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Review: Apple shines up OS X with 'El Capitan'

Michael deAgonia | Oct. 1, 2015
In Mac OS X 10.11, most of the improvements are under the hood.

It's an elegant solution, one I like a lot, but it's not necessarily obvious to new users. Of course, it's also very similar to Microsoft's implementation in Windows 10.

Managing windows via Mission Control also received attention in El Capitan. Any window dragged to the title bar will activate Mission Control, which lets you move apps to different virtual desktops. Dragging an app window into any existing Space automatically places the window there; dragging the window into a Dpace occupied by a full screen app activates a split-screen view; and dragging a window to the upper right of the display creates a new Space with that window in it.

Spotlight, now with more Siri

Spotlight receives some really useful upgrades in El Capitan. Yes, you can move around the search field and results window; they're no longer locked in place at the center of your display. There's also added functionality in search results: Spotlight can check sports data (such as information about favorite athletes or scores, team schedules and standings); it can check weather conditions and forecasts; and when you search for a company's ticker symbol, it can look up stock prices.

The biggest improvement comes in the form of queries, similar to the ones you can ask Siri on iOS. Spotlight now supports natural language search, which generally means Spotlight is as useful as Siri, even though the searches have to be manually typed rather than spoken aloud as you would with an iPhone.

At the iPhone 6S launch event, Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, demonstrated this function by typing a search for emails from Phil Schiller that had been ignored. The search results showed unread messages from Schiller. I've used Spotlight to search for documents and videos created during certain time periods, as well as to search for New England Patriot game scores and standings.

There is one minor caveat: When you type a Spotlight search query, you can't press Enter; you have to wait for the results to display after you finish typing them in, even if that takes a while. While this is taking place, there's no obvious indicator that a search is in progress. It's a little annoying, because many users will be inclined to press the Enter key to make sure a search is in progress. That effectively selects the first result and closes the Spotlight search window. That could result in, say, an app launch you didn't intend. Big deal? No. Annoying? Usually.

For developers, Apple has designed a new API that can display search results of in-app content, which means better search results when developers incorporate this feature in their apps.

 

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