Skip to main content

Forget Windows! Mac OS X Yosemite is the update desktop users deserve

How to change your username on a Mac
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The last two years have been filled with much woe for desktop PC owners. Windows 8 was designed from the ground up with touch in mind, resulting in a compromised operating system that doesn’t properly serve the needs of desktops or tablets. Fortunately, there is an OS giving users exactly what they want – and its name is OS X Yosemite.

Mobile makes the desktop better

The rumors that leaked out prior to Yosemite’s reveal correctly guessed that the company would continue to change its desktop operating system with interface ideas inspired by iOS. This was a cause for concern, because what works on mobile often doesn’t work on the desktop, as Windows 8 so aptly demonstrated.

Apple, however, has deftly integrated mobile features with the desktop environment. Most shocking was the reveal of full SMS and voice call integration with OS X. Got an iPhone? Now all of your text messages and phone calls can be received on your desktop, too – and the integration works both ways. Want to call a number you see while browsing on your desktop? No need to pick up your phone! You can call directly from Safari. Skype has been trying for years to convince users that the PC can be used as a phone, but never succeeded. With a single announcement, Apple has accomplished what the now Microsoft-owned service never could.

Unlike Microsoft, however, Apple only borrows ideas that work.

Perhaps the most useful feature, though, is Handoff. Owners of iPhones and iPads can now instantly transition between a mobile device and a Mac. If you have a spreadsheet open on your desktop, for example, but you have to leave for a meeting, you can beam it from your Mac to your iPhone. And you can do the opposite when you return. This functionality extends to documents, Web pages, and more.

These two features are just the start of a long list of extras that build upon the strengths of iOS. The Notification Center, Spotlight, Safari, Email and Calendar all in some way integrate with or borrow ideas from Apple’s mobile devices, making the desktop stronger in the process.

Unlike Microsoft, however, Apple only borrows ideas that work. There’s still no sign of touchscreen integration, no fat, finger-friendly icons, and no replacement of the desktop itself. OS X Yosemite builds on the dominance of iOS, but doesn’t force desktop owners into changes they don’t want or need. That’s a strategy that offers the best of both worlds.

The cloud at your fingertips

This theme carries over to iCloud, where Apple has once again leveraged its expanding cloud services to provide interesting and accessible features. iCloud Drive, which allows automatic syncing of files between OS X, iOS and Windows devices, is the most useful. It’s effectively DropBox, except it comes baked into the operating system from the start.

Cloud storage isn’t new, of course. Microsoft has had SkyDrive, now called OneDrive, for some time. But the problem with OneDrive, as is the case with so much of Windows, is the interface. The default OneDrive app uses the Metro design, which doesn’t work well with a mouse. To enjoy the service on your desktop, you must download another app from Microsoft’s website which operates independently from the one supplied with Windows. If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is.

OneDrive also lacks the wide range of features that iCloud in OS X makes available. There’s no equivalent to iTunes Match, iCloud KeyChain, Photo Stream, or iCloud’s backup and restore features. Microsoft simply lacks the infrastructure and experience necessary to replicate any of this functionality in OneDrive or Windows.

Apple’s iCloud integration has become so important, in fact, that it’s starting to look like a pseudo operating system. You can’t use it to run apps, but you can use it to store data, exchange data, and communicate with others. The fact that Apple controls iCloud, OS X and iOS provides a level of integration no other operating system can match, and allows all three platforms to work together as if they really were a single OS.

The desktop is still the desktop

WWDC 2014 made it clear that OS X 10.10 is a major update which will provide a wide array of new features. Yet, it also made it clear that, for Apple, the desktop is still exactly that. The core user experience remains largely the same.

This approach stands in stark contrast to Windows, which has drastically altered the user experience over the last year and a half or so. Many desktop owners (and some laptop users, too) have protested against the disappearance of the Start Menu, and the need to enter the Metro interface to perform some tasks. While these complaints haven’t fallen on deaf ears, the subsequent updates to Windows 8 have restored features at a lazy pace.

Apple’s approach treats the desktop as the primary workspace, and utilizes it to maximum effect.

Consider, for example, a comparison between Windows Search and Spotlight. As of OS X Yosemite, these two features will do many of the same things. Both will pull search results from the Internet, both can find files or apps, and both can pull in location data when needed.

Yet, these features are accessed in drastically different ways. Windows Search has bound itself to a swipe-out interface on the right side of the screen, an approach that limits usable space and is jarring to desktop users. The new version of Spotlight, by contrast, will appear front and center, providing far more usable space. Spotlight also takes up only a portion of the desktop, giving users the chance to maneuver other windows and icons around it. Apple’s approach treats the desktop as the primary workspace, and utilizes it to maximum effect; Microsoft’s approach ignores it, and pretends that the PC is an over-sized tablet.


OS X Yosemite looks to be an impressive operating system that manages to blend the convenience and utility of mobile devices, with the productivity of the desktop. Switching between devices will become instantaneous and hassle-free – as long as you have an iPhone or iPad, of course. The level of device integration introduced at WWDC 2014 is unprecedented, and no other company is currently in a position to match it.

Yet, all of the new features added to OS X 10.10 are designed to complement, rather than replace the desktop experience that users have known for over a decade. This creates a perfect match of form and function. The feature set Apple offers is so compelling, that even I, a dedicated Windows user since the days of Windows 95, am considering a switch. Yosemite is every bit as compelling as Windows 8.1 is not.

If you asked me ten years if I thought OS X or Windows would provide a better environment for productivity, I’d have said Windows without question. But Microsoft’s strange path has reversed each company’s role. Now it’s Apple, not Microsoft, which treats the desktop with reverence.

Editors' Recommendations

Matthew S. Smith
Matthew S. Smith is the former Lead Editor, Reviews at Digital Trends. He previously guided the Products Team, which dives…
Is macOS more secure than Windows? This malware report has the answer
A person using a laptop with a set of code seen on the display.

It’s a long-held belief that Macs are less at risk of malware and viruses than Windows PCs, but how true is that? Well, a new report has shed some light on the situation -- and the results might surprise you.

According to threat research firm Elastic Security Labs, roughly 39% of all malware infections happen on Windows PCs. In good news for Apple fans, only 6% of breaches occurred on macOS, making Mac systems far less vulnerable than their Windows counterparts.

Read more
The one thing the next version of macOS needs to address
The MacBook Pro open on a wooden table.

Every year we get a new version of macOS, and that usually comes with an assortment of tweaks and features. But with the massive uptick in interest in generative AI, 2023 isn't like any other year in the world of tech.

Apple hasn't commented on or announced anything in response to tools like ChatGPT or Midjourney, making it one of the few big tech companies that haven't dipped their toe in yet. But WWDC 2023 is just around the corner, and rather than focus on all the iterative features Apple likely has in the works, generative AI will feel like the elephant in the room if it isn't addressed in macOS 14.

Read more
Own an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook? Install this critical update right now
IOS 16.4.1 UPDATE.

Apple has released software updates for iPhones and iPads that are light on features, but they are critically important from a security perspective. The updates — iOS 16.4.1 and iPadOS 16.4.1 — started rolling out on Friday, but you should install them on your iPhone and iPad as soon as possible to protect your devices from attacks.

In its official release note, Apple says the updates patch two security flaws that “may have been actively exploited.” Now, Apple doesn’t disclose security issues before conducting thorough research, both in-house and in collaboration with cybersecurity experts. In a nutshell, when Apple publicly announces a security flaw, and it comes with a “Critical Vulnerability” badge, you should grab the fix as soon as Apple makes them available.

Read more