Apple announced OS X 10.11 El Capitan at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference, due to ship in the fall but with a public beta release to follow this summer. If you're just too excited about El Capitan to wait for fall, your chance to try out the next generation of OS X is coming this morning. Today, Apple will release the first El Capitan beta to users who have joined its public beta program.
Here's a first look at what to expect from the Public Beta, keeping in mind that El Capitan is still a work in progress and a lot can (and will) change between now and the release of the full, finished version in the fall.
Mail gets more efficient
When an OS X update arrives, it's also time for the annual upgrade to the Apple-built apps that are included with OS X. With El Capitan, Apple Mail is getting a big update.
Some of the changes are more cosmetic in nature. Taking a cue from iOS and from some third-party competitors, Mail now allows you to use the trackpad to swipe messages into the trash or to mark them as unread. Trackpad-oriented users will appreciate the shortcut, though I found myself wishing for a few more options such as being able to swipe to archive a message rather than delete it, or to swipe to flag a message.
For quite some time now, OS X has had the ability to detect certain kinds of content in your email messages, names of contacts, events, dates and times. In El Capitan, Mail does a much better job of putting that information in context. If a potential event is mentioned in the text of an email message"let's have lunch on Thursday" Mail will add a banner above the top of the message body that displays the event and provides an "add event" link to quickly add it to your calendar. Likewise, if the person mailing you doesn't appear in your Contacts list, Mail will display a banner indicating that it's detected a possible new contact with a quick "add contact" link.
But perhaps the best feature in Mail is one that lives under the hood and addresses a longstanding problem with the app. Perhaps because it was developed at Apple's campus, replete with high-speed internet connections, Mail has had a major blind spot: poor performance on slow connections. Have you tried using Mail on a slow, high-latency Internet connection on, say, an airplane? All you want to do is check your Inbox, and Mail's trying to sync all your IMAP mailboxes rather than getting to the good stuff.
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