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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.

swipe support in Mail
Mail picks up an iOS feature that makes it easier to go through emails with a swipe. Credit: Michael deAgonia

While iOS 9 offers improvements aimed at predicting what a user will do or what information will be needed, there are now aspects of Mail in El Capitan that offer this, too. For instance, data detectors have been improved, offering suggestions at the top of an email body when they detect phrases in a message that could yield calendar entries, like "Let's go out for dinner at five." This is called suggested events; the same proactive behavior also accounts for potential contacts.


Notes has been updated to bring feature parity with its iOS 9 counterpart, including instant checklist creation, support for inline video and images, and URL snippets with preview. There's a new button that triggers an Attachments view, which organizes attachments from across all of your notes into one area, split into categories like Photos & Video, Sketches, Map Locations, Websites, Audio and Documents.

All of the new Notes features are accessible via the app's toolbar. And beyond the Notes app itself, there is now an extension in the Share button of supported apps that lets you add content from within that app to a new or existing note. Of course, any addition, subtraction or modification to your notes is synced across every device signed in with that Apple ID.


Like Notes, Maps has been improved in El Capitan to create functional parity with iOS 9. Specifically, you can plan routes using public transportation with Transit view, which supports walking directions as well as subway, train, ferry and bus information. Like iOS 9's Maps, Transit data has been surveyed so that Maps shows you the most efficient routes, exits and drop off stops to get to where you're going. As before, you can send those directions to the iPhone from your Mac.


Behind the scenes improvements include security additions, with the most important one in El Capitan called System Integrity Protection (SIP). At its core, System Integrity Protection is a security policy that is applied to every running process. This process protects system files and only allows modifications from the system's installer app and software updates. Code injection and runtime attachments to system binaries are no longer permitted.

What this basically means is that SIP does not allow unauthorized manipulation of important system files, which should help prevent security breaches.

Bottom line

There's a wealth of new features in El Capitan that seem minor -- until you need them. (You can, for instance, find a lost cursor on the screen by shaking your mouse back and forth rapidly, and you'll be able to eventually download extensions to the Photos app for manipulating your images.)


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