I have been using the latest OS on my MacBook Air for about a week now, and in general I really like it. Not Earth shaking, but solid, and the improvements really add up to a better experience all around.
The UI – briefly
The first thing that you notice is the flat visuals. Bowing to the contemporary design trends, the windows, the visuals, and all the other decorations are devoid of shading, gradients, or any other visual eye candy. Naturally all the skeuomorphic bits are long gone. Neither good nor bad.
Of course, with it comes a new typeface for the UI, Helvetica Neue replacing the long time OS-X typeface Lucida Grande. Unlike a lot of geeks on Slashdot who wailed like they were having their hands lopped off, I don’t really mind. In fact, with such a large change of the UI, it would seem de rigueur to go all the way.
Of course, these changes alter the look and feel to better mimic the experience on iOS 8. So it is not a surprise that many of the changes are to applications that will help unify the experience.
Icloud is no longer just a nebulous place to store files that are automagically shared with all the apple applications, but now a iCloud drive that you can navigate and access. It behaves much like Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive. I haven’t installed the iCloud extensions to my work laptop (it is forbidden by policy) so I can’t test whether it is a cross platform solution, but one must assume that it is. Apple here took their time, and edged into this functionality, presumably so they could learn from the missteps of their competitors.
FileVault by default
When you first install the OS Update, you are prompted to turn on the FileVault disk encryptions. This is new, in the past it was something that the user had to navigate to and turn on. Hence virtually nobody but the paranoid took advantage of this (I never have felt the need).
Now that it is a default, and in your face option, I am sure that adoption will be nearly universal, much to the dismay of the three letter agencies who prefer to not have to get a court order to force you to turn over your encryption keys.
Filevault seems pretty good, it takes about 20 minutes to enable and encrypt all the files on my MacBook Air (256G SSD about 1/3 full). I really can’t notice any degradation of performance, so it seems like a win.
There is a mailing alias I am a member of that specializes on OS-X (how 1990’s) and the guru’s all are satisfied with FileVault, so I am too.
The Messages application has full integration with iOS 8 devices. That means that if you have an iPhone, an iPad, and have linked it to your Apple account, you can send instant messages, SMS messages, and even talk on the phone via the Messages application. Way cool stuff.
Yes, you can kinda do this in Windowsland, with Skype, google hangouts/Voice, or other applications, but it always feels like it is bolted on. Here it just works without thinking about it.
Alas, the mail application seems to be still broken pretty good in its integration with Google’s gmail products. Alas, the deleting and management of the imap integration with Gmail is still wonky. So I use the web interface.
Some think this is because of the 2 factor authentication, but I think it goes back further. A couple of years ago, something broke (not sure if it was Apple or if it was Google) and the Mail application hasn’t worked well.
I do use it to get my (lightly used) yahoo mail, hotmail, and apple icloud mail, and for that volume it is ok. I suspect that for my two main email accounts, a plain Gmail account, and my personal domain, both using Google for mail handling, I will use other applications or the web interface.
Music – iTunes
With a new version of OS-X comes a new version of iTunes. This one is a jarring change, but welcome nonetheless. iTunes had been on a trajectory of being cruftified for a decade. The past couple of iterations have reduced that to some degree, but not perfectly. This new version finally gets a lot right.
Of course, the main benefit, and the reason I use it at all is the integration with the iCloud Music Match. Genius, I have one Mac (my macbook pro that is for all intents and purposes chained to a desk) that has all my music (some 160gb of it) all sync’d through the music match.
My Macbook Air, and my work laptop have iTunes installed, and I have access to all 25K tracks in my collection via streaming, so no longer do I have to try to keep all my music folders sync’d, and neither do I need to dedicate a shedload of disk (or chip) space to mirroring it. Brilliant.
Of course, I still have my Spotify premium account, and I do use that, as the selection is pretty awesome, and I can explore pretty easily.
I am a long time Chrome user. It is lightweight, it is fast, and it gives a very consistent experience across platforms.
Naturally, with the installation of Yosemite, Apple prompts me to “try” the new safari. Heck, it even grabbed all my Chrome bookmarks so I would feel at home.
Why not play around with it. My perceptions are:
- It is fast. Probably as fast or faster than Chrome. Not too surprising, as Chrome started pretty lean, but now Google has been layering it with add on crap for a long time, since it is the main interface for their Chromebooks, it has begun to feel a little bloated (like Firefox when I abandoned it for Chrome).
- The UI is simple and clean. Not much to distract you.
- It renders cleanly. Safari always had some irregularities with some common sites. Nothing catastrophic, but it was just weird. In almost a week, I haven’t found anything odd.
- The password storage. If you have an icloud account, it will play password manager. It will create unique, complex passwords, and sync them between your mac, and ios devices. Pretty cool, but alas, I am a cross platform guy, so I use 1Password by AgileBits and it works awesome. I really need to turn off the password bit though, as the competing password managers makes browsing awkward.
Having been an OS-X user since 10.1, I am happy to say that as with most updates the refinement, the usability and the integration improves at each step. There is nothing earth shaking, and contrary to what the geeks will exclaim that Apple is ruining OS-X by getting it closer to iOS, this really increases seamless integration with the full Apple ecosystem.
I am sure there are much more, but these are my observations after a week.
All in all a worthy free upgrade, and one that definitely makes my MacBook Air a joy to use.