What you need to know about El Capitan


7 minute read
Alumni: Charlie Harman

Alumni: Charlie Harman

Marketing Manager

Mobile Technology

Announced at Apple’s WWDC 2015 back in June, El Capitan is the latest update to Apple’s Mac Operating System (OS X) and it’s available to the public as of 30th September 2015.

Update to El Capitan and you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing’s changed except your desktop background image. However, gone are the days of drastic OS X updates circa the great Leopard update of ‘07.

Instead of introducing reams of new features and dramatically changing the look, now it’s very much about tweaking and fine tuning the features that already exist. Which means you might not necessarily notice much at first. However, once you start to use your mac you’ll find that even the smallest and seemingly insignificant changes make a big difference.

See our following list for a breakdown of the main updates in El Capitan…


An update that illustrates our point about small changes and big differences; you are now able to move the spotlight window around your screen! No longer will you have a large annoying static window hiding the centre of your screen.

However, when you next open spotlight it will appear in the same place that you left it. The lack of continuity for some may be annoying, but if you find it that irritating you can return it to it’s original position by simply clicking and holding on the spotlight magnifying glass.

Split Screen

Speaking of hiding content behind screens, you can now use Split Screen to manage your windows. Perhaps one of the most useful things in El Capitan, you can now have windows open simultaneously. Just hold down the maximize window button and you’ll be able to share your screen with your current document and your choice of other app or window. For example; I’m typing this on the lefthand side of my monitor whilst looking at tweets about #ElCapitan on my right.


Whether you previously used an app such as BetterSnap to achieve the split screen effect, or you laboriously dragged and resized windows – having this feature within the OS makes this task infinitely easier.

Find Your Mouse

Great for some, annoying for others – but if you’re working with large, multiple monitors, losing your mouse is a frequent occurrence. Now all you need to do is shake your cursor and the mouse arrow will enlarge.

For any gamers or photoshoppers out there who could do without a huge mouse popping up every time you make a short burst of back and forth movement, don’t worry – you can disable it!

Mission Control

Mission Control received a bit of a makeover with El Capitan. It might look and act the same on the surface, but if you use a small laptop, you’re likely to appreciate the new key features.

No longer is your desktop a blur of windows stacked one on top of the other.  Instead, windows are arranged in a single layer, displaying in their approximate locations while minimising them enough to view them all. In addition, the Spaces Bar has been shrunk, only displaying Desktop and window names by default—revealing your full desktop windows on mouseover. It’s now easier than ever to see everything you have open on your Mac.

mission control

General Performance Tweaks

In general El Capitan just feels that little bit smoother – and that’s because it is! Things move faster and feel more responsive. This is mostly down to Metal, Apple’s ‘low -level framework for graphic intensive tasks’.

When it comes down to it, although subtle, this is likely the feature that you will appreciate most – and is probably what’s responsible for the multitude of tweets from people feeling like they have been given a brand new laptop.

Fonts & Text

Apple’s new OS X has waved goodbye to old faithful Helvetica Neue and adopted San Francisco as the new font. Depending on how much fonts mean to you, this may or may not be a big deal! Keyboards have also been improved for Chinese and Japanese language users.

New Features in Apps


El Capitan has introduced Pinned Sites for Safari. This means that you can keep your favourite sites permanently pinned in the top left hand corner of your toolbar; represented by small boxes containing the first letter of the website as unfortunately Safari doesn’t use favicons. 

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Mail’s El Capitan tweaks are mostly interface and search-related, though there’s a few infrastructure improvements, too, making your email inbox that bit more productive. Borrowing swipe gestures from iOS, you can swipe to trash an email, mark it as read or unread, and if you enjoy using Mail in full-screen mode, the new multitasking drafts mode has a tabbed interface and lets you hide in-progress messages while searching your Mailbox.

On the search front, Mail incorporates Spotlight’s natural language engine for simpler email searches. AND Mail now works more closely with your calendar, so when you get an email with an offer to meet up for drinks, the email will show an event banner under the subject line that lets you quickly add the event to your calendar.


Finally maps has a transit directions! When Apple removed google maps from their iOS, many missed the public transport information so ‘transit’ directions is a welcome addition. However, don’t celebrate too soon – for us Brits it’s currently only available in London.

ShapeItApp (4)


Photos for Mac arrived a few months ago, and is getting its first notable update with El Capitan. Photos now lets you apply third-party image editing extensions within the application, which helps you achieve far more with your images. You can also add and edit location information, along with other metadata, both individually and in batches.


With OS X El Capitan, the Mac’s Notes app gets a major upgrade. First off, your Notes are now all synced via iCloud, where you can view them on iCloud.com, any other Macs you own, or your iOS devices.

So, should I download it?

You always take some risks being an early adopter. There’s always quite a high chance you’ll encounter bugs and at the very worst it can delete work, or render certain apps on your machine useless; so caution is always advised.

Saying that however, we haven’t encountered any issues as of yet. From where we’re sitting, El Capitan is bringing nothing but good things to the user experience. But be warned, although we managed to complete the download in less than 30 mins – some users have been reporting download times of 2 hours +, so give yourself plenty of time if you do choose to update.

Whilst we have been writing this overview, we have also been keeping an eye on the twitter feeds so we can see how people over the world are getting on with the new OS and although the overall verdict is good, we have seen some complaints in reference to certain apps…

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So, wait for the first round of bug fixes if you want to stay on the safe side – but our experience of El Capitan has been a resounding success. As most people on the twittersphere have been commenting, the smoother subtle differences can make you feel like you have a brand new mac…

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