An easy trek to Yosemite

YosemiteUPGRADING to Yosemite (Mac OS X 10.10) on my MacBook Air was an easy and painless trek from Mavericks (10.9).

Apple’s latest operating system for its desktop and laptop computers is available as a free download from the App Store. Because the file is rather large—about 5 gigabytes—I simply let it download overnight and installed it the next morning. The actual installation took less than an hour and finished without a hitch.

The most obvious changes are cosmetic. Yosemite has a cleaner, flat look much like iOS, Apple’s OS for iPads and iPhones. Also like iOS, Yosemite uses translucent backgrounds to good effect, including on its visually striking log-on screen.

The flat look extends to the red, yellow and green buttons used to close, minimize and switch windows to full-screen mode. Stripped of their shading, the buttons are just flat circles and no longer look like they escaped from a game of Bejeweled.

Apple has changed the system font from Lucida Grande to the slimmer Helvetica Neue, a switch that is quickly apparent on the menu bar at the top of the screen.

Yosemite also gives you the option of using a dark menu bar and dock. To activate this feature, go to the General system preferences pane and click the box that says “Use dark menu bar and Dock.” This will darken the menu bar and render text in white. Menus are darkly translucent with white text, while the Dock’s background darkens as well. The change isn’t just aesthetic; it makes the menu bar and menus much more visible.

Spotlight, the Mac’s excellent search utility and application launcher, now opens a search box front and center instead of accepting input on the menu bar when you click on the magnifying lens icon. Search results are also positioned at the center of the screen where you can’t miss or ignore them.

The changes aren’t all cosmetic, of course.

A new feature that has received quite a bit of press is Continuity, which allows your Mac to connect with your iPhone or iPad. Handoff, another feature, gives you the ability to quickly pick up work from your iPhone or iPad. This might come in handy, say, if you’re composing an e-mail on your iPhone and decide you’d prefer to continue working on your Macbook instead. (Since I use an Android phone and don’t use an iPad, I wasn’t able to test either of these features.)

One improvement that I was able to test and immediately loved was the vastly improved Notification Center, which is still accessed by clicking on the top right corner of the menu bar. This time, however, the dropdown panel includes a new tab called “Today” that enables you to quickly view any appointments or reminders, or use any of the widgets you can pin to the panel—including a world clock, a weather indicator, a calculator and a stock price monitor.

Yosemite also now incorporates Apple’s iCloud online service more extensively. Finder, for example, includes your iCloud Drive, so you can save files directly to it from your applications or drag and drop files to it. In my case, Finder seemed stuck the first time I tried to access my iCloud Drive, but worked fine after a reboot.

The built-in Mail application also integrates more tightly with iCloud, with a feature called Mail Drop, which automatically uploads large attachments to iCloud. Recipients who do not use the Mac Mail program will get a download link to the file, which will be available for a month.

Yosemite also comes with new versions of iPhoto, iMovie, Keynote, Pages and Numbers, which can be downloaded separately from the App Store.

These changes are just the tip of the iceberg and make upgrading to Yosemite a no-brainer. Ordinarily, it is always better to run the latest version of an OS or program anyway because security updates and bug fixes are incorporated into these. In the case of Yosemite, the improvements, even at a glance, are well worth the time and effort.

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