What’s New In OS X 10.11 “El Capitan”? (And How to Try it Yourself)

Tim Brookes 13-06-2015

You should know the drill by now: every year Apple announces new desktop operating system WWDC '15: Everything You Need to Know About Apple's Event in One Place This year's WWDC didn't disappoint, with new versions of iOS, OS X and watchOS announced among a range of new features, surprise developments and updates to old technology. Read More in June, and by the end of October, it’ll be ready for us all to play with. The latest release takes its name from the iconic Yosemite vertical rockface, El Capitan.


While the changes don’t seem that big on the surface, there’s a lot going on under the hood that could make this incremental upgrade one of the most significant to date. Here’s what Apple is adding to OS X in October.

Improved Performance

El Capitan is an incremental upgrade rather than a major release (that was Yosemite, with its new flat UI and bold colors What's New In OS X 10.10 "Yosemite"? OS X is evolving both in terms of looks and features, and just like last year's Mavericks update, Yosemite will be another free download. Read More ). Most features added by Apple are improvements of past technologies, and that should mean a smoother, more pleasant user experience in general.

Apple is throwing some numbers around to back this up, like the fact that apps now apparently launch 1.4 times faster than in Yosemite, that switching apps and displaying messages in Mail are twice as fast as before, and that PDFs now open at four times the speed in Preview.

What's New In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"? (And How to Try it Yourself) elcapitanspeedup

These may seem like meaningless numbers attached to mundane tasks, but if performance has picked up similarly elsewhere, it’s possible you’ll notice a performance increase this time round. That’s rare because it’s commonly accepted that each upgrade introduces features which generally slow your computer down.


Another area where performance is set to soar is with Apple’s implementation of their console-level core graphics technology, Metal. The company is touting a 40-50 percent increase in system-level graphics rendering, which could seriously improve Yosemite’s occasionally laggy performance. A 10x increase in draw call performance (the time it takes the hardware to draw an object called by the graphics API) should improve gaming performance Why You Should Avoid Buying Games From the Mac App Store The Mac App Store doesn't hold a candle to the same store used by iPhone and iPad users to guzzle apps, games and in-app purchases. Read More too.

Better Window Management

When your desktop becomes cluttered, your workflow becomes inefficient. Apple has taken a leaf straight from Microsoft’s book and finally added an “aero-snap How To Get Aero Shake, Aero Peek & Aero Snap Features In Vista & XP Read More ” feature of its own which allows you to pin two windows side-by-side just like iOS 9’s new Split View mode.

In fact, it’s called Split View here too, and it allows you to grab an app, drag it to the top of the screen and then position it alongside another app without creating mess. The division in the center can be altered depending on the app you’re using, so you can set up Safari with a small TextEdit window for notes or check off songs on a Reminders list while you add them to your iPhone in iTunes.

What's New In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"? (And How to Try it Yourself) osxsplitview


Mission Control itself has also been revamped, with a new view that places each window on a single layer, without any stacking or overlapping. In fact, you don’t even need to head to Mission Control to organise your spaces 7 Good Habits Every Mac User Should Get Used To Today we're going to share our favourite good Mac habits, while desperately trying to forget the bad ones. Read More any more — just grab the window, head to the top of the screen and wait for the desktop organiser interface to pop-up.

Last of all, while it’s not a window management feature it’s bound to be useful — shaking your mouse from side to side will now cause it to swell to giant proportions so you can easily find it, particularly handy if you use lots of monitors.

A Better Spotlight

Spotlight was overhauled during last year’s major revamp of OS X, and this year it’s getting smarter still with the addition of natural language. That means you can talk to Spotlight as you would Siri, by typing as you would speak. It should allow you to issue commands like: “Pages document I worked on yesterday about iOS 9,” or “emails from Jackson last week.”

What's New In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"? (And How to Try it Yourself) elcapitanspotlight


Spotlight also adds some new sources of information Add Superpowers To Spotlight With This Unofficial Plugin System Bring Google, Wolfram Alpha, the weather and just about anything else to Spotlight. Read More , including the weather conditions and forecast, stock prices, sports news like scores, fixtures and league tables and web videos from sources like YouTube.

Improved Apps

Apple hasn’t introduced any brand new apps to El Capitan’s included software, but it has made some large changes to existing apps. Most of these changes are designed to complement the improved window management tools, with the introduction of Split View opening up a world of productivity options to users.

What's New In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"? (And How to Try it Yourself) mailelcapitan

Mail in particular has seen some changes, starting with an improved full-screen mode (which is good because it’s currently a bit useless). Also new are iOS-style prompts that check your incoming mail for phone numbers or calendar invites and offer to add them to your contacts or schedule. Another feature ported from iOS is the ability to swipe horizontally on a mail message to quickly mark an email read or unread (swipe right) or to delete an email quickly (swipe left).


Tying in with the iOS 9 revamp, Notes gets a big overhaul and can now handle to-do checklists and note attachments too. This allows you to pin photos, videos, documents, audio recordings, web addresses and even locations to a note. It’s not quite Evernote, but it’s a big step up and it syncs for free with all your other Apple devices over iCloud.

What's New In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"? (And How to Try it Yourself) elcapitannotes

Apple’s Safari web browser gets a few small tweaks including the ability to pin and mute individual tabs, two features that most other browsers have by now. It’s also possible to use AirPlay with web video now, which means rather than mirroring your entire screen you can choose just to share the embedded video with your Apple TV instead.

In other, less interesting changes, Maps gets mass transit information allowing you to get more accurate walking, subway, train, bus and even ferry directions in cities like London, Berlin and New York (with more set to be added) along with an easier way of sharing the route you just planned on your Mac with your iPhone.

What's New In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"? (And How to Try it Yourself) elcapitanmaps

Photos is probably the least interesting app to receive an update, adding third party editing tools (like filters and effects) and a long-awaited “sort by date” feature but probably not fixing the fact that you can’t easily edit your originals with an external editor any more.

New Fonts & Better Unicode Support

El Capitan comes with a few new fonts, and sees the system-wide font change to San Francisco, developed for use on the Apple Watch to be highly readable at a glance. If you’re bilingual or learning Chinese or Japanese you’ll also see improvements to El Capitan’s handling of these character-based languages.

What's New In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"? (And How to Try it Yourself) elcapitanchinese

Chinese users will see the new Ping Fang font and find that whether they use simplified or traditional Chinese the OS will better remember word choice, includes an enhanced prediction engine and provides access to frequently updated vocabulary lists. Inputting characters via the trackpad has also been improved, allowing for multiple characters in a row.

Japanese input has also been dramatically improved, with enhanced vocabulary and language engine that automatically transforms Hiragana into written Japanese as it is typed; and four new fonts.

Try It Out For Yourself

If you’d like to try out the pre-release for yourself, OS X has a public beta program. Simply head to Apple’s Beta Software Program and sign in with your Apple ID and you’ll be notified how to participate in the beta. Remember that beta software is unfinished and buggy, so it might not be the best idea to install the beta on your main work machine.

What are you most looking forward to from the new version of OS X?

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Anonymous
    September 17, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    running the latest El capitan, c-Dock don't work at all , disk utility has been changed and they took out two useful parts where it really makes it pretty much useless, it sucks, got the new carbon copy cloner and that works great, better than ever

  2. Anonymous
    June 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Hoping they'll fix the VPN issue, worked great in Mavericks, but not at all in Yosemite...

  3. Anonymous
    June 16, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    Just wondering what features apple will be removing with the release of El Capitan, lately we lose more than we gain. Extremely Underwhelming.

  4. Anonymous
    June 15, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    The best improvement they could make would be: Make it possible to consistently login into the App Store without the "Cannot connect to the App Store" error.

  5. Anonymous
    June 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Form myself the "aero snap" feature would be the best addition to OS X 10.11.

  6. Anonymous
    June 14, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Good to see the 4x improvement in opening PDF's with Preview. The change from Mavericks to Yosemite resulted in a 4x-6x slowdown in opening PDF's. So this will bring the performance back to what it was.

  7. Anonymous
    June 13, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    El Capitan? What happened to the cats.

  8. Anonymous
    June 13, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    I think I will use Notes app again.

  9. Anonymous
    June 13, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Going to try upgrading to beta today. What about the actual look of the OS, any major differences from Yosemite?