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Hands-on with OS X Yosemite: Mac interface rebuilt for Retina

Jason Snell | June 17, 2014
For a few years there, it felt like major changes in OS X's look and behavior were imminent. The conventional wisdom during the Lion and Mountain Lion eras was that Apple had placed OS X on a collision course with iOS, and inevitably the two would come together to form...well, if not a single operating system, then two variations on a single theme.

There's also a fresh new face in OS X Yosemite — literally. The "Mac face" logo that has represented various portions of the Mac (originally Mac OS 8, most recently the Finder) for the last sixteen years, has been updated. The image (actually two faces, one with two eyes viewed face-on half comprised of the profile of a different face) still represents the Finder, but it's been tweaked. Farewell, old face, you served us well.

Finally, this breaking news from the System Preferences app: The compact fluorescent light bulb that represented the Energy Saver preference pane since 2008 is no more. After visiting The Container Store, Apple's OS X elves popped into The Home Depot and picked up an LED light bulb. (I assume Oscar the Grouch is still lamenting the loss of the incandescent bulb.)

Skin deep

The design changes in Yosemite are noticeable, but the system is still very recognizably OS X. Longtime Mac users' fears that the Mac was about to collide with iOS in some kind of crazy peanut butter-chocolate disaster have not been borne out. It's a forward-thinking design that looks better on Retina displays, pointing the way toward a high-resolution future for Mac users.

Some of the design decisions in this first developer release seem a little unfinished, which is fair enough — the OS itself is unfinished! I'd like to see more consistency when it comes to the way stoplight buttons and title bars are displayed, and I worry about the increased clutter and decrease in clickable areas for dragging windows. I'm also a bit concerned about the loss of window titles in apps where they impart real information. It'll be interesting to see how Apple designs its individual built-in apps, and what decisions third-party Mac developers make on this front.

But otherwise, there's a lot to like in Yosemite's design. Unless, perhaps, you're Oscar the Grouch.


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