OS X 10.10 Yosemite preview: Welcome to infinite connectivity and seamless productivity

Summary: The tight integration with your iPhone packs a powerful productivity punch, bringing the best of mobile to your desktop and notebook. It does, however, leave one question in mind. Who needs an iPad now?

TOPICS: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Laptops

OS X 10.10 Yosemite preview: Welcome to infinite connectivity and seamless productivity

When Apple introduced the iPad, many questioned the cannibalization of the PC market, which included (at the time) the Mac desktop and notebook range. When the iPad mini rolled out of Apple's door after several iterations of the popular tablet, many asked the same question of its larger slate-like sibling.

Apple's cloud-based power-melding of the iPhone with its latest desktop and notebook operating system, OS X 10.10 Yosemite, packs enough productivity punch that left me wondering what the point of my iPad is.

While many thought the iPad, or any other tablet, was the "mobile meets notebook" that we had so long been waiting for, a tablet — at least in my eyes — can never replace the trusty MacBook that has been by my side since 2011. 

For those unwilling to budge or embrace this sweet tablet middle ground — think, "notebook meets mobile" — Apple is finally bridging its various platforms to bring infinite connectivity and seamless productivity from iPhone and iPad to the Mac. 

The software at this point, which ran through several updates over the course of 30 days, is buggy and clunky in places. This preview is not intended to focus on crashes and bugs, as these were expected and do not represent the full, final and finished state of the software. The purpose of this preview is to capture the visual differences, the productivity changes, and whether it will stand the test of time. 

A logical, visual extension of your iPhone, iPad

Make no mistake: The first thing you will notice when you open your MacBook lid for the first time after installing Yosemite is the new interface and user experience. Different enough to feel new and fresh but not so much that it's jarring to the eye, as the subtle changes to the dock and the typeface are reminiscent of the iOS 7 upgrade.

The flatter Dock menu (Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive)

The overall user experience has greater depth, but the native application icons appear flatter. Icons and apps appear brighter and rounder. Even the "traffic lights" for minimizing, maximizing, and closing windows are more vivid, and no longer user shading. The green maximize button now brings windows to full-screen — and it's about time. But window depth remains, with 3D shading and blurring around each window you have open. 

But what stands out the most, more than anything, are the fonts. Gone are the Lucida Grande days, when the older operating system's text looks somewhat Comic Sans-esque by comparison. The font is now Helvetica Neue throughout the software. It's wider and feels more professional, perhaps an edge towards the more business-minded user? It's enough to make the entire operating system feel fresh from the ground-up.

Rounder, wider fonts across the operating system (Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive)

The new killer detail in the user experience is the translucency across the board on a number of apps — including native and third-party, such as Skype, which blurs the background through your app, adding an extra layer of depth.

Translucent sidebars (Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive)

The left-hand panel now lets you see through, à la Windows Vista (back in the day), to the background. There's no practical functionality here except for a lick of paint to the outdated flat and opaque windows in prior versions.

Yosemite only allows you to see the translucency through the one active window at a time. While it was a little jarring at times on iOS 7 when the translucency effect was first introduced, the larger screen makes it far more palatable to handle. That is, with the exception of Safari, which has an entirely translucent top-third of the app, so when you scroll down, it blurs everything from above the line of open tabs.

As with its mobile counterpart, you can always reduce the transparency in the Accessibility menu. 

Dark mode, though its purpose remains unclear, may well benefit those working in the dark? Maybe — just maybe. But it's a new feature nonetheless, though far from finished and polished to Apple's aesthetic standards. Some fonts remain jagged, though this preview software was running on a MacBook Air without a Retina display.

Switch into 'dark mode' and menus and sidebars dim (Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive)

Aside from the visual overhaul, it remains the same-old OS X, and you won't feel lost, or out of your depth.  

Continuity: Here to stay, but more to come

The widely lauded feature that will bridge the Mac with iPhones and iPads has been slowly trickling through the developer builds.

Currently working on the fourth developer-only iteration and public beta (although sporadically it seems — Apple is far from finished with building the software), enough has percolated through the various versions to show off some of the core functionality to Continuity.

Continuity, the umbrella term for your iPhone and Mac working together, has benefits for both the desktop and notebook user, and its hundreds of millions of smartphone and tablet users, by unifying the two platforms through a common connected thread. It works in conjunction with iOS 8, to which there is no public beta.

The full feature set of Continuity — including Handoff — lands later this year when both Yosemite and iOS 8 are launched. 

It's as though any discrimination between the two platforms has finally been resolved. Though Apple has been keen to stress there's no unification of the two platforms in the near or distant future — though, anything can change in a year or two — the two platforms now talk to each other better than ever before.

Now speaking the same common language, the two are separated only by a regional dialect.

Handoff, the feature that allows you to work on one device and "hand-off" to another, such as emails and work documents, works well but when it wants to. And application support seems limited for now, though developers can tie in hand-off features to their own apps and services.

Also with Continuity, you will be able to take and make calls on your Mac so long as your phone is nearby and connected to Wi-Fi. Despite occasional connectivity issues, and while this wasn't tested fully, the functionality exists — and aims to save time when your iPhone is on the other side of the office or your apartment. 

Call someone through your Mac, via your iPhone (Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive)

And, you can send text messages — not just Apple's own iMessage — through the desktop interface. It routes messages to your iPhone and sends them onward from there, but the process is seamless and requires zero thinking.

It's yet another inconvenience created by earlier versions of OS X, and solved by Yosemite.

Working on a Pages document, or browsing on Safari? So long as you're within range of your MacBook, you can pick up where you left off.

Another bright spark feature aims to allow your MacBook to switch between networks without a second thought. Previously, one needed to select, try and hope that a Wi-Fi connection would work; however, Yosemite will soon be able to connect automatically to the Web through your iPhone or iPad. And when you're no longer active, it will switch off to save your device's battery.

You can now send text messages through your Messages app (Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive)

The bottom line is the Mac-plus-iPhone combination means your MacBook now retains connectivity so long as your iPhone does. A lot of "ifs" and "buts" remain, however. What if your iPhone doesn't have connectivity? Then you are pretty much cut out of the outside world's loop. But enough exists in Yosemite, with its iPhone counterpart, to allow you to work anywhere, do anything, and at your own pace, without having to compromise on battery life or keep a constant eye on where your iPhone is.

iOS-ification continues: New apps on deck

The physical connection between your desktop and your mobile isn't the only change. The new iconography you may recognize from your iPhone. New updates to iOS 8, which is expected to be released later this year with the iPhone 6, somewhat refine the icons more. New apps, including iBooks and Podcasts, come as standard. A new Tips app, offering — guess what, tips — on how to use the new software lands in the beta version, but may not stay in the final version. 

The new icons in Yosemite (Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive)

The operating system's core but peripheral features, such as the Notification Center, built-in from previous iterations of the software, is now more customizable. Long gone are the days when you needed a world clock sitting on your desk, or bolted to the wall in your office. That comes as standard in your peek-in sidebar — as do other third-party and customizable widgets. Your calendar is displayed at a glance, and you don't need to look outside or open the Weather app to see whether or not it's raining.

The Notification Center is now customizable and more granular than before (Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive)

And for those who need to find something in a hurry, Spotlight, Apple's own desktop and device search engine, now encompasses a number of other different sources, including many from the Web. It covers Safari pages, music, other media, emails, and anything else it can search for. Spotlight quietly indexes your entire hard drive (and other devices) in the background, offering search results on the fly and near-instantaneously.

Spotlight now has a broader range of indexing sources (Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive)

Almost everything, including the Notification Center and Spotlight, now come with the translucent view so your wallpaper gently seeps through, adding a layer of depth to the slide-out display.

If anyone likens it to the widely criticized and underperforming Windows Vista, they may have a point in terms of style and aesthetic. But under the hood it runs as fast and as stable as any other Apple operating system on its own dedicated hardware.

"Despite its iterative nature and long-standing features and apps, it's like no other version of OS X you've ever used."

One thing not mentioned yet, in any particular detail, is the cloud — specifically iCloud, which ties everything together. Underpinning the entire operating system, it draws in your iPhone when it needs you (and you need it). Long awaited and finally added into this software release, a new Finder sidebar option, iCloud Drive, is exactly what it appears to be.

Many apps already store data in iCloud, which when it was first released was not an option. It was reserved for photos and contacts, and now and then email — if you ever used it.

Converting to the drive itself is a one-way process, so reversing it is impossible. However, it does come with certain (albeit less seamless) benefits, such as document sharing with Windows machines. Data from apps is sandboxed and segregated into separate folders. With iCloud enabled on Windows, you can access that data relatively easily through your third-party apps, such as Microsoft Word, hit save, and open it up in Pages on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad later.

The bottom line

Despite its iterative nature and long-standing features and apps, it's like no other version of OS X you've ever used.

You'll be connected wherever you are — so long as you have your trusty iPhone with you. You'll be more productive with better search, features, notifications, customizable sidebar widgets, and apps that don't look like they were designed by a five-year-old. The interface is nicer, and easier on the eye. You'll be able to reply to your friends, family, colleagues and co-workers regardless of platform, because text messages can be sent through your desktop.

And if you're working on something on the go and need to switch devices, you can do that with a simple swipe-up from your iPhone or iPad's lock screen or from the conveniently placed icon in your Mac's dock. 

OS X 10.9 Mavericks saw your Mac grow up with work features and iOS integration. Yosemite loosens your Mac up a bit with a plusher interface, granular controls, and seamless transitioning between desktop and mobile devices. 

Constantly connected and better productivity? What more could a business user want?

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Laptops

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  • The translucency is cool

    it reminds me of Aero in Windows 7. I really miss it in Windows, I have to say, so glad it has popped up somewhere else. (Mac's aqua has long had translucency support, but surprisingly Apple made little use of it before now.)

    Not a fan of the dock. Put the Tiger wallpaper in place, and you'd be hard pressed to tell you're not running OS X 10.4. yes, yes, no skeuomorphism, but couldn't they have just reduced the sheen on the 3D dock, but left it 3D? At least in iOS they added the Parallax effect to take away from the flattening thing a bit... but what do we get on Mac?

    Retro Tiger, it looks like.
    • Nice changes, for sure.

      The translucency and other changes make OS X Yosemite more like Windows 7 than any previous version of OS X. The fact that you can have customizable widgets in a sidebar (like Windows 7) is a big plus. Apple is smart to be zeroing in on the people who hated what Microsoft did to Windows desktop. We may see many people switching to Macs during 2015. This is definitely an upgrade I'll buy for my own Mac.
      • Looks good

        Apple is wise to target those who miss Windows Aero. Microsoft has seriously lost the plot, Windows 8 looks like it fell off the ugly tree.
        • Yep, looks like Windows 7

          ...and Windows 7 looks great. Windows 8 is too flat, but for some reason OS are moving towards the flat look.
          Sean Foley
      • Looks more like

        OS X 10.0 (Cheetah/Puma), than anything Windows. I do agree tat Windows 8, look horrible. But that's what happens, we you put a phone UI on a desktop OS.
        I hate trolls also
        • wow ! windows 9 will be better

          ..or will not be at all ;)
        • You mean like Apple is doing here?

          I mean ALL the press talks about how iOS and OS X are looking alike.
      • Microsoft removed those features...

        because they were not used. No one will be switching (despite your hatred) from Microsoft to Apple over gadgets on the side of the screen. That came with Vista eons ago.
        • who told you they were not used ?

          btw - they will not switch because of widgets ..nope - they will switch to Mac / Linux because Windows UX team lost the contact with reality ...so the reason is even simpler.

          They will switch because MS killed the Start button - now you have a credible reason.
          They will switch because MS messed ugly with Usability (another thousands reasons), they really don't care about user experience but "the experience they want for users" - this was the last reason.

          And yes - peoples feel MS disrespect - regarding the revolutionary Win8 GUI - who was in desperate need for the win8 start screen ? - the corporate environment ? the normal people ? ..now seriously who ?
          • Actually do more research and less asinine comments

            there are people that don't like Windows 8. But once you get past the flat - like OS X then it's pretty good. And there also quite a few positives about Win 8 and tiles etc. Read and research...it might help.
          • I have done my research bro' long time a go

            I speak the truth about MS just ignoring their user base - when you ignore your user base recte "a people or a company who kindly put the green dollar on your pocket" - that mean disrespect (on it's true sense) - when you ignore 80% of your users that's disrespect too - or else why all peoples over the internet and all offices around my desk want back the Start Button, why they discuss a lot about that, can you respond to me on a logical manner ???

            Now about Usability and UX and Human - Machine Interface ... you say "there are people that don't like Windows 8. But once you get past the flat...". I wish to be as easy as you put words on e-paper. But is not that easy. In fact is quite the opposite.

            On a public space the problem is that people like you feel they are the Masters of the Universe.
            That's the real problem of Today and for sure of Tomorrow - you are just too many, linearly thinking - how can other explain something to a people like you who already knows it ALL ?.
            Young blod - self thinking in the name of the whole world - throwing other opinions to the trash with ease, just because....
            In fact I like the way you simply say "..once you get past the flat". Hmm, you see, peoples with decisive positions on companies may think different because "once you get past" mean a costly phernomenon at enterprise level.

            Every minute lost learning the new set of moves is multiplied with the employee base (those using a computer with Windows) and represent a company income cut (think that some US companies hold more than 100.000 employes - for this level take just a dollar / day loss - that mean 100.000 $USD less in one day. Now think about a dollar lost / worked hour / employee - that mean 600.000 $USD a day loss).
            This is my friend.

            Big money come to MS from corporations and state level institutions - think about DHL - how many peoples work every day under pressure to get people goods / containers on time, all over the world ? I was involved deep into this kind of systems for some time in Europe and China I know what I talk about - but you ?.

            Next, young padawan, I will tell you a word fully exploited by today corporations : "- ...habit is the second nature".
            On all directions of our economical life - in order to get the most out from their task - peoples folow thinking patterns, behavioral patterns, gesture patterns, etc.
            Those patterns are integrated in corporate workflows.

            Now think again about a company with hundreds / thousands employes which constantly pay the upgrade plan to get improved software. Imagine that company receiving a $@%&*&*(@#$ thing without asking for that thing.

            What logically happen is that the company with hundreds / thousands employes is they will feel betrayed without even a reason.
            They sustained / backed the software make financially for many years therefore they feel they should choose the software development direction - not the software maker on itself .
            They will not accept the loss, just because Steve Balmer say so, accordind to his vision.
            Think then about office peoples, in their 50's, doing WinXP / Win 7 / or Excel 2003 / Word 2003.
            - Will they learn the new UI or the new desktop paradigm in few minutes ? - Nope.
            - Will they change the long term habit in few days ? - Nope.
            - Will their companies keep the same rate $US / Hour for the transition time ? - Nope.
            - Did Microsoft care about this phenomenon (which is real and affect many large companies and institutions all over the world) ? - well, seems to ..nope.

            Before Win 8 launch - did MS studies about taking out the Start Button and tiled desktop ? - nope.

            Why I am so sure ? - because all peoples around the word kicked / criticised this move, just read online papers, ask corporate voices, peoples newr you.
            How come that MS claim to have a study when the response from the mass show the exact contrary (the study was mad at kindergarden then ?) ..the single logical conclusion is that there were no study at all, just a stupid concept, promoted by a stupid peoples without UX studies, because when you fail such a product as Win8 globally - you should be "someone" or you must blindly follow a genius like Ballmer (which is out after this fail). So where was the applied Science behind the move when every scholar can predict the result before the launch date. It was a public beta test - just to get nothing from it.

            Finally why after this "success", MS will re-introduce the Start Button in Window 9 ??? ( - why if you got succes you want kill plus value youg padawan ?).
    • As long as they allow those of us who don't want the transparency feature..

      to simply disable it. I didn't like it in Vista and turned it off. For some people (depending on your visual impairment) this transparency look makes things difficult to read and see.

      I'm looking forward to 10.10, but I'd really like to disable that feature for my usage.
      • I'm with you!

        To as many as the special effects of on a normal machine you get a performance boost.
    • PowerPC Mac was exactly what I thought... And Ubuntu..

      ...when I saw the 'flat dock'. Very 2004.

      And The rest of it looks like they've taken styling cues from Ubuntu for the UIs and app panel.
      Lord Minty
      • true - the flat doc looks 1900 autumn -> Sous le ciel de Paris

        ..these days all UX designers being Mac / Windows, they all looks to go crazy ...
        • You forgot Google and Linux

          All flat interfaces and cartoonish icons.
          • Linux ? is so customisable I use rigt now XP icon set on my Mint.

            Glome Shell come flat ? - next minute the user with other taste ..will change the look.
            If Unity will come flat in one day - guess what ? ..next minute -||- ||-
            If Kde will come flat by default ...next minute -||- ||-
            If Mate / Cinnamon will come eventualy with a flat UI ..next minute -||- ||-
            ..and so (for any other Linux DE).

    • "Translucent" UI is idiotic

      Why would I want to see the crap BEHIND what I'm working on? Why would I want the background to a bunch of text or controls to be a mottled mess of color? Why would I want to see blurred images of another app's controls behind the controls I'm trying to use?

      Transparent UI is a stupid fad that came and went on other platforms over a decade ago. Apple's adoption of this incredibly ignorant and counterproductive UI device simply proves that they're out of touch. Just like their continued insistence on making products (iPhone) thinner at the expense of battery life (and thus USEFULNESS).
      • That's Ive. He's forgotten

        (or never knew) that interface design is primarily about usability. If you can also make it beautiful, then you get extra credit. But usability should always be first and foremost. Apple has been steadily moving away from usability for years.
      • Stupid is as stupid does...

        a lot of people like the translucent, and some feel that if you don't like it is idiotic.