Mac OS X Yosemite brings new design and Handoff feature for free this fall

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/ Updated: 13 August 2014 1:00 am BST

Editors' note: This piece was updated August 12 2014 with links to stories that take a closer look at the new features in Mac OS X Yosemite.

At the keynote for Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Craig Federighi took the stage to announce the next iteration of the Mac operating system, Mac OS X 10.10. Called "Yosemite", it's the second update to be named after a place in Apple's home state of California, after last year's Mavericks.

At this time we don't have an exact release date for Apple's latest operating system, but we do know that it's coming in the fall. We've had the chance to take a closer look at many of the new features in Yosemite in recent weeks. Check out new features in Spotlight search, Mail Drop and Markup, and the new Notifications features.

Design and notifications

Yosemite's bold new design is big on translucence and making search front and center. The windows and navigational elements, like the side bar, get translucent and dark, which gives the OS some edge. All of the icons are much flatter, moving the Mac OS X design scheme to be more inline with iOS 7.

Virtually every app, from the task bar to messages, shows this slick new design. Calendar, for example, gets a new look for the week view, as well as new details in a view of the day's events at a glance.

The notification menu gets a helping of widgets, and Spotlight brings in much more online and offline context now, which virtually replaces apps and Web browsing. Spotlight moves search front and center, responding in real time as you type.

Handoff, iCloud Drive, and more

Apple's new updates prioritise cloud sharing and ease of use. There are changes to iCloud Drive that clean up the pre-existing iCloud synchronization, adding in support for iOS as well as Windows, surprisingly. What Apple has done here is make iCloud behave more like other cloud services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Instead of just being able to share iOS and Mac documents, as iCloud did before, you'll now be able to save and access any file from iCloud Drive, regardless of platform.

AirDrop will also now work between iOS and the Mac...finally! You'll be able to share a file from an iPhone to someone nearby on a Mac, simply by dragging and dropping the file to the Mac user's icon.

A set of features Apple referred to as Continuity lets you start work on one device then "handoff" to another. You can start writing an email on your iPad and then switch over to your Mac. Your Mac automatically knows you were writing the email on a nearby device, and displays a notification in the lower left hand corner that lets you open the email straight away and continue writing from where you left off. Similarly, you could be working on a chart in Numbers on your Mac, then switch to your iPad, pull up from the notification in the lower left, and continue working on the chart on your iPad.

Tim Stevens/CNET

Ready to use your laptop as an extension of your phone? Continuity extends to your iPhone's calls and messages as well. When you receive a phone call on your iPhone, you'll be able to get caller ID and answer the call on your Mac as long as both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network.

When you answer the call, you'll be able to use your Mac as a speakerphone, a feature that Google users will recall you can do with Google Voice. Apple makes dialing and answering calls ubiquitous for all Yosemite users -- even from a Web page.

Changes to the Safari browser let you view all your tabs in stacks from a tab view page, subscribe to RSS feeds, and isolate one tab for private browsing while leaving the others be. The new menubar for Safari has been condensed to just one bar -- and looks really slim and elegant compared to earlier versions.

How about some changes to email? Not only can you send encrypted messages in the native app, you can also mark up your emails, annotate images, comment, and add a speech bubble. It's clip-art meets email. Even more exciting to us, is the ability to send attachments up to 5GB in size to friends whose email clients can't normally accept them. Mail Drop fixes this with a drag and a drop, transferring your attachments to the cloud. From there your recipient can download up to 5GB in attachments, where most email clients limit attachment sizes on their own. What about friends who use a different client? No problem -- they can grab the files from iCloud Drive through a download link.

We also got a sneak peek at the Photos app for Mac that comes out in 2015 where you'll be able to share photos across devices. Promised features include improved scrolling, the ability to pinch out to collections and years, and more editing features. You'll be able to share and edit photos across all of your Apple devices thanks to iCloud.

See CNET's complete coverage of Apple WWDC 2014.

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Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite

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