Category Archives: reviews

OS X El Capitan review: update brings welcome changes

Two weeks after the iOS 9 update release, OS X El Capitan was released for download. As Apple’s latest Mac operating system, El Capitan retains the minimalist aesthetic of last year’s Yosemite update while also introducing a few new features and tweaks to older ones.

Setup

What you’ll need before installing the update:

  • a computer with at least 2 GB of RAM
  • 8 GB of available storage running a current software OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) or higher
  • a decent amount of free time (it could take up to an hour to complete the download)

OS X El Capitan should run on the following systems:

  • MacBooks from 2008 or later
  • MacBook Pros from 2007 or later
  • MacBook Airs from 2008 or later
  • Mac Minis from 2009 or later
  • iMacs from mid-2007 or later
  • Mac Pros from early 2008 or later

The (not so) new look

Very little has changed visually with the El Capitan update. The style is minimalistic in the same ways introduced in Yosemite with 2D icons and translucent menu bars. Two new system fonts, San Francisco and PingFang, have been implemented for optimal readability with dynamic word and character spacing depending on font size. The few other visual changes made primarily relate to the new multitasking features.

Multitasking

Multitasking Screen Cast

One of the biggest new multitasking features introduced is Split View, which allows users to run two apps side-by-side in a way that greatly resembles the multitasking feature introduced in the iOS 9 update released in September. Similar to Windows Snap, Split View allows users to run two apps simultaneously in full screen while using a slider separating the two to adjust the width of the windows. By hovering the cursor over either window and scrolling, users can navigate through each window individually without having to click on them.

As can be seen in the gif above, there are two ways to access Split View. One method is clicking and holding the green button typically used to enter full-screen. Another option is to draw the desired window to the Space Bar in Mission Control to create a Split View screen or new desktop.

Mission Control

Mission Control Screen CastChanges to the Mission Control feature allow for all windows to be arranged in a single layer rather than stacked or hidden as they were in previous versions. The update also places windows in the same general location, making it easier for users to spot their desired window quickly.

Spotlight

Spotlight Screen Cast

The built-in search feature for both OS X and iOS 9 has been revamped to be more user-friendly and intuitive. In addition to searching for results for weather, sports, stocks, web video and transit information, users can now find a file using casual language. This means that “document I worked on last week” is now a viable search option.

Spotlight can also be used to access system settings. For instance, a search for “Sound Output” will bring up “Sound” in system preferences.

Notes

Notes Screen Cast

The Notes app in OS X matches the updated iOS 9 version, meaning that users can now format to-do lists as checklists and can drag in multimedia elements such as photos, video, PDFs, audio clips, map locations and iWork documents.  Users can also save content to Notes directly from other apps, making it easier to save websites and then view all of their added attachments in one simple view through the Attachments Browser.

Tuning out tabs

Muting Tabs Screen Cast

Perhaps the most exciting of the new OS X features is the ability to mute the music from a tab without having to hunt for it. Tabs can now be individually muted from the Smart Search field. If complete silence of the web browser is ideal, all of the tabs can be muted at once.

Conclusion

The OS X El Capitan update, like the iOS 9 update, introduced a handful of new and useful features while making refinements to  older futures. The multitasking features are especially user-friendly and will appeal to long-time Mac users who are not accustomed to the split-screen multitasking Windows has had for years.

What do you think of the new features? Which one is your favorite?

iOS 9 Review: Update adds new features and addresses glitches

Apple’s latest update has received many positive reviews for the refinements it made to some of the system’s most popular features.

Glitches and fixes

iOS 9 has many new features but caused problems, such as users’ devices locking up mid-update. A week after the Sept. 16 release of the new operating system, Apple released a new update (iOS 9.0.1) designed to address the issue.

Battery Icon

Battery Battles

While the update addresses the biggest problems, it is by no means perfect. Users have reported their devices losing battery power at faster rates. Though there is a battery-saving mode for iPhones, it isn’t a sure-fire solution to the problem and isn’t available on iPads or iPods. Thankfully, there are various tricks and tips to help save your battery.

What’s new?


News Icon

News

The News app will replace the Newsstand folder when updated but will keep any magazine or newspaper apps you had saved in it. The News app allows users to follow a variety of channels and topics to create a more personalized selection of articles. The app is clearly a work in progress and has received criticism by users and news companies, which were introduced to it through an email that automatically includes their website’s RSS feeds in the app unless they reply and opt-out.

Notes Icon

Notes

Previously limited to typed reminders, the Notes app now allows users to include photos, maps and web links in their notes. A selection of different drawing tools and 24 different colors allows hand-drawn sketches to add an additional element of creativity and personality to notes.

Multitasking IconMultitasking

An iPad-specific feature of the new system allows users to view two apps at once in either a slide-over (3:1) or split-screen (2:1) ratio. Picture in Picture allows users to minimize a playing video or FaceTime chat to the lower right corner of their screen while using other apps. Unfortunately, the Multitasking and Notes updates are not applicable for users with iPads predating the iPad Air.

IMG_5690 copySearch Tools

The search screen now includes helpful shortcuts to relevant people, nearby places, suggested apps, and news stories. By clicking the microphone icon at the right of the search bar or holding down the home button, users can access Siri, which can now take on more tasks. Some of Siri’s new features include the ability to set reminders, access photos from specific events and other useful tasks.

Conclusion

iOS 9 introduces several useful features and makes refinements to older apps. The overall experience is more user-friendly than previous systems, though it has its problems.

What have your experiences with iOS 9 been? Do you have any tips or tricks for other users?