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El Capitan's 5 biggest improvements

Michael deAgonia | June 22, 2015
When Apple execs took the stage last week for the company's annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), they covered a lot of ground -- discussing changes to iOS 9, updates to watchOS, details about the company's music-streaming plans and specifics about OS X 10.11, better known as El Capitan. All three platforms will see improvements focused on performance, privacy and refinements when they arrive later this year.

Perhaps the best feature in Safari is the way the browser will combat those annoying background tabs that auto-start video or audio. Safari lets you mute all sound from every tab within the Web address bar, and then goes one better by showing you which tab has the offending site and content. Smart.

A few more tidbits and tweaks

El Capitan is full of minor refinements that make the computer easier to use, but the one "advance" that is so drop-dead simple it could be considered brilliant involves something all of us do: When you lose your cursor, what do you do? Shake the mouse, right? In El Capitan, the mouse pointer responds to that by growing larger and more visible, making it easier to spot. It's the little things like this that can dramatically improve the user experience.

Another refinement that should make a big difference in overall performance is the addition of a technology that made its debut on iOS and is now making its way back to the Mac: Metal. A set of graphics APIs that take advantage of the CPU and GPU, Metal offers better performance than OpenGL. The built-in apps that come with El Capitan have already been rewritten to take advantage of Metal, but third-party apps need to be redone using the Metal APIs before you'll notice any difference. The result: Apple says graphics performance across the board is up to 50 percent faster while also being 40 percent more efficient.

There are other new features coming, of course, and all of them combine to offer iterative enhancements. After the major UI updates that arrived with Mavericks and Yosemite, taking a pause to polish OS X makes sense. Although it's not due out until the fall, you can sign up for access to public betas. (The first beta is expected next month.) And it's notable that El Capitan will work on the same hardware that runs Yosemite. So if you have an older system, you won't need to upgrade your hardware to get the new OS X.

 

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