Upgrades that bring the future into focus
Here are some aspects of Yosemite and iOS 8 that pique the feeling of experiencing the future now — and even a few cases where the future needs to be held off.
Special to The Seattle Times
I’ve gone through many computer upgrades of all sorts, and I must admit that each one feels like touching the future.
Not only do you get to indulge in what’s new, you often see evidence of larger visions for how we interact with these devices that have become integral to so many people’s lives.
Over the past two months, Apple has released major updates to the operating systems that run the Mac (OS X Yosemite) and iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices (iOS 8). And this year, the larger vision is to make them all work better together (and roll in a host of improvements throughout).
In my last column I mentioned Handoff and the ability to receive and place phone calls on a Mac or iPad. Now that I’ve been using Yosemite and iOS 8 regularly, I want to share some other aspects that pique the feeling of experiencing the future now — and even a few cases where the future needs to be held off.
Today widgets in iOS 8: One point of having a computer in your pocket is to access information whenever and wherever you want. The Today screen — swipe down from the top of the screen — on iOS 7 was a nice start for quickly checking the weather and your day’s schedule, but iOS 8 opens that precious real estate to outside developers.
For example, when you need to split a lunch tab, the PCalc (pcalc.com) widget provides a calculator. PCalc costs $9.99, but the free PCalc Lite also includes the Today widget.
I also frequently check the widget for Dark Sky (darkskyapp.com), the wonderful weather app that forecasts rain. Other examples include widgets for quickly adding notes in Evernote (evernote.com) and viewing a full calendar using Fantastical (flexibits.com/fantastical).
Mail for iOS: I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time replying to email on my iPhone, but I do cull the daily fire hose of messages that arrive. The new version of Mail now has a “super-swipe” deletion shortcut.
In the Inbox (or any mailbox), you can swipe right-to-left on a message to view actions, such as Trash and Flag, without opening the message itself.
I’d gotten so accustomed to the two-step swipe-and-tap-Trash action that I was surprised one day when I swiped a little too enthusiastically and nuked the message. Just swipe further to the left and trash the message right away.
Mail has other neat tricks, like letting you set up a notification when someone replies to an email thread, swiping right to mark a message as read or unread, and saving an outgoing draft by dragging it to the bottom of the screen.
OS X Yosemite interface fixes: The most visible change to OS X is the new iOS-inspired look of Yosemite, and like any first revision of a redesign, there are some rough edges.
I understand that Apple wants to convey depth and space by making windows translucent, but I think it goes too far (and it seems to slow down my older 2010 MacBook Pro). To change this, open the System Preferences from the Dock or the Apple menu, click the Accessibility preference pane, and select the Reduce Transparency option.
You may also consider selecting the Increase Contrast option while you’re there; on non-Retina Macs, the interface often seems faint.
Show full address in Safari: Apple’s Web browser has received a visual change, too, including the decision to show only a site’s domain (like “seattletimes.com”) in the address bar instead of the full URL as the default.
To change it back, go to Preferences under the Safari menu, click the Advanced button, and enable the Show Full Website Address check box.
Rename Finder Items: OK, this isn’t a feature I use every day, but it’s still cool and worth pointing out. If you want to rename several files, you can now do it in the Finder instead of turning to an Automator action or a third-party utility (although the latter gives you more options).
Apple focuses on its big new features when focusing on Yosemite and iOS 8, of course, but I love uncovering little additions and fixes that impact how we use these devices every day.
Jeff Carlson writes the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to email@example.com. More Practical Mac columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.
About Practical Mac | Jeff Carlson
Mac owners, this is for you. Practical Mac explores Apple's new software offerings, hardware upgrades and more. Appears every other Saturday.