OS X El Capitan: What’s New in Mac’s Latest Update

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OS X El Capitan

OS X El Capitan

New features, refined performance, more power.

Yesterday, September 30, 2015, Apple released the much awaited update to its previous Mac operating system, OS X Yosemite. Appropriately named after one of the most famous rock formations in Yosemite National Park, El Capitan brings popular new iOS updates into the hands of Mac users. As El Capitan is only a refinement of Yosemite, not much has changed aesthetically. Users can, however, enjoy a newly introduced San Francisco font. Additionally, the infamous “Color Wheel of Death” or “Beachball” has been updated to a smoother version of its old self; perhaps in an effort to soothe users experiencing slow performance.

Split View

One of the great new aspects of the updated operating system is the ability to achieve more with split viewing. Before El Capitan, sharing the screen between two applications was possible- it just required pesky resizing, moving, and fitting. Now, users can press and hold the green expand button in the top left corner of their screen, automatically resizing the opened application and launching Mission Control. From the Mission Control menu, users select their desired second application. In addition to ease and speed, split view also takes up the entire screen, preventing distractions from apps in the dock, or information in the menu bar. OS X El Capitan

No more flipping back and forth between notes and web pages; the power to see all and do all is now here.


Much like the Notes update seen in iOS 9, the application now allows for more flexible note taking- something greatly appreciated by those of us who like taking dynamic notes. Apple integrated formatting ability, allowing for various font sizes for note titles, paragraph headings, and paragraph text. Additionally, users can organize information into paragraphs, bulleted and numbered lists, as well as check lists.

Perhaps one of the greatest features is the ability to add content to notes such as PDFs, documents, photo and video media, web links, and maps. This is especially helpful for visual learners, students, or detailed planners. Supporting this new feature, other OS X applications have added Notes as an option to the share button, allowing for a direct export of media to notes.

OS X El Capitan

Unfortunately, Notes in Mac does not have the drawing feature present in the iOS update. Users can, however, annotate notes created on Mac with their iOS devices, as notes now automatically sync across devices.

Spotlight Search

Much like its iOS counterpart, Spotlight Search got much smarter. Users now have more search possibilities, being able to search for web content, stocks, and transit information. Spotlight also allows for custom searches. For example, users can search for “documents I edited yesterday” and find corresponding results.

Mission Control

The Mission Control setting on Macs allows users to see all open applications in one convenient location. If you have not added a Mission Control shortcut to the trackpad, it can be accessed by hitting F3.

El Capitan changed the display of Mission Control, no longer stacking multiple windows of the same application. Now, all open windows are separated, allowing users to easily locate a desired window.

OS X El Capitan

Users can also drag an open window into a new desktop screen, as opposed to previously having to click to add a new desktop.


Adopting the multitasking capabilities seen in the iOS mail application, users can now manage emails by swiping. By two-finger swiping on the trackpad, users can move right to mark an email as read or unread, and move left to delete an email. Mail also communicates better with other OS X applications, providing suggestions for contact and calendar information based on content found in the email.


The updates to photos are all about organization and enhancement. Within the iCloud library, it is much easier to add and edit photo information such as location data, titles, descriptions, and search keywords. With the ability to add all this new information, Photos now allows users to sort photos by categories such as date taken, title, or location. Along with new organizational methods, Photos comes packed with media editing tools. The updated version of the app communicates with third-party photo editing applications, allowing users the luxury of third-party tools without ever leaving the Photos app.

Miscellaneous “Cool Stuff”

As previously mentioned, the “Color Wheel of Death” or “Beachball” that indicates an application is taking too long to process has gotten a new, calmer image. The colors are more defined and the shape is much flatter. OS X El Capitan

Additionally, the cursor has received more power, which I have appropriately named “The Puffer Fish” effect. If you seem to have lost your cursor, or if you are simply bored, swipe back and forth several times on the trackpad and the pointer will inflate to a much larger size.


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