Mac OS X Yosemite preview

UPDATED 18/06/14: Your Mac will need Bluetooth 4.0 to make and receive calls using your iPhone

Apple's latest and greatest OS - OS X 10.10 Yosemite - will be out later on this year, with plenty of new tricks to entice new and faithful Mac users alike.

It focuses on design, continuity between all iDevices and improved functionality, and the best part is, it'll be completely free.

Here's everything you need to know about OS X Yosemite, in detail:

READ MORE: 7 things you need to know about Mac OS X Yosemite

It's beautiful

Like the Californian national park that shares its name, OS X Yosemite is a pleasure for your eyeballs. Apple has tightened up the design, with a flatter, simpler icon design that's lifted from iOS 7; it lends the Dock a cleaner look.

Mac OS X Yosemite

Another big visual change is window translucency, which gives toolbars and sidebars a frosted glass-like effect, allowing you to see colour tones of background content through your foreground programmes.

It's a subtle change that Windows Vista actually brought to the table first (albeit without the transparent sidebars), but that doesn't detract from its prettiness.

Other smaller design and functionality changes have also been made. Toolbars have been tidied up, taking up as little space in apps as possible. The fiddly close, minimise and maximise buttons are now close, minimise and full-screen, making for a less clunky experience.

Apple has also revamped Yosemite's system font. It's cleaner and more legible, according to Apple, and will be familiar to iOS 7 and 8 users.

All-in-all, OS X Yosemite is full of subtle changes which make for a stark contrast to the multicoloured tile interface of Windows 8.

Glorious continuity

Continuity is OS X Yosemite's best feature, so we're diving into it early on. During its launch at WWDC, Apple stressed how important it was for it to create a seamless experience between all of its iDevices and Macs, and Yosemite absolutely looks like it's set to deliver just that. And then some.

Mac OS X Yosemite

For starters, Macs and iDevices will be able to automatically recognise when they're near each other, connecting between themselves without you having to lift a finger. And it opens up a box of very powerful tricks.

Take phone calls for example. Imagine if you're on your iMac, doing important... iMac things,  and your iPhone's charging away in your bedroom. 

All of a sudden, you get a phone call, and you're tripping over Barbie's Selfie Summerhouse in an attempt to make it to your iPhone on time. With Yosemite and iOS 8, instead of crushing your little girl's dreams, you'll get a notification on your Mac desktop to tell you who's calling.

You can choose to reject the call, or answer it and carry out the phone call directly on your Mac, while the iPhone remains in the other room. Impressive, no?

Messages get the same treatment. You can now send and receive SMS, MMS and new audio clip messages directly from your Mac - regardless of whether or not they're being sent, or received from, an iPhone. The only exception to non-iOS devices might be audio clips, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Another benefit or your Mac automatically connecting with your iPhone is that you're able to use OS X Yosemite's new Instant Hotspot function. 

If the Wi-Fi at your local Starbucks conks out due to a mocha explosion, then all you have to do is selected your automatically connected iPhone in the Wi-Fi menu, and boom - you're connected onto mobile data in an instant - no passwords required. 

Very handy

Continuing with, er, continuity, Yosemite and iOS 8 both have a useful new function called Handoff, which lets you seamlessly work across your Macs and iDevices, saving your current state each time.

Imagine writing a report on your Mac, then realising you have to dash off. Instead of having to emailing it to yourself, the Handoff button will let you instantly transfer the report to your iPad, saving it exactly where you left off.

It works the other way around too. If you're editing a photo on your iPad but would prefer to work on a larger screen, a simple tap of the Handoff button will let you do just that.

It's simple, yet powerfully convenient, and works with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar and Contacts. It could be a very tempting way of convincing people to buy into Apple's ecosystem, and we wouldn't blame them.

Will your Mac support Continuity?

Update 18/06/14: Yosemite's Handoff and Continuity features are likely to be limited to Macs which are Bluetooth 4.0 LE-enabled.

German site Apfeleimer has put together the above chart which will show you if your Mac is compatible with Yosemite's Continuity feature. If you're in the green, then your Mac will play nice with your iPhone. If you're in the red, then you can still run Yosemite, but you won't be able to use the Continuity features.

Apple could change the requirements before Yosemite's full retail release, and we'll be sure to update our preview if that's the case.

Souped-up Notifications

The Notification Center now has a new Today feature which is essentially a daily agenda of meetings, events, reminders and birthdays, in addition to summarising what you've got to look forward to (cake tasting), or dread (dentist), the following day.

You can add and change the position of various widgets including Calendar, Weather and Stocks, to World Clock, Reminders and Calculator. You can also download extra widgets from the Mac App store, and view them at a glance, even if you're in a fullscreen app, with a simple swipe gesture.

More after the break...

In the Spotlight

Spotlight search is now far more useful. Typing a search instantly brings up a large Spotlight window, and it suggests relevant information drawn from sources including Wikipedia, Maps, Yelp, and more.

You can also search for contacts, and message/ring them directly through Spotlight too, providing a more fluid experience for getting in touch with people even faster.

Naturally, Spotlight also brings up relevant books, movies and videos that are relevant to your search, letting you pick them up from iTunes within seconds. That'll keep Apple's revenue streams flowing nicely.

Instant currency conversions are also possible, as are quick app launches.

Surfin' Safari

The Safari browser's interface has been cleaned up, streamlining the toolbar to make the most of your screen space. Favourites have now been moved to the URL bar, which also doubles up as a search bar with built-in Spotlight support.

Mac OS X Yosemite

You can also now (finally) scroll across your tabs if you've got tonnes of pages open at once, and you can also click Tab View to see every single open tab, across all of your devices, displayed on one handy page.

Sharing is also easier. See a hilarious meme that you simply have to share with your great aunt Gertrude? A few clicks is all it takes to beam it straight to her via the Mail app. Oh how she'll chortle.

Also, Safari has caught up with Chrome's private browsing features in the sense that you can, at long last, open up a separate Private Browsing window, in which all tabs will also be private. That means you can go all Secret Squirrel in one window, while browsing normally in another.

Apart from a visual makeover, Safari's back end has also undergone some tweaking. Boring bar charts aside, JavaScript optimisations and Yosemite's overall energy efficiency mean that in addition to being faster than ever, you should be able to squeeze an extra two whole hours of Netflix streaming out of your MacBook Air's battery life.

You've Got Mail

OS X Yosemite's updated Mail app will let you scribble annotations on it with a new Markup feature. Apart from coming in handy for quickly signing off PDF files, it also allows you to scribble notes over images. It's clever enough to recognise when you've doodled, say, an arrow or a speech bubble, and convert it into a smoothly rendered drawing. Jony Ive will brook no squiggles; everything you do on his Macs will fit into the Apple design language, whether you like it or not.

Mail also lets you send attachments up to 5GB in size, preventing large emails from bouncing back. It's all thanks to the new Mail Drop feature which automatically uploads large files to iCloud. 

Apple users will, of course, find the experience seamless; if the recipient's using Mail on a Mac, they can open the file as if it was an ordinary attachment. non-Mail users have to slum it with a download link, as the service depends on iCloud.

Sharing is caring

iCloud is now built directly into the Finder window, and behaves like any other standard local folder. If you're using Dropbox then the experience of dragging and dropping files directly into the iCloud folder to sync it instantly will be familiar, and you'll already know how incredibly useful it is.

You can create additional folders using iCloud Drive too, which syncs up folders across al of your Macs and iDevices. And thanks to iOS 8, you can now access certain app folders, like doodles you've made in sketchbook Pro, for example.

AirDrop is another useful feature which lets you push files between nearby iOS devices or Macs with just a few clicks, though we've yet to test out if this method will be faster than bashing out a quick email.

Initial verdict

While we have to wait till we wrap our hands around the final version of OS X Yosemite ourselves, we're impressed with what we've seen so far.

From a gorgeous interface to fast, natural search and incredible iDevice integration, Apple has raised its own software bar to a very impressive height.

Stay tuned for Stuff's full review and verdict.

READ MORE: iOS 8: 8 things you need to know about Apple’s new iPhone and iPad OS

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Mac OS X Yosemite

Mac OS X Yosemite
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