Mac OS X Yosemite: 7 Key Features For IT And Developers

Yosemite For IT

Mac OS X Yosemite will be here this fall, and with it Apple delivers a host of new features that will improve productivity, particularly for people that also use an iOS device. While adjusting to the changes, user-effectiveness might dip temporarily. But the UI differences are among the most subtle of the new release; IT departments and developers should perhaps be focused on the new capabilities coming in, old stuff that's going out and where users are most likely to trip up.

Where Green Is Going

We don't mind changing our habits if it's for some greater good--say productivity, longer battery life, or whatever. But forcing everyone to change their ways for the sake of one person's preference is obnoxious. That's how we see changes to the Green Button, one-third of the red-yellow-green window-control trio also known as the Stoplight. In versions prior to Yosemite, pressing this button would automatically resize the window to fit its contents. The control for going to full-screen mode was the double-arrow button in the top-right corner. In Yosemite, the double-arrow (and its full-screen function) is moved to the Green Button, whose auto-sizing function is relegated to an option-click double-clicking the title bar (which previously would hide it).

Changes To iCloud

Apple is doing something remarkable (and really smart) with iCloud. For devices running Yosemite and iOS 8, the operating system can optimize local storage by automatically storing large files from photos, videos and other raw data formats in iCloud and keeping a low-resolution version on the device. During the installation, a prompt offers the option of upgrading the corresponding iCloud account to add the new capability, warning that devices not running the latest OS will be iCloud-disabled. The cautionary note here is to make sure that all devices in need of iCloud access are capable of running iOS 8 when it comes out this fall.


Apple's Spotlight search tool will broaden its reach beyond the local hard drives and servers to include websites, maps and Apple stores. After seeing the new results page, we can't help comparing it with Google Search, with a best-guess definition or web-page in a box at the right and text-based search results down the middle. The tool will still be invoked using Command-F from the Finder or Command-space from any app, but its search box and its results pop up front-and-center on the screen. Mac keyboard speedsters fear not: Spotlight will still be able to quickly launch apps by typing the first few letters.


Among the most significant changes will be to Notifications Center, the built-in messaging system introduced with Mac OS X Mountain Lion. In addition to messages from the system, calendar and social media sites, Notification Center will add a "Today" view like that of iOS, serving as a kind of daily planner. It can show a summary of events for today and tomorrow along with weather, stock quotes and other information from the outside world. Yosemite widgets gives solution providers a mechanism for delivering small apps or enhancing existing apps with custom functionality.

Integration With iOS 8

Yosemite will introduce far more integration between Mac OS X and iOS 8 devices than ever before. Foremost is iCloud Drive, which will employ a shared folder metaphor to keep files in sync across desktops, laptops and iOS devices. Other so-called Continuity features include the ability to remotely control an iPhone from a Mac to make and receive calls and text messages, and receive caller ID info; seamlessly connect and disconnect an iPhone via Bluetooth for web access; send SMS messages from iMessage on a Mac; and connect a Mac to iOS devices for direct file transfers without a network (more on that later).


Another major part of Continuity is Handoff, which (as the name implies) lets a task be handed off from one device to another. For example, if while editing a manuscript on the Mac there's an urgent need to catch a bus with only your iPhone, the handoff feature will permit the document to be opened and work resumed right where it left off. This feature works only with Yosemite and iOS 8 for users signed into iCloud with the same Apple ID on both devices. The Handoff also offers opportunities for solution providers, who can use the same Apple Handoff APIs the company used to build Keynote, Safari and other Handoff-compliant apps.


When Yosemite and iOS arrive, there will finally be a way to transfer files directly from a Mac to an iOS device and vice versa. And it will be done using AirDrop, the fantastic ad-hoc file transfer system in use on Macs since the 2010 introduction of Mac OS X Lion. In the past, this capability was limited to Mac-to-Mac and iOS-to-iOS transfers only. This feature removes the desktop-to-mobile barrier and makes it possible to form device-to-device connections without Bluetooth pairing and without a network of any kind.