9 things you'll get with the Mac OS X El Capitan upgrade

OS X El Capitan was released as a free upgrade Sept. 30, 2015.


Mac users can now download the new version of Apple's OS X, which comes with some nice tweaks to make organizing and multitasking easier, along with noticeable improvements in speed and responsiveness.

OS X El Capitan became available Wednesday as a free update for all Macs from 2009 or later and some models from 2007 and 2008. Those running OS X Yosemite or Mavericks can make the switch.

Here are a few of the differences you'll notice when you upgrade:

Clearer spaces

Apple streamlined Mission Control, which should be familiar to most Mac users, to improve navigation between the windows and apps you have open at one time. The new view arranges everything into a single layer, so it's easier to see. Drag a window to the top of the screen to move it into a new desktop, or "Space." Your various Spaces will appear like tabs at the top of the Mission Control screen, where you can switch between them.

Split screen

The new Split View feature places two app windows side-by-side in full screen mode. It automatically divides the screen in half, with a black vertical bar separating the app on the right from the app on the left. You can drag the bar one way or the other to allot more real estate to one app. The feature mirrors the split screen function introduced to mobile devices with the release of iOS 9 earlier this month.

The new Split View feature automatically positions two app windows side-by-side in full screen.

Quiet time

You know when one of your browser tabs starts playing a video and you can hear it but you can't figure out where the sounds is coming from? A neat little icon in Safari shows you which tab is making such a racket and lets you mute it with a quick click. Other Safari tweaks include the ability to pin sites that you use a lot so the tab is always in the same place and constantly refreshing, and streaming from the browser to your TV over Apple TV.

Smarter Spotlight searches

Adding onto changes in Yosemite that let Spotlight do some cursory web searching, in El Capitan you can use it to check stock quotes, weather, sports scores and more. The smarter Spotlight also understands natural language searches, like, "email from Mom" or, "photos from Australia" to pull up relevant results from your computer.

Photo filing

Speaking of pictures, the new Apple Photos app makes organizing your thousands of snaps easier by letting you sort your library by date or title, batch edit to add a location or label. Third party extensions add new editing functionalities.

Mail deliveries

Apple Mail gets some sprucing up, with the ability to open multiple emails at once in tabs -- another nod to better multitasking -- and Smart Suggestions that offer one-click adding of events and appointments to the calendar and new contacts to the address book. You can also swipe to mark messages as read or unread, or to delete them, the way you can on the mobile app.

New Notes and better Maps

An all-new Notes app lets you drag and drop photos, videos, text files and PDFs into notes. You can also share info like Safari links and map directions for quick and easy reminders. Maps also got a sprucing up, with better public transit info and the ability to send directions to your phone.

Performance upgrades

Apple says that its "Metal" graphics technology makes images and videos render 50 percent faster. CNET's Nate Ralph says that in his tests, switching between apps is noticeably (if not massively) more streamlined, emails load up faster and everything feels a little smoother.

  • Amanda Schupak

    Amanda Schupak is the science and technology editor at