OS X El Capitan: Everything You Need to Know About Apple's 2015 Mac Update

By Gerald Lynch on at

OS X El Capitan is the next version of Apple's Mac operating system. No, seriously, that's what it's called, those wacky Californians.

Related: WWDC 2015 Round-Up: All Tonight's Big Apple Announcements

Back in 2013 Apple launched OS X Mavericks, which focused on integrating OS X and iOS together so that they exist as extensions of each other. That meant cross-platform communication and syncing through associated apps. This year, it's more about refinement, bringing improvements to Spotlight and built-in apps, and a hell of a lot of gestures.

Gestures and Split View

Many of these gestures bring El Capitan further in line with iOS, giving the experience across Apple's devices more synergy. For instance, El Capitan lets you swipe two fingers across the trackpad to delete or archive a message, or kill unwanted autoplay sound in browser tabs. with a single tap. Mission Control can be activated with a three-finger swipe.

Taking some cues from Windows 8 and beyond, OS X will now offer a "split view" in apps, running multiple applications in a full screen mode. You can also toggle through those apps with a new control bar on the top of the screen. The user interface sort of looks like the mode you use to switch apps in iOS.

Safari

As well as the auto-playing sound killer, Safari will offer a new kind of bookmarking system (well, new if you haven't delved into Chrome extensions at least) called "Pins". Dragging an open tab to the edge of the Safari tab toolbar will turn it into a small favicon icon, ready to be launched quickly. Hardly revolutionary, but useful.

Metal

Game developers will also be happy to hear that El Capitan will support Apple's graphics programming language, Metal, which debuted on iOS 8. This is ostensibly so that developers can take advantage of this gaming engine and so that gamers can enjoy better performance.

Spotlight

Spotlight's tweaks seem the most useful thing announced today, bringing natural language search smarts to OS X's system-wide tool. So, commands like "bring me every document I wrote in June" will bring you...every document you wrote in June. The integration seems quite deep -- it'll even be able to recognise contacts, letting you dig out emails from specific people.

Release Date

The developer beta of El Captian launches today, with the public preview landing in July. A full launch will follow in the Autumn. Considered with the rest of the details, El Capitan doesn’t seem like the most exciting OS X upgrade we’ve ever seen, but since Yosemite was so dramatic, performance focused improvements don't go a miss. And hey, it's free.