets into the Notification Centre Today view. Before long we expect that Apple will add a promotional section to the Mac App Store to show case these new widgets.

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 or Weather widgets.

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?

Many of these Widgets are still available in Dashboard, but 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.

Here are some of the widgets available in Dashboard. Expect more of the same:

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 in Mavericks, you can hit command-space to open Spotlight.

We found Spotlight in Yosemite to be quite slow when we first started using it, perhaps because our system was still re-indexing (indeed it spent a few hours doing this but we only knew this because MDU showed up in Activity Monitor - MDU is the internal indexing OS X does so it knows where everything is on your Mac, it used to show up in the Spotlight window when you used it, but now Apple appears to be hiding the fact that your Mac is indexing (probably because it’s only really something that you will wonder about if your Mac suddenly slows down). We find that when we make a search we have previously made Spotlight is a lot quicker at showing us the location of what we were searching for.

You’ll see a list of Spotlight results on the left, sorted by file types, and a large preview on the left, so there is no need to preview a document to see if it’s the one you are looking for, you can read it within Spotlight’s window. Just highlight the result that matches what you were searching for, click Return, and Spotlight will open the result of your search.

As you type your search 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 - we can see ourselves eventually switching to this way of working when we want to run applications.

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).

Randomly we didn’t always find Bing search results in our Spotlight window. A search for Apple News showed us Apple.com hot news and the Telegraph, but nothing else, and a similar search for Mac news bought up macworld.co.uk along with MacRumors and MacDailyNews. But a search for iPad news gave us three ‘News’ results in a section of their own, rather than in Bing section. Similarly a search for Weather gave us “Suggested Website” of weather.com as well as Bing results further down the listings. This all seems a little random right now.

A search for a location returns a Map of said location including the tools to find directions to that location. You’ll also be able to do things like send an email or make a phone call from the Spotlight interface.

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’ll also see various other conversions in the results window. We may even stop using xe.com to do our currency conversions.

There are also some limitations compared to the US Spotlight search results. Over there if you searched for a movie you can expect to get a “Now Playing in Theatres” results with movie poster, its Rotten Tomatoes rating, run times, trailers and more. We get no such results here in the UK.

It looks like you can only do one Spotlight search at a time (unless you search through the Finder).

In the past we predominantly used Spotlight to locate documents when we had forgotten where we had filed them. We wonder if the results will now be a little overloaded with Wikipedia links and other web based data. It immediately struck us that we were only seeing a few results in the Documents section, which made us wonder if Apple is implementing a clever algorithm to only show us the most likely documents to match those we are looking for, or if we would not be able to find things we need in future. For example, a search for the word ‘The’ bought only five document results and we are pretty sure we have written that word a few times. A few minutes later we discovered we could click on Documents to see more results in a Finder window.

The results do appear to be a little random, but there are certainly some useful new features in Spotlight search.

Calendar in Yosemite

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

As you can see from the image above, the month view of Calendar in OS X is almost identical to the Calendar in iOS 7. The key change to this view in OS X is that the Today and Month details have switched sides compared to Mavericks.

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 (where 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 or change existing ones – certainly preferable to the cramped space in the floating inspector palette of old.

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 labeled Mailboxes, which makes a lot more sense if you weren’t aware what it would show.

However, underneath the surface Mail has been given a much needed upheaval in OS X Yosemite. Along with a new look user interface, Mail is has also gained 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 is supposed to allow you to add annotations to images and PDFs from inside Mail. We expected this to be more simple to use than it is. You should be able to receive an email with a PDF, click reply and then be able to edit the PDF or Jpeg inside the email before you click send. That’s how it should work.

It took us a few attempts to get the Markup information to show up and it was only after we dragged and dropped a PDF to an email that we were able to mark it up. Certain that wouldn’t be the case that the only way to make MarkUp work would be to grab the PDF someone has sent you and reattach it by dragging it back into Mail, we discovered that we just needed to make sure that Include Attachments from Original Message was selected when we clicked Reply. But even this didn’t work every time we clicked Reply. We were slightly more successful with Forward. Still, with this much messing around in Mail you might as well be editing in Preview after all. Apple needs to work on this aspect of Mail, it’s flakey and nobody is even going to realise it is there. When MarkUp is working as expected, you should see an icon appear in the top-left of the preview of the PDF or Jpeg you have been sent. If you click this icon and select Markup the item should zoom out into a separate window, and a toolbar will appear above it.

When you do finally get MarkUp to work you will have a few tools at your disposal. There is a signature tool that lets you use the trackpad on your laptop to create a signature or alternatively you can sign your name on a white piece of paper and hold it up to the camera. The best result we got was from the paper representation of our signature although it was very difficult to click Done when we had the best representation because our paper was covering the result. We thought it would be great if we could use something other than our finger on the trackpad, but no luck. Stubby signature it is then. There are also various tools for straightforward squiggles, shapes, text and text formatting, speech bubbles, and a colour picker. You will not be able to edit text in the PDF itself, for that you would need a dedicated PDF editor. It could be handy for drawing attention to certain elements, and of course for signing documents.

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 access to the accompanying email. For example, when we wanted to jot down some questions about the PDF in our reply email we were unable to do so while MarkUp was open. 

For all it’s faults, 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. Hopefully Apple will figure out how to make it work better soon.

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 5MB 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. 

We sent a 5.6MB folder from one Mail account to another, this folder then appeared in the other account as a zip file before gradually downloading - it was by no means instantaneous but that’s most likely because we were testing it at home rather than in the office where the connection is faster. Once downloaded the zip file turned into a normal folder icon. It was a lot easier than uploading and downloading from DropBox.  You can drag and drop the folder onto your Mac, or simply open it from within Mail.

If you send it to someone who doesn’t have Yosemite then they will receive a download link for the file.

Mail Drop will likely be a godsend if, like us, you frequently send to, and receive large files from, colleagues. 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 has been simplified to such an extent that you won't really know it's happening and nor will your recipient. Everything is handled by Mail. 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 and then when the email is opened at the other end the download of the large file happens, but it's all behind the scenes.

Note that your recipient has 30 days to download the file before it disappears.

Safari 8 - Safari in Yosemite

The new version of Apple's web browser that arrived with Yosemite is Safari 8, and with it comes a simplistic new look. Safari in Yosemite gains a clearer, cleaner interface that is designed to make navigation simpler. 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 full URL if you click on it. This may not make a big difference to many people, but if you were visiting apple.com/uk for example, all you will see of the URL is apple.com, so it would be easy to spend time on the wrong country’s website.

This minimalist look is actually a lot like what you see in Safari for iOS on the iPhone. However, where minimalising the URL bar is logical on the iPhone where space is limited, on a large screen it doesn't really make sense to take useful information away from the user.

This minimalisation of the toolbar also means that some of the features you expect to see don't appear to be there - but they are. The first time we opened Safari it showed us an iOS 8-like grid of our Favourites - with icons instead of the menu bar we were previously used to. If you prefer the Top Sites view you can switch to that if you click on the icon on the top right. The star is for Favourites, the grid of dots for Top Sites. It strikes us that both views are a bit similar and essentially do the same thing.

Now that both are presented in such a similar way we think that they are likely to merge into one in use. Mind you, with last year’s Mavericks we started using the Reading List bar for our frequently accessed webpages, so we already need to do a fair bit of retraining. We’ve a suspicion we will start to use Favourites as all you have to do is click in the Smart Search Field and you will see a drop down menu with all your Favourites. Handy. The one failing is that it only shows up when you are already on a webpage - you don’t see the dropdown favourites when you are in Top Sites view.


Tab View in Safari 8

There is yet another view to choose from. You can see previews of all the tabs you have open if you click the icon on the right (two overlapping squares). In this view you will see a birds-eye view of all your open tabs pages on all your Apple devices. If you have opened multiple pages on one site, those tabs will be stacked.

When we closed some browser windows on our iPhone the new status was quickly replicated on our Mac version of Safari.

The Tab View is similar to an existing feature that you may have seen in Mavericks, if you use a trackpad. If you pinched on a trackpad when using Safari in Mavericks you would 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 only be accessed by clicking on the new Tab View. It can’t be accessed by pinching on the trackpad - but this is no bad thing as the pinch action is associated with zooming in on images and that was inevitably when we would activate the Tab View in the past.

The addition of iCloud Tabs to Safari on the Mac could certainly prove useful.

With all these new views we will probably find ourselves using the sidebar that shows Reading List, Favourites and Twitter a lot less. We’ve already hidden the Favourites bar from above the Tab bar because our Favourites are now accessible in better ways.

Speaking of Twitter, Sharing is designed to be simpler in OS X Yosemite - when you click the Share icon (which is now identical to the Share icon of iOS) to share a webpage you will also see a list of recent recipients, so you can send to one of them with one click. We had a weird glitch where it showed the address we emailed as ‘Contacts’ however, rather than the name of the recipient. It’s useful that once you have forwarded a webpage to a group you can select that same group again another time - it would be useful if it was labelled slightly differently, but its a move in the right direction.

What is more annoying for owners of websites is the fact that users aren’t merely emailing a link to the site but Apple is scraping the text in its entirety from the Reader View of the page. So basically Apple is allowing users to scrape and share webpages without the recipient ever having to visit that webpage. Why don’t you just kill the internet Apple? You do get various choices as to how you share the information, be it as a webpage, PDF or link only. This isn’t actually a new feature in Yosemite, it also existed in Mavericks, but we’re still a tad annoyed. We need people to visit our website because otherwise we will be out of jobs. (If you are reading this in an email please visit our website: macworld.co.uk thank you).

The way the webpage is rendered in Mail will depend on the way it is constructed in the first place.

As for your Shared Links view, where you can see Twitter posts (and LinkedIn if you ever set that up) this will now include RSS feeds you have signed up for. Just click on Subscriptions at the bottom of the Shared Links view, find the RSS feed you wish to add, and agree to add it to your Shared Links. Now you should see any new content added to that website.

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.

As with Spotlight it’s a little random, some times you will see a Wikipedia result, other times you won’t. Sometimes you will see a Suggested Website in the results, other times you won’t. It would be good to know how to get listed as a Suggested Website.

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. Private Browsing, which has been a feature in Google Chrome for some time, allows you to search privately. The contents of your 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.

To browse in private you need to select File > New Private Window from Safari’s menu bar. You can open up multiple tabs in this window and those tabs will not appear on your other iOS devices.

Previously, if you wanted to browse privately you needed to enable the Safari-wide Private Browsing mode from the Safari menu. This feature no longer exists 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. To set DuckDuckGo up as your default search engine you need to go to Safari > Preferences > Search > DuckDuckGo. You can also switch to Bing or Yahoo from Google here as well.

People are going to get the impression that Apple doesn't like Google very much.

System Preferences


We were hoping for a bit of a simplification of System Preferences, but apart from the new look icons inside System Preferences and the new look menu (a back button rather than ‘Show All’), and apart from the new Extensions tab within System Preferences - which allows you to enable and disable the extensions that appear in the Services and Share menus and widgets for the Today view within Notifications, nothing else has really changed.

Well, actually if you really dig deep you will find a few new things, such as Scrapbook and Snapshots options in Screen Saver, which allows you to choose from Apple’s beautiful desktop images, or your own recent iPhoto events. Scrapbook didn’t seem to work at all for us, but via Snapshot we were able to show photos from a recent holiday. Of course you have always been able to view your photos as a Screen Saver, and the various presentation options are still there. Rather than adding random Scrapbook options to an already crowded variety of ways of seeing your own photos as a Screen Saver we think it would be useful if Apple allowed you to select a Photo Album rather than an Event, but the likelihood is this will all change in the new year with the arrival of Photos for Mac.

Other slight tweaks include the ability to choose to see Dashboard as an ‘Overlay’ rather than a separate space, which means you can see your widgets in front of the windows you have open. This is a great idea, but seems a bit pointless now widgets are in Notification Centre.

New in System Preferences > General is the option to switch on Dark Mode, which turns your Dock and menu bar at the top of your screen dark. Perhaps it will make a big difference if you are used to working in a darkened room, as presuming you aren’t typing into a white window your screen will be darker in general while still being usable (you can always turn down brightness if you need to).

There are also a few changed in Accessibility, including the option to Reduce Transparency mentioned earlier. 

Energy Saver gets a new “Enable Power Nap while on Battery Power” option which means that your Mac will be able to check for emails and other updates while sleeping.

These few changes will not be enough for some, when we asked readers what they want from OS X 10.10 one suggestion was that System Preferences could be more like Control Centre. Probably Apple feels it would be a mistake to make System Preferences too easy to manipulate as users may make changes they didn’t mean to, as we did when we accidentally changed the contrast in Accessibility.

Yosemite Continuity: Better integration between Mac and iPad/iPhone

NOTE: WE ARE ATTEMPTING TO GET NEW CONTINUITY FEATURES TO WORK AND HAVEN'T BEEN SUCCESSFUL YET. WE WILL UPDATE THIS SECTION OF OUR REVIEW WHEN WE HAVE SOME ANSWERS!

For now, if you are finding you can't get AirDrop to work between your Mac and iPhone or iPad read our guide to troubleshooting AirDrop

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: price

In a surprise move, Apple made OS X 10.9 Mavericks free when it arrived last year, and Apple did the same again for Mac OS X 10.10. 

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.

You can read all about the new features in Yosemite over in our Yosemite Topic Zone. Including the following:

OUR VERDICT

It's unfortunate that we can't currently get some of the continuity features to work as they were the features we were most excited about. Perhaps when we can get AirDrop and the integration with the iPhone to work we will be happier, but for now Yosemite isn't offering that much that wasn't in Mavericks (bar some nice new icons).

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