First look: OS X El Capitan

Named after a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, Apple's upcoming desktop operating system, OS X El Capitan, will be available free from the Mac App Store later this year. You can opt to get the early beta next month. Here are some features to look out for.

Improved Spotlight search

The Spotlight search engine in OS X El Capitan now comes with contextual-based abilities. For example, it knows where you are, so you need to type only "weather now" to know what it is in your current location without using Safari.

Safari enhancements

If you find that there are too many tabs in the Safari Web browser, you can change your favourite tabs into "pinned sites". So, instead of taking up space with a long rectangular tab, pinning it becomes an alphabet square tab to which you can return any time with a simple click.

Do you constantly wonder which webpage is playing video or audio? The new Safari can keep track and show you which tab is the culprit, and let you mute it easily.


For those who open PDF files using the native Preview app in OS X, you may find it useful to know that the performance is significantly improved. Apple said it is four times faster. Initial experiences proves this to be true. You can easily browse through PDF with plenty of graphics and pictures, with minimal lag.

Split View

Windows users will likely shout derisively, "We've been doing that since Bill Gates dropped out of college". Yes, El Capitan's Split View mode lets you run two applications side-by-side in full-screen mode.

Click and hold down the usual full-screen button (third button from the left at the top on an application's window) and El Capitan will let you choose the left or right side of the screen. Repeat for another application.

Swiping gestures for e-mail

Borrowed from iOS 8, swiping gestures can now be used to manage your e-mail. Move the cursor to an e-mail message and swipe to the right to mark it as read or unread. To delete it, swipe left all the way.

Big cursor upon waking up

Ever have trouble locating the cursor when your Mac wakes up from sleep? El Capitan offers a big solution, literally.

When you click on your mouse or trackpad to wake up the machine, the cursor will become so big that it will be impossible not to notice it.

Better Notes

You can now drag and drop photos, PDFs and videos, and add content from Safari and other apps, into the all-new Notes. You can also create checklists (yes, Evernote has had it forever) and organise attachments in a single view.

Cleaner Mission Control

The new Mission Control, which allows you to view all open applications and windows, has a cleaner design in El Capitan.

You can use Mission Control to create different Split View spaces. So, you can have Notes and Safari in one Split View space while Mail and Preview are in another Split View space. You can then toggle between these two spaces.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2015, with the headline First look: OS X El Capitan. Subscribe