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Computers

Apple's Mac OS X El Capitan now available for download

The computer software makes common actions easier, such as letting users view two open windows at once with a split-view screen.

El Capitan streamlines the Apple experience. Karl Mondon/ZUMA Press/Corbis

Mac users don't have to wait any longer to update their software.

Apple on Wednesday released the latest version of its Mac OS X software, dubbed El Capitan, to users for free. Mac owners can download the update by going to the Mac App Store or by clicking this direct link.

The software has been available in public beta since July. It refines and streamlines the features in Apple's current Yosemite software. The company says El Capitan should make common actions easier for users. For example, people will be able to view two open windows at once with a split-view screen.

El Capitan also follows a trend of bringing successful features originally designed for Apple's mobile devices to its desktops and laptops as well. Some of the key new features included advancements for the Spotlight search function, allowing users to ask the software about the weather, for example, or to find stock prices and sports scores. The company also enhanced its search functions in apps like email, to help users find messages they hadn't yet responded to.

But one of the most important updates was performance. Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, said in June that apps now start faster and that a computer can switch between them more quickly, too.

After years of giving versions of OS X cat-related names (Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion), Apple in 2013 shifted to California-themed titles with OS X 10.9, aka Mavericks. Apple followed that up with OS X 10.10 Yosemite, at its 2014 developers conference and released the software for free last October.

Mac sales have been strong over the past several quarters, even as Apple's iPad sales have dropped and rivals have struggled. Apple sold 4.8 million computers in its fiscal third quarter, which ended in June, up from 4.4 million a year ago. By comparison, Gartner in July said worldwide PC shipments dropped 9.5 percent in the June quarter, the steepest decline since the third calendar quarter of 2013. The firm expects PC sales to fall 4.4 percent this year.