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Review: Apple shines up OS X with 'El Capitan'

Michael deAgonia | Oct. 1, 2015
In Mac OS X 10.11, most of the improvements are under the hood.

Apple boasts that El Capitan is 1.4 times faster than previous OS X versions for app launching, twice as fast at switching apps and four times faster at opening PDFs. At the same time, Apple claims a 70% reduction in CPU usage compared to apps written using OpenGL.

Adobe representatives on stage during Apple's September 9th event claimed an eight-fold improvement in using the Adobe After Effects graphics software. Users should find that their systems are more responsive with smoother animations and faster application launches. There is also the promise of future improvements for games and other apps; however, those games and apps must first be rewritten to take advantage of Metal.

Another under-the-hood technology available to developers is Swift 2.0, which is designed to simplify coding (relatively speaking) while making it easy for OS X software to take advantage of the built-in hardware -- such as using the graphics card for data processing when possible. I'm not a programmer, but anything that allows developers to streamline their software is a good thing.

Changes you can see

Not everything in El Capitan is behind the scenes and waiting for developers. There are some user-facing features as well.

The first thing astute users may notice is that El Capitan uses a new system font: San Francisco. This font is designed to make text more legible for Apple's high-definition Retina displays. It works as intended, but the difference will probably be overlooked by any but the most fastidious font fanatics.

San Francisco font
OS X gets a new enhanced-for-Retina system font: San Francisco.

The updated Finder builds on Yosemite's improvements by applying a new split-screen app mode in addition to the full-screen mode that debuted in Yosemite. The split-screen mode can be enabled in a couple of ways. First, you can drag a Finder window to the top of the menu bar and then drop that window on an existing full-screen app space in Mission Control. Or you can press and hold the green button on an app window -- doing so will make that app fill up half the screen and any open windows display in miniature, letting you select one to fill the other side of the screen.

Split view window
The new split-screen feature borrows a page from Microsoft. Credit: Michael deAgonia

A clear divider separates the two apps, and each operates independently. The divider can be dragged from side to side to adjust each app's window size. The menu bar at the top of the display automatically changes to accommodate the front-most app, which is normal app behavior Mac users are accustomed to.


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