Thoughts on OS X Yosemite

I’ve taken much longer to write about OS X Yosemite than any other modern Mac operating system that I can remember. Part of the reason for the delay is that I’m quite taken with the new design and wanted to see if I like it over the long term, but I also think this is one of the most important OS X releases ever.

One of the biggest changes users will notice about OS X Yosemite is its redesigned interface. Honestly, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’ve loved everything about the new interface from the moment I turned on the computer I picked up from Apple after the WWDC keynote.

In fact, I liked it so much, I’ve been using it as my main machine since the week after WWDC.1 The system font is much easier to read—no, it’s actually a delight to read—so much so that I don’t really like going back to my older MacBook Air with OS X Mavericks.

Yosemite brings a level of crispness and cleanness to OS X that I don’t think has ever existed before. I was a bit worried about the transparencies in the apps themselves, but my worry was misplaced. Color transitions and movements underneath existing apps is done in such a way that it can be noticed, but it’s not distracting when you are focused on getting work done.

I know a lot of people were worried about the so-called “flat design” in Yosemite, and to be honest, so was I. I guess like a lot of people, I’m a bit protective of OS X—it’s like a member of the family and I want to see it treated well, protected even.

If Yosemite is any indication of what’s to come, Apple is treating OS X like royalty. I really do love the design overall, and I’m glad Apple chose to update the operating system like this.2

I feel the same way about Yosemite that I felt when I first saw iOS 7. A bit startled at first, but quickly taken with how clean the interface was. Shortly after, I found it difficult to work in iOS 6 because it was kind of ugly. That’s where I am with OS X Yosemite. I actually don’t like going back to my MacBook Air and Mavericks anymore.

OS X Yosemite continues Apple’s tradition of linking apps and data from its iOS counterpart, giving users a seamless experience between devices. In practical terms, that means that if you take a note, add a reminder, snap a picture or collect data in some other way, that data will be available across all of your devices. That is incredibly important.

It’s important for two reasons. First, Apple is giving users access to all of their data no matter where they are. We all want that, right? We don’t want to manually sync devices in order to get documents or data, it should just happen automatically, and it does. The second reason is that Apple is moving beyond the data and bringing the experience across devices. Also incredibly important.

Familiarity between devices for users can only be a good thing. You want users to be comfortable when moving from one device to another, so when they do change, they are able to pick right back up with what they were doing. And Apple built some of those things right into both operating systems.

I’m not going to talk about many of the upcoming features, because it’s not really fair to review beta software.3 However, there are two features that I want to mention to illustrate the point of iOS and OS X working together in new ways: Handoff and Instant Hotspot.

These are two ridiculously cool features that people will be using all the time:

Hotspot description from Apple:

No Wi‑Fi? No problem. Your Mac can automatically use the personal hotspot on your iPhone when they’re within range of each other.* No setup is required. Your iPhone will automatically appear in the Wi‑Fi menu on your Mac — just select it to turn on your hotspot. Your Mac even displays the signal strength and battery life of your iPhone. And you never have to take your iPhone out of your pocket or bag.


When your Mac and iOS devices are near each other, they can automatically pass whatever you’re doing from one device to another. Say you start writing a report on your Mac, but you want to continue on your iPad as you head to your meeting. Handoff lets you switch over and pick up instantly where you left off. Or maybe you start writing an email on your iPhone, but you want to finish it on your Mac. You can do that, too. Handoff works with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. And app developers can easily build Handoff into their apps.

Yes, those are exactly the types of features I want out my mobile and desktop operating systems. I want them to interact with each other when it benefits me, the user. The rest of the time, just sit in the background and wait—be aware, but wait.

Apple is moving the right way with OS X Yosemite. I couldn’t be more behind an OS X update if I was sitting in the company’s headquarters designing this myself. Apple focused on design choices that make sense, and added features that help users get things done.

Seems like a hard combination to beat.

  1. Of course, that was after testing my main apps to make sure they all worked. I don’t recommend people use beta software on their production machines. 

  2. I still think they went too far with Contacts. It’s just too stark. 

  3. I will say, this may be the most stable release of OS X beta I’ve ever used. Still, you can’t review beta software. 

  • imthedude

    Do you think it’s stable enough to use as a full-time OS now, certain program compatibility aside?

    Do you know if the auto hotspot thing relies on low power bluetooth on the machine end?

    • I’m running Yosemite on my main machine and, personally, I don’t think it is quite stable enough for most people just yet. I’d wait until at least the next beta.

      Yes, I believe it does need BLE on the machine for the auto personal hotspot to work.

      • mjtomlin

        I have an older Mac – it does not have BLE. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to buy a 3rd party USB dongle and make use of all the cool “proximity” features.

    • notquiteready

      Many (and I mean many) third party apps don’t work properly on Yosemite yet. If all you do is use a web browser and the stock apps, you’ll likely be happy with Yosemite.

      If you do anything more than that (MS Office, virtual machines, etc), you will be instantly angry.

      • jsd

        I use MS Office (not a lot, but I’ve launched it on Yosemite and it appeared to work). Parallels (virtual machine) works. My work VPN works. I actually haven’t found any app that just doesn’t work at all. There are a few graphical glitches in some app dialog boxes but it’s not terrible.

        • heretiq

          Ditto. I use Yosemite on my primary device — MBPr. I use Safari, Firefox, Opera, Keynote, Skitch, and Pixelmator on the Mac along with Parallels 9 / Windows 8.1 and Office and Exchange on the “PC” side. They all work very well. I’ll have 1-2 restarts each day, but I have never lost data. This is a very stable and reliable beta for me. But it is beta, so there is risk.

        • rb763

          Nice to know Parallels works but I have no doubt they will be using Yosemite as an excuse to push out another paid upgrade.

        • notquiteready

          VMWare Fusion doesn’t even open (probably has a restriction to prevent opening on unsupported versions of OS X). If you force it to open, it will run but hell breaks loose when you try to start a VM.

          Nice to know that Parallels works, but I’m not switching just for that.

          MS Office opens but performing many functions will cause the program to crash, presumably because MS uses their own interface hacks that likely clash with Yosemite’s new UI.

  • stsk

    I’m partial to the new feature “Handcuff”, which only works with a partner with a personal hotspot in range…

  • DanielSw

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about OSX Yosemite, Jim. I respect your opinion as a veteran Apple advocate and user. Your positive words make me all the more excited about Yosemite’s release.

    I also think Apple’s efforts to make the overall experience between iOS and OS X more consistent and intuitive are going in the right direction.

    Apple is taking good advantage of the opportunity it now has to better unify its overall product line so as to further enhance the general appeal of its unique ecosystem. The Apple team is stronger than ever and is making important incremental improvements in seemingly all areas.

  • RedMercury

    I gotta admit, I’m somewhat curious about the Hotspot thing.

    I still have my AT&T “Unlimited–for appropriate definitions of ‘Unlimited’–Plan” that I got back with my iPhone 3GS. So I don’t have AT&T’s plan that allows for a “personal hotspot.”

    I wonder if it will still work…

    • Alex

      I have unlimited with Verizon and can confirm that it works. iOS 8 beta 3 and Yosemite beta 3. iOS beta is definitely not stable though. Used second phone to test it. Still using Mavericks as main system as well.

  • rogifan

    I’m hoping iOS 9 brings with it some of OSX’s new design language. I think Yosemite looks less stark and a bit more polished than iOS 7/8. I’m sure Apple learned a lot and got a lot of feedback over iOS 7 and they probably didn’t have time to make many UI changes (outside of new features added) this year. Hopefully they come in iOS 9.

  • Looks like a great release. The Continuity stuff in particular looks brilliant.

    I’m a little concerned about parts of the design (albeit less so than iOS 7’s). I still don’t get why it helps me to see through the window I’m trying to look at. It may have been fixed in beta 2, but why do search fields in toolbars look like buttons? If we’re going for a simple, subtle design, who made buttons and dropdown arrows luminous blue rather than the understated white in Mavericks? What’s with the neon Finder folders?

    There’s a lot to like. But as a relatively new designer who’s learnt a lot from Apple and loves studying their UI details, I do miss some of the interface subtleties that seem to have been thrown out with the linen.

  • Phillip

    I think the look of Yosemite is way better than iOS7. It’s flatter not flat. I hope they move iOS in the direction of Yosemite.

  • Colin

    Am a little lost on the hotspot thing, I am typing this on my mac using my phones internet access now so this is not new? Have been doing this for a long time!

  • d18kv178

    I have to disagree:

    Yosemite UI is a nightmare come true.

    Just look at HyperCard – a database app that was popular in 80s. Looks like some button ideas came straight from there.

    Buttons in Yosemite look ridiculous and unappealing – and they don’t even look like clickable objects. They look like a mistake – or a silly joke for 5-year olds.

    • Alfred

      so completely agree with you. I absolutely hate the look of the os. The stamp image has too much detail for a small app and visually is quite messy looking, as is the text editor app icon. The quicktime icon as well looks to be from Windows, such corporate color choices. The very thin line that shows up in the dock separating the app icons from the folders is way too small and out of proportion to the rest of the UI. Aesthetically it just seems confused and sometime rather hideous.

    • Barath R

      The UI is the main reason I liked Mac OS X Mavericks, and it’s the main reason I totally dislike Yosemite. It looks really horrible. I don’t why everyone is going backwards in time with UI design ( They developed from flat 2D icons to solid 3D icons over the years, and now, they’re going back saying it’s aestheic design )

  • d18kv178

    With all the hype of “simplicity”, Apple added yet more annoying distractions and convulsions to the UI. For example, try to use a popup menu – every time you select a menu, users are now forced to watch an annoying convulsion added to the button.

    Same with using checkboxes and radio buttons.

    Dear Apple, some users just don’t want to be constantly force fed with your childish experimentations with “animations”. Thankfully, you let us disable some of them – like window zooming. Please let us disable ALL animations.

    What’s the point of making user experience WORSE for significant number of users?

  • d18kv178

    the new font is much harder to read. letters stick to each other.

  • JoJoGunn

    It’s the ugliest OS on the market, I believe.

  • graxspoo

    Wow, I have such the opposite reaction to this release. I don’t care about any of the new features, and I don’t like the new UI. I installed the preview and I couldn’t escape fast enough. But, I guess Apple and I are just headed in different directions. I don’t want to be shackled to their ecosystem, so iCloud features and iOS integration features are of no interest to me. I wish Apple was making Google Drive and Dropbox first class citizens, and creating open APIs that would work with Windows Phone and Android. This insular Apple-centric world they are building is claustrophobic. I want choice in the services applications and devices I use.

  • William Donelson

    My iMac is NOT A GODDAM PHONE.

  • Yteu ALddhy


  • tondeaf

    Translucence makes readability go away. Getting rid of skeumorphism takes us back to when it wasn’t possible.

    Major steps backwards in UI.

  • Grégoire

    I installed Yosemite a few days ago. This morning, I decided I had endured enough of the flat, neon colors, that look like I’m using Windows 3.x. I used Command-Option-R to wipe the ol’ hard drive, and go back to Mountain Lion.

    I have an i7 macbook with 8g of RAM, and I want a pleasing GUI to go with it. There’s really nothing I can’t do with Mountain Lion, and Yosemite merely complicates perfection anyway (do I really want my computer to interrupt me every time I get a telemarketing call?).

    I feel sorry for the legions of people who will foolishly choose to “upgrade” (if you can call it that) to this hideous monstrosity. preteens and old blind people will probably like the change. The rest of you likely won’t.

  • Joe Cassara

    I’ve been a Mac user since System 6 and developer since 8. Apple’s tagline for Yosemite is “Every bit as powerful as it looks”. I certainly hope not, because they’ve taken a gorgeous OS and turned it into a cartoon. The changes may not be on par with the complete lobotomy Microsoft gave Windows with 8, but I’m livid nonetheless.

    • UglyYosmite

      I jus

      • BadApple

        I just downloaded the official release. I decided to revert to Mavericks in 5 minutes. Ugliest OS ever. It feels like someone threw a bunch of furniture into a room a walked away. Distracting and looks like an unartistic child did it. I hope everyone raises he**. HORRIBLE UI DESIGN!

  • trrfx

    Yosemite’s UI seems like a joke. It’s so wrong in many ways. Transparency, neon-colored folder icons, white cut out “buttons” (which look plastered). Seems like change in iOS direction by all means necessary was the overarching principle behind this “development” (which in reality is a regression). Apple now too lets the marketing cycle dictate UI-engineering. Candid focus on user experience would have surely demanded much more time for such a leap towards a flat UI.

  • I hate the white buttons! Everything else looks very good. I’m sure they’ll get the stability worked out, but my wife’s macbook restarted without warning once already.

  • llenguaddicta

    Ugly anyway.

  • Annoyed

    It ugly and makes my interface look like a children’s program and a rip off of Windows. Change it back to the chic and stylish old OS.

  • Happymac Service

    Sorry, but are you blind, stupid, or both? How can you say that Yosemite and iOS 7 are beautiful and iOS 6 ugly? Both Yosemite and iOS 7/8 are a complete abomination to the good taste, they not only look awful, they perform awful too… lots of bugs, lots of problems! I have a new iPad Air 2 with that iOS 8 crap and 90% of the time and want to throw it by the window and return to my old iOS 6-based iPad.

    • Nicholas

      AMEN. Yosemite is about 3 steps back. It’s arguably the ugliest of all the variants of OS X and it hearkens back to the black-and-white days of the Mac UI, but without the simplicity or legibility in “Classic” OS.

  • Nicholas

    I think the UI is awful. I’ve been using Macs since my trusty SE/30 and this is one of the first times I actually disliked the changes Apple made. It’s HARDER to read, especially on non-retina machines. Even on my retina MBP 13″, I can barely see the close, minimize and fullscreen “stoplight” controls. The font hurts my eyes an everything looks washed out.