Why Apple's OS X Yosemite means business

wwdc 2014
Apple: changing the world one OS update at a time

Any suggestion Apple was prioritising iOS and resting on its laurels regarding OS X were blown out of the water at WWDC 2014's keynote.

The company unveiled OS X Yosemite, boasting a slew of new features, a revamped but still familiar design language, and plenty of opportunities for professionals who work with and create for Macs.

As ever, the aesthetic choices are likely to prove divisive, bar the much-requested 'dark' UI mode that's a boon for video editors and visual creatives; elsewhere, Apple's fixation with translucency is questionable from a legibility standpoint, and its obsession in maximising content viewports by shoving buttons in toolbars could make it fiddly to move windows.

Otherwise, efficiency was the watchword.

Do things faster

A clear pattern emerged as demos unveiled new features within OS X that would help people work smarter and faster, enabling more time to be spent concentrating on important things. Apple's tag-line of "do everyday things in extraordinary ways" seemed entirely appropriate.

Notification Center showcases this shift in thinking, transforming a rather throwaway stream of app notifications to a centralised at-a-glance overview of your day's events, reminders and weather, along with a succinct summary of what's happening tomorrow.

Widgets can be added from the App Store to customise this pane, enabling you to perform basic tasks rather than opening up a browser or app.

Spotlight re-jig

Spotlight has been entirely revamped, borrowing heavily from OS X productivity app Alfred. Again, the emphasis is on presenting information more clearly, smartly, and in-context. Rather than a huge list of files relating to a search string barrelling down from the menu bar, Spotlight now opens in the centre of the screen, and results are more intelligently curated.

When typing an app name, you'll see recent files and previews; when searching for more general information, you'll receive Wikipedia content, maps, and conversion results.

Even the less visible OS X changes have the potential to transform mundane tasks and make the Mac experience more streamlined for professional users.

iCloud Drive provides a more flexible means of accessing documents in Apple's cloud, enabling you to work across applications and organise files as you please; and MailDrop and MarkUp, respectively, bring the means to route massive attachments via Mail and annotation to emails, natively and intuitively.

Get connected

Perhaps the biggest productivity news regarding OS X Yosemite, however, is how it aims to provide a seamless experience across platforms. This is at odds with Apple's rivals, whose visions typically revolve around making a single device do everything; Apple instead recognises the value in varied form factors, but OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 will provide the means for devices to more harmoniously work together.

Pre-WWDC, many people were expecting a slightly greater degree of cooperation between Apple's platforms, most notably AirDrop working between devices; what no-one foresaw was the degree to which Apple wanted its hardware to work together. Devices will now recognise when they're near each other, providing unparalleled coherence and continuity.

Examples Apple demonstrated included making and receiving iPhone calls on the Mac, full integration of SMS within Messages, Instant Hotspot for rapidly connecting a Mac to a networked iOS device, and the audacious Handoff.

The last of those enables you to automatically pass work you're doing between devices, taking advantage of their relevant hardware and input methods, or purely because of mobility and environment. PCalc developer James Thomson told TechRadar this was the feature that really caught his eye during the keynote:

"That idea of moving tasks from iOS to Mac and back again was something I was already thinking about adding to my app, and having an OS mechanism to do it should make things much simpler."