We may have lost our annual chance to write a blog post full of cat puns, but the latest version of OS X, Yosemite, has more than enough new features to make up for it. Add iOS 8 to the mix and it’s not hard to see why WWDC 14 had us all in a tizzy, even without any new hardware announcements…
OS X 10.10 Yosemite
The latest version of OS X is named after a national park which matches its power and beauty, according to Apple, and while we’re cringing a little at that statement we have to agree. The new UI is cleaner, sleeker and even more usable than we’ve come to expect from OS X, and we know some of our customers will really appreciate the new “dark mode” which turns your (now translucent) menu bars black so that they don’t distract from whatever you’re working on.
But Yosemite has done more than slap a bit of camo cream across the face of OS X. New tools like iCloud Drive and Handoff are going to make organising your work across multiple devices far easier. Here are the key bits:
Actually a set of changes designed to make working in OS X and iOS easier. Key updates include the long-awaited announcement of AirDrop cross-compatibility, so you can send files from OS X to iOS devices, the integration of text messages into iMessage (you can even send texts from your Mac to non-iPhone users) and the ability to answer or trigger calls from your Mac, which are all great for anyone who has spent a working day trying to juggle their MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone as people try to reach them on multiple devices.
And if you’re still working on multiple devices, Yosemite and OS X can help there, too. The new Handoff feature means that Yosemite and iOS 8 devices watch each other, and will allow you to move tasks between them. If you’re writing an email on your iPhone, for example, an icon will pop up in your Mac’s dock, and clicking it will open the same email on your desktop and let you finish it there.
Another much requested change was that Apple made iCloud more ‘Dropbox-like’ so files could be access from programs other than the one originally used to save them. That’s now the case, and you can now view files in your iCloud Drive on any OS X device, iOS device or Windows machine.
Mail Markup and Mail Drop
Mail has gained two important new skills. Firstly, you can now annotate emails and PDFs with Mail Markup, which allows you to circle, underline, highlight and sketch on your emails and PDFs in much the same way as apps like Skitch do, which is frankly going to make our approvals process about 50 times faster.
Secondly, and of particular interest for anyone working with video, hi-res images or uncomfortably large Photoshop files, Mail Drop allows you to send oversized attachments using Mail, even if your recipient’s not authorised to receive attachments of that size. Instead of sending the attachment directly, Mail Drop uses AirDrop and iCloud to securely share the attachment online, and provides your recipient with a link that they click to view the file. This will work on files up to 5GB, and everything is encrypted in transit.
The evolution of Spotlight
Spotlight has been sitting quietly in the top right corner of our windows for longer than we care to remember, but with OS X Yosemite it’s getting a serious overhaul. Now, clicking Spotlight will open a window in the centre of your screen, and searches will return documents on your Mac, documents in iCloud, recent items from specific apps, suggested web pages, recommendations from the App Store, Calendar events and results from apps like Maps. You can even convert measurements instantly.
Notification Centre gets a Today view
Taking its lead from iOS 7, OS X Yosemite gives you a Today view that summarises your Calendar and messages for the day in a single column, which is a huge help if you’re as deeply disorganised as I am. Apple also give the option to add widgets to this – news feeds, weather, sports results, or any other widgets that become available from the Mac App Store.
Big changes on a basic level here, as iOS 8 introduces Metal, a new graphics technology that allows games developers to make the most of the latest A7 processor, and a move away from Objective-C to Swift, a programming language designed for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch.
Features-wise, we’ve already been able to pull out a few favourites:
iCloud Photo Library and Timelapse
If you’re one of the three people left in the world who takes their holiday photos on a camera instead of their phone, look away. For the rest of us, iCloud Photo Library is a new addition that lets you see all your photos from any device, and perform basic photo editing tasks or add filters without leaving the app. There’s also a new camera mode that lets you shoot time lapse videos straight from your iPhone and is pretty self-explanatory.
If you’ve got a school set of iOS devices and have staff or pupils using iOS devices to capture evidence, both of these features are going to make it easier for you to capture and share what you need, so we’re really excited to see how they take off in the classroom!
For those of you who don’t feel your phone’s predictive text feature reveals enough about you (or are simply busy business folk just looking to up your productivity) Apple have introduced QuickType. This keyboard is “smarter and more personalised, and intelligently takes context into account, such as who the recipient is and in which app you’re typing.” It’ll suggest phrases you use commonly, which if nothing else will make you painfully aware of how often you say ‘haha!’ in email, and vary its tone depending on whether you’re using Messages or Mail.
This new feature allows up to six people to use each other’s apps, books, movies and music (also calendars, if you’re the sort of practical person who actually uses technology to organise and simplify their day). As well as giving your nearest and dearest access to your content without having to share your password, Family Sharing lets parents approve their children’s purchases and bring all six accounts under a single credit card. You can also locate your children and their devices using the Find My Friends feature, should you really want to know what your teenagers are doing at three in the morning.
HomeKit and HealthKit
The full details of HomeKit are still to be revealed, but Apple mentioned integration with Philips Hue to make home automation possible using apps. Pair this with Apple’s Siri and you get home automation via voice command, so you can essentially tell your home to lock itself before you go to bed, or switch off the lights by voice command. If this comes together as Apple are hoping, it’s going to be a hit with anyone who has mobility impairments, simply resents getting up off the sofa, or has long harboured a secret desire to live on a starship. We can’t wait.