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Hands on: OS X 10.10 Yosemite beta shows off a new look and features

Michael deAgonia | July 30, 2014
The beta of Apple's latest operating system, OS X 10.10 Yosemite, promises a sparkling new design and some very useful features.

Once you sign up — which is as easy as logging in with your AppleID — you're given a redemption code that can be used in the App Store. The Yosemite beta is a 5GB download. Installation is pretty straightforward and automated, once the initial legal pages are clicked through and accepted.

A new look and feel

First, Apple has changed the way OS X looks. Yosemite has adopted the design cues from iOS 7, meaning a brighter theme with a stronger focus on content. This is achieved by removing toolbar cruft, introducing flatter interface elements and adding a bit of translucency, emphasizing layering within apps and the system software.

Yosemite introduces flatter interface elements and adds a bit of translucency.

From the controls now found in the upper left of every window to new interface elements for updated apps, the design gives a more flattened look to each window, while the use of drop shadows and translucent elements gives the OS a sense of layering and depth.

The layering is even done on a per-window basis. For instance, Finder, Safari and Messaging now feature main windows with content that slides underneath the app toolbar when scrolling, while the colors of the content shine through the frosted toolbar. The translucent sections allow color — but not detail — to show through. The effect, which is sprinkled throughout the OS and apps, gives each Mac a personalized feel.

The system-wide font has changed from Lucina Grande to Helvetica Neue. The Dock has lost its faux-3D look and is back to a flat look not seen since the 2005 release of OS X 10.4 (Tiger).

If Yosemite's interface is too bright for your tastes, there is now a Dark Mode, which can be activated under the General System Preferences. Dark mode is not (yet?) as comprehensive as it could be; it doesn't change the look of the windows, only the menu bar, menus and Dock; the right-click menu and window toolbars retain their normal, lighter colors. Currently, when you enable the Dark mode, third-party menu items need to be updated to appear properly, a problem that hopefully will be sorted out by the time Yosemite is officially released.

Yosemite has updated the stoplight metaphor located on the upper left of every window: red to close, yellow to minimize and green to maximize. While the red and yellow buttons always worked as expected, the green button was always a bit of a crapshoot — one never knew the result it would yield. It was originally supposed to expand the window, but the results always seemed random, sometimes maximizing the window around content, and other times configuring a window size seemingly arbitrarily.


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