Read This Before You Install El Capitan

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #144

El Capitan (aka Mac OS X version 10.11) came out last week, but I’ve been working on OS X El Capitan For Dummies all summer, so I’ve been using it daily for months. I upgraded both of my Macs to the release version last week and I’m happy to report that both upgrades were as smooth as silk; in less than an hour I had both machines back at work without a single hiccup.

Which was a refreshing change from previous OS X releases, at least for me. Since I rely on more applications and utilities than most people, and operating system updates are notorious for breaking apps and utilities, I’m tickled that El Capitan is the first OS X release in recent memory that didn’t break at least one app or utility I can’t live without.

To be fair, it broke Default Folder X, a utility I like a lot… But I can live without it until a compatible version arrives (which will be, “as soon as possible,” according to the developer).

But... while my upgrade went smoothly, yours may not. So before I say another word about El Capitan, here’s my advice (which is the same advice I give you every year): You might want to wait for the inevitable point release (i.e. version 10.11.01), just in case. I have not heard of any major issues with the first release, but if history has shown us anything, it's that:

  • El Capitan version 10.11.01 will be along RealSoonNow™.


  • ​El Capitan version 10.11.01 will squash at least a few bugs.

Moving right along, when you do decide to upgrade, you should first make two complete backups of your boot disk. Next, test the disks before you upgrade, just in case. Finally, remember to leave plenty of time for troubleshooting, (say it with me), just in case.

Now, here are a few things you’re going to love about El Capitan when you install it:

As you know, El Capitan eschews flashy new features. Sure it’s got a new Split View, improved Spotlight searching, an overhauled Notes application, pinned tabs in Safari, and gestures in Mail, to name just a few. 

But since most of El Capitan’s improvements are under the hood, the big news is that El Capitan makes your Mac feels zippier overall, with many apps launching faster and feeling snappier. And the big surprise, at least for me, is that El Capitan has been more stable on both Macs so far than Yosemite ever was. I’ve yet to endure a single application or system crash, nor have I been forced to Force Quit an app yet. That’s impressive, especially for a point-zero release.      

And frankly, most of the visible new features don't do much for me personally. I have a 24-inch display connected to my MacBook Pro; with that much screen real estate, I don’t have much use for full-screen or split-screen modes, or Mission Control for that matter. The only time I use either is when I travel without my big screen, so while both Full/Split-screen and Mission Control are improved in El Capitan, they still don’t float my boat. As before, I don't expect I'll use them much unless I'm on the road. 

Spotlight searches, on the other hand, I use all the time and I love that natural language queries work (sometimes). But the best new Spotlight feature for me is that the Spotlight window is (finally) movable and resizable. What can I say? I have simple needs and a moveable and resizable Spotlight window was among them...  

OK, now for the big reveal: My very favorite new feature in El Capitan is the new “find your cursor” gesture. I’ve always used third-party utilities like Mouse Locator or Mouseposé to find my cursor in the million-plus-pixel mess on my displays. With El Capitan, however,  I merely wiggle my mouse (or my finger on the trackpad) and the cursor enlarges so I can easily find it on my screens. That’s progress (and one less utility I have to run in the background).

Mousepose (left), El Capitan* (center), Mouse Locator (right)
*The El Capitan cursor is simulated since none of my utilities could capture it...

And that’s all he wrote…