Eight useful hidden improvements in OS X 10.11 ‘El Capitan’

ElCapitanIconXDuring Yesterday’s keynote presentation on the upcoming OS X El Capitan, Apple’s Craig Federighi outlined a number of the new features of the upcoming release of OS X. In particular he focused on new window management approaches, and Spotlight searches, as well as some performance improvements with the optimized “Metal” API. However, there are a few additional improvements in OS X 10.11 noted that Federighi did not discuss, but which might be quite beneficial.

1. File copy resume

One frustration with the current OS X Finder is that copying files from one location to another is an all-or-nothing experience. If you are copying a massive selection and one file fails because it is “in use” or otherwise unavailable, then the entire copy will be cancelled. The same goes if you lose a connection or your system goes to sleep in the middle of a copy action. With a resume feature for this, the copy process will be cached as it proceeds, so that if such problems arise, the system can pick up where it left off instead of requiring you perform the copy again from the beginning.

2. Copy file path in Finder

There are a number of reasons why you might need to get the current folder’s path, and there are a few cleaver scripts, uses of drag-and-drop, and other implementations that allow you quick access to this information in current versions of OS X; however, Apple is apparently tackling this with a contextual menu option that should give you quick access to a file or folder’s full path. If you currently need this, then you likely have already implemented a solution of your own; however, moving forward OS X should require less customization to give you this option.

3. Redesigned Disk Utility

One of the staple programs in OS X has been Disk Utility; however, it has run into some limitations as Apple has added new filesystem features to OS X, namely encryption and extra drive logic with Core Storage (now the default setup in OS X Yosemite and later). To address this, we are going to get an all-new Disk Utility, that should give us better tools for managing CoreStorage, and setting up our drives.

4. New service extensions

With Yosemite, Apple implemented an extensions interface that allows you to access special services in programs that do not support them, and as a first-go, implemented the Markup extension that allows you to quickly edit PDFs and images directly in Mail. This is being augmented with new extensions for managing both shared links as well as quickly editing photos for cropping, color and contrast adjustments, and other quick details before sending them off or saving them.

5. File and folder rename in the contextual menu

If you have regularly used OS X, you will know that highlighting a file and pressing Enter will allow you to edit its name. You can also do this by clicking the file’s name once and keeping your mouse over the name for a split second or two. However, these approaches may not be the most intuitive, so Apple is adding this to the file’s contextual menu. This may allow for batch-renaming of multiple files, but at least will give a new option for renaming individual ones.

6. Auto-hiding menu bars

When you enter Full Screen, OS X will hide the Dock and Menu bars; however, you otherwise will only be able to hide the Dock. This means that the menu bar still occupies a sliver of screen real estate, albeit small, that could otherwise be put to use when not in full-screen mode. As with the Dock, the hiding menu bar will give you a quick way to make full use of your Mac’s screen.

7. Improved autofill

Autofill is undoubtedly nice, but there are times when it makes mistakes or does not include all possible information you have, still requiring you to edit your forms before submitting them. While Apple has not gone into details about this feature, it will hopefully require less double-checking. Nevertheless, for important information it may still be good to take the time to ensure it is correct, regardless of how intelligent OS X becomes.

8. New color picker

When you choose colors for fonts, shapes, and other details in OS X, you get a small floating panel that contains various preset colors, or slider combinations for adjusting the color you want. While useful, unfortunately this is a somewhat antiquated interface that does not flow well with OS X’s progressive interface tweaks. In El Capitan, we will get an all-new color picker that should hopefully give the same options, but with an optimized and perhaps more usable interface.

24 thoughts on “Eight useful hidden improvements in OS X 10.11 ‘El Capitan’

  1. Bill B

    I also wish they would provide a preference to change the default sound. Unfortunately the Calendar app is not as versetile as BusyCal, which I had to buy because I couldn’t live with Calendar app in its present form.

  2. deemery

    I was very disappointed that stability and bugfixes weren’t announced as the #1 priority for this release. That makes me wonder if Apple is listening!

    Calendar and Mail both need stability/”work as intended” improvements. Preview and other Apple apps need to restore the “old style” File menu functionality (e.g. “Save as”) And both OS X and OS X Server need attention on WiFi and networking.

    Finally, new bells-and-whistles should not be enabled by default, particularly when they either substantially change user interface behavior, or when they cause internet traffic. (No, I do NOT want Spotlight to search the Internet for me by default, and there should be an easy way to tell Spotlight to mind its own business and not snoop on where Safari takes me.)

  3. Scott_E.

    (Part 1 of 4)

    I sincerely hope that the Finder gets some serious attention.

    — Dragging an app into a folder that already has the same app (for example, when replacing an old app with a newer version), the Finder announces that TWO items are being copied. Forgive me for thinking that a single icon (regardless of whether the app is a “package” or not) is not a single item. In previous OS’s that was exactly the case. But Yosemite seems to think that an app is 2 items. FAIL.

  4. MaX

    Improved Apple Mail?
    Return of scrollbar arrows for windows?
    Return of full color labels instead of useless tiny color dots for Finder items?
    Return of click top left green dot to enlarge within window instead of full screen (not Option-click)?

    Apple, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

    1. Ric

      Yes – I wholeheartedly agree! Those stupid little dots really don’t make life easy when working with a large number of files in a dropbox folder. I used to heavily rely on being able to use a traffic light labelling system to show which files i had sent to my client, and the colour labels provided a perfect ‘at a glance’ workflow.

      Now i’m finding that squinting at the dots is driving me mad as they are right next to the Dropbox ‘tick’ symbol. I know that there are a few paid for finder add-ons that can supposedly re-instate this function, but I am reluctant to mess with this as I am always aware that the next OS update could cause conflicts.

      Even if they moved the tag dots to the left of the file name it would be a huge improvement.

  5. Scott_E.

    (Part 2 of 4)

    — How about even MORE intelligent file & folder copying. Like identifying individual items as newer or older when dragging a bunch of stuff from one location to another. At this point, the only way to be alerted about specific newness or oldness is to drag one item at a time.

    — How about respecting column width settings in List view. If I want the Name column to be a certain width, then DON”T AUTO-RESIZE the Name field when I widen or narrow the window. Incredibly frustrating!!! This ridiculous behavior started in 10.9, and continues in 10.10.

  6. Scott_E.

    (Part 3 of 4)

    — Bring back the option to colorize the entire row when applying a label. The colored dot may be fine for some people, but most folks I know HATE that Apple took away the row coloring.

    — Give users the option to colorize the items in the SideBar. Omnipresent Gray_everywhere is a sad triumph of style over substance.

    1. Robert W. Schaaf

      But “Labels” don’t exist anymore. They’re now “Tags”, and you can have multiple tags on the same item. The Finder will show multiple dots, each of its own color. How would that translate to coloring the entire line in list view?

    2. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

      I whole-heartedly agree with these, and have probably bored Topher to death banging the drum about the Finder sidebar. Unfortunately, Apple rarely listens to users, especially regarding their own heavy handed and poorly though-out design decisions, which have shit-canned usability ever since Lion. This trend only got worse in Yosemite, which flattened everything and reduced element contrast almost to zero.

      As for the features mentioned by Topher, most are, indeed, very long in the tooth and long overdue for an upgrade. I hope, however, that Apple doesn’t take away more than they add, especially with the Color Picker. I use a number of extensions to expand the functionality of the CP. Rather than blocking these, Apple should adopt them.

      As for file and folder renaming, what good will adding the function to the Contextual Menu be if it does not add batch rename? Otherwise, changing names in the usual way (as I’ve been doing since Mac OS 7) will still be the easiest way to do it. Or, as many of us do now, we’ll continue to use a third-party utility like Name Mangler to rename groups of files. Not that I expect the feature in the Contextual Menu to be as flexible and powerful as Name Mangler, but a basic batch rename would do just fine in many cases.

      File Copy Resume would be a great improvement, and not at all a minor one. As it is now, you’ve got to go to the bleeping Console log to find the file that stopped the copy process. God forbid that the copy error message should include any useful information.

      And, while they’re updating Disk Utility, they could add functionality to include at least some of the volume rebuild power of Disk Warrior and TechTool Pro. As it is now, too many problems fly under Disk Utility’s radar – or cannot be fixed without third-party tools.

      And Copy File Path is a no-brainer that’s been available in Windows almost from the beginning.

      These changes would be a good beginning. But, as others have remarked, there are other long standing problems that need solving. These need to be addressed along with any enhancements, however useful.

  7. Scott_E.

    (Part 4 of 4)

    — Give users the option to have the maximize/green button NOT go to full-screen mode, but instead behave like prior OS’s in that the window will attempt to intelligently fill to encompass all items, and a second click will revert the window to its previous dimensions.

    — Make the hidden SideBar more obvious. I hate having to explain to newbie users that the hidden SideBar can be grabbed with the mouse, but only if they are *very* precise with their cursor.

  8. Krioni

    “5. File and folder rename in the contextual menu”

    This already exists in Yosemite. Is it getting new/additional features?

    1. Lilli

      Updated to El Capitan today and some apps (like safari and messages) won’t allow icon changes via the previous “get info” copy and paste route. It’s part of “rootless,” a new security measure from Apple. -.- However, a few other apps (pages, numbers, keynote) still allow icon changes. A few other users said disabling rootless in terminal brings back the ability to change icons, but it didn’t work for me. Really, OS X customization is disappearing to match iOS 9.

  9. shdwmage

    Welcome to the PC world from Windows 95 days for quite a few of these. (Besides like the color picker, disk utility (though MS has something similar) and service extensions (maybe)). Don’t get me wrong, its not that they aren’t great improvements. They just aren’t really that impressive. Its something they should have done a long time ago.

  10. sheam

    DAMN!! Bring back the label-colors!!!
    (it shouldn’t be such a problem to have a label-color AND this unuseful tags togehter….?!)

    1. Topher Kessler Post author

      Finder tags should give the same function as the classic labels, and more. Granted Apple has changed how the tag colors are displayed, but the dots (as opposed to full icon highlighting) do allow for representation of multiple colors per item, as opposed to just one.

      1. sheam

        yes, i know.. but what would be wrong to have a label-color (which highlights the full icon -> much more findable o first sight on a list) AND additional the tags (for those wo use them).
        Ther could be dots at the end of the icon in combination with a general label-color…….

        in our office we all hate this tiny-mini-dots. they’re just too small.

  11. Roger

    The new disk utility is a train wreck – heavy on bling and light on usability.
    We now have a circle instead of a rectangle – on a multi-partiton disk there is no way of knowing which is the first partition. Turns out the the right side of the circle (2 equal partitions) is the first partition. If there are more than two, the partitions line up on the disk clockwise around the circle – really? Who knew. Contrast this to the previous version where the partition order was visually obvious.
    There is no way to provide a precise value for a partition. You might think that the presence of the “Size” field meant that you could tweak the size – no, changing the value in the Size field creates a new partition: WTF!
    It has bugs – I could not erase and partition an existing drive and had to resort to the previous disk utility to get the job done.
    Gone is the ability to securely delete: either free space or the entire partition – you must now use Terminal to do that. Apparently no regular user cares about security.
    The dumbing-down of OS X as a result of iOS “integration” continues to reduce usability – Apple has lost it’s way: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3053406/how-apple-is-giving-design-a-bad-name
    Apple continues to spiral down in terms of UI/UX, and software engineering

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