Seven subtle changes in OS X Yosemite

FinderIconYosemiteXApple’s new OS X Yosemite comes with a number of exciting new features, including integration with iOS 8 to send and receive voice and text chats, an new interface style that mimics the look of iOS 8 and iOS 8, better power management, and integration with online services. However, hidden in and around these augmentations are some subtle changes to Yosemite that might not pop out at you right away. Some of these might be useless, but others might be fun additions that you might enjoy.

About This Mac panel gone

Yosemite Apple menu

The new Apple menu shows App Store updates, and has removed Software Update.

If you have ever accessed the About This Mac panel to get a quick overview of information about your Mac, you will find Apple has done away with the classic panel and now shows the System Information summary window instead. This is arguably a better approach, and you might find yourself not missing the old About This Mac window much.

Software Update service moved

In Yosemite, Apple has moved the Software Update service from its classic place in the Apple menu, so you cannot simply go to this menu item to check for updates. Instead, you will need to access the new “About This Mac” window, where you will see a Software Update button.

App Store updates in the Apple menu

Instead of Software Updates, Apple now has an App Store option in the menu, that will take you to the app store when selected; however, it will also indicate whether or not any installed applications have updates available. If so, you can open the store to download and install them.

Dictation service in Accessibility

Apple has had a long-standing feature in OS X called “Speakable Items,” where you can hold a “listen” hotkey and then say specific commands to open items, close windows, and perform other actions. In Yosemite Apple has merged this with the Dictation service, so if you have enabled Dictation and activated it (by default through pressing the Fn key twice), you can use commands like “Select all” to highlight an entire body of text, or “Capitalize that” to make characters uppercase, among numerous other commands. These can be found by going to the Dictation section of the Accessibility system preferences, where you can see a standard set of commands or enable advanced commands, or even add your own.

New contrast modes

To aid people with some visual impairments, Apple has had options to change screen output contrast in the Accessibility system preferences, but these have somewhat uniformly washed out colors and could at times be as much a burden as an aid. While these still exist, in Yosemite there are new options for enhancing the look of the OS. These are the following:

  1. Differentiate Without Color, which uses shapes instead of color indicators for conveying status or progress information for various OS services.
  2. Increase Contrast, which gives a harder outline to buttons and text boxes, without changing the contrast of images presented on screen.
  3. Reduce transparency, which cuts out various transparency views such as the translucency of the menu bar and Dock.

Safari window URLs show directly in Activity Monitor

While in past versions of OS X you could hover over a Safari Web Process task in the Activity Monitor window to view a list of its hosted Web pages, identifying in this manner is a burden. You could help this by enabling the process ID for each Safari window in its title bar to help locate these processes in Activity Monitor; however, in Yosemite, instead of these processes being named Safari Web Process, they will be named after the Web pages hosting them. This allows you to quickly identify what Web content is causing problems, if any, and manage it accordingly.

Yosemite zoom button

The new Zoom button function will make windows fullscreen in programs that support this mode.

Zoom Buttons behavior changed

Apple’s omnipresent green “Zoom” button at the top-left of windows has always been a source of confusion for many Mac users, where its functions to generally resize windows to fit their content are sometimes repurposed, or might otherwise have content-specific tasks. In OS X Yosemite, Apple has changed this to by default trigger fullscreen mode, with the classic Zoom functions being accessed by holding the Option key. This appears to be an attempt to make its functions uniform; however, so far there are times when programs do not have fullscreen views, or which otherwise implement windows to access, so this change does throw another aspect of confusion at this button. However, soon it appears this button will take on a predominant full-screen function.

6 thoughts on “Seven subtle changes in OS X Yosemite

  1. MaX

    Resume song playback after quitting and re-opening iTunes 12?
    Possibility to select and copy the full contents of To, Cc and Bcc Fields in Mail 8?

    1. Phil Noguchi


      Wonderful article! I greatly appreciate these tips on the more subtle aspects of Yosemite. I find that using Reduce Transparency not only makes the Yosemite interface less confusing, but also seems to speed up the Finder quite a bit for some reason. Increase Contrast works wonders with Yosemite on a Retina screen.

      However, I have not been able to see what effect Differentiate Without Color actually has. Can you give an example to better illustrate its usage?

      Best regards,

      Phil Noguchi

  2. Chris

    Concerning Software Update – Here is a little tip that may help some:

    Navigate to /System/Library/CoreServices and drag ‘Software’ to the dock. Then it’s just a one click process to check for OS updates. I’ve been doing this for the past couple of releases and it’s pretty convenient.

    1. Jeff

      This is brilliant. I took it a step further and just dropped it into my Applications folder. Now I can just call it up with Alfred. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Kurt J. Meyer

    The “Reader” indicator button in the URL bar of Safari has changed to a not very evident little icon on the left side of the URL containing three and a half lines symbolizing a paragraph of text.

  4. Harvey Ito

    The READER icon is not always visible or accessible. Where does it go, when I use the “view” pulldown menu, “show reader” is only present about 25% of the time? What then?

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