The latest version of OS X, named Yosemite, is due out later in the year. Meanwhile, as a registered Apple Developer, I am using a Beta of the release on my MacBook Pro. I therefore thought I’d give my initial impressions.

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Before I start, though, I should add that I’m definitely not an Apple fanboy. Indeed, I have computers running Windows and Chrome OS as well, and my phone and tablet are Android – I like to think of myself as “well rounded” 😉 What this also means is that some of the new functionality of Yosemite, mainly around syncronising with other Apple devices, will not, by nature, get a mention. And, let’s be honest, a lot of people will have MacBooks as their sole Apple device, so it’s worth seeing what you still get from the update.

It’s a shade over 5GB download and took about 20 minutes to install. That went smoothly with no hitches. After installing it prompts you to sign into iCloud, if you wish. This is to do with new links in the OS to do with iCloud Drive integration – Apple’s equivalent of Dropbox.

It also prompted to encrypt my drive. I’ve not been prompted to do this before (that I’m aware) so decided to do so. This was a mistake – FileVault is an existing application but, having your drive encrypted, prevents OS installations (which means you have to unencrypt your drive each time you want to update your OS). It takes some time to encrypt in the background and only once it’s done can you then switch it off (and then takes a while too) – I did this and I’m now back to how I was.

After adding an appropriate Mavericks wallpaper (no, this wasn’t default) I took the attached screenshot. Here I’ve tried to show a few of the changes to the UI, which I’ll now attempt to document…

  • The Lucida Grande font has been replaced by the more generic Helvetica font. I like it, but I think the decision is a bit “Marmitey”.
  • New system icons – they’re fine but I think the bars on the WiFi icon are too thin as it’s difficult to tell when it’s on or off.
  • New “flatter” design – the dock is a good example. The angle shelf that the icons sat on is now a flat rectangle. I miss not having a gap between the bottom of the screen and the dock – an added preference to move the dock from the edge would be good. Other than that, this design change extends to the icons themselves, for instance.
  • More mute colours. You can see this in the window buttons – the traditional coloured dots for minimising, etc.
  • Speaking of the window buttons, the green button now, if available, performs the full screen action. Previously an icon in the top right did this but this has now replaced the older green button function of “zoom”. The old zoom function can still be performed, though, by pressing the Option key at the same time.
  • Transparency effects – you can see this in drop-down windows, the dock and various other places. When opening up finder, the left hand section is slightly transparent too.

I’ll be honest here – these changes are very reminiscent of Windows 8 (with the exception of the transparency, which is very “Vista”). But that’s not a bad thing – this is a stylish design that even Android are in the process of adopting. It looks clean and modern.

Other changes include the Notification Center which opens up to a new “Today” panel, showing you anything that is relevant to the day. Spotlight now opens up in a window in the middle of the screen

During boot a status bar now appears showing you progress. I suspect Steve Jobs would have hated it as it’s additional “clutter” detracting from the simply white screen with the grey Apple logo.

But that’s mainly it. Most of Yosemite’s new features focus on “continuity”, increasing its integration with other Apple devices. For example, the Handoff functionality allows the operating system to integrate with iOS 8 devices over Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi – you can place and answer phone calls to and from an iPhone using your Mac as a speakerphone, send and receive text messages, activate personal hotspots, or load items being worked on in a mobile app (such as Mail drafts or Numbers spreadsheets) directly into their desktop equivalent.

Personally, I like the changes – it does give the ageing OS a fresh coat of paint and a much more modern look. Integration with further Apple devices are… meh… Apple continues to face stoically inward, rather than adding more universal features. But that’s Apple all over. All this means that for the non-Apple fanboy the number of new features that are usable are not particularly exhaustive. But, as with Mavericks, this will be a free update, so what’s not to like?