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OS X Yosemite public beta: What you need to know

Dan Moren and Dan Frakes | July 24, 2014
The Yosemite public beta marks the first time a major new version of OS X has been available to users before it's formally released. We've got answers to your questions about the beta program.

However, you can discuss any information that Apple has publicly disclosed; the company says that information is no longer considered confidential.

Okay, I've been accepted to the beta program (or I'm considering signing up). Should I install the public beta?
Users of beta versions of OS X have traditionally been developers who wanted to test their software on the new OS before release or people testing the OS itself for compatibility with other apps, services, and IT systems. And, of course, there have always been bleeding-edge early adopters who just want to see what all the fuss is about. This, however, is the first time Apple has officially made beta versions of a major OS X upgrade available to "normal" users. But just because you can, should you?

It's ultimately up to you, but there are a few factors to take into account. As we mentioned, beta software is by definition unfinished, which means that you could run into bugs or flaws that significantly impede your day-to-day activities--and, in the worst-case scenario, could result in data loss.

And some touted Yosemite features simply won't be accessible during the beta period. For example, many Continuity features require iOS devices running iOS 8, which isn't part of the OS X Beta Program. And Apple recommends that end users don't activate iCloud Drive under Yosemite until iOS 8 is released.

But even if you're okay with these risks and limitations, you may want to consider whether you're ready to be a good beta tester. (See the next item.)

Do I have to do anything special to be a beta tester? How can I be a good tester?
Apple doesn't have any formal requirements for beta testing, but remember that the purpose of the beta program is to provide Apple with feedback about the upcoming OS. So if you install the Yosemite beta and come across bugs or other problems, you should report those issues to Apple using the Feedback Assistant app included with the beta OS.

Apple is also looking for feedback on specific features and the OS as a whole. If you've ever thought, "I wish I had a way to let Apple know what I [like/dislike/love/despise] about this feature," this is your chance--before the OS is even released.

All of this means that taking the time to provide detailed, actionable feedback is vital. For example, a good beta tester does more than file a report that says "Contacts crashes." You'll instead want to explain exactly what you were doing when you saw that crash. If the steps are reproducible, even better: "Whenever I try to add more than three phone numbers to a contact, the Contacts app crashes" is useful feedback.


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