OS X Yosemite—the tenth version of Apple's desktop operating system—gets its first update after a month of existence, with 10.10.1. The update addresses issues with Wi-Fi, email, Back to My Mac, and several other kinks and security concerns. Yosemite remains the most technically spectacular manifestation of Apple's desktop OS ever, and now it's better than ever. It's a free update for anyone using a Mac made in 2008 or later (and some 2007 models), but (of course) it works best with recent hardware. In our testing, Yosemite was blazingly fast on a MacBook Pro with a Retina display, and, unsurprisingly, a bit slow on a 2010 MacBook that's also sluggish with everything else.
Everything in the OS gets a consistent, cleaned-up, flattened look. New features like annotations and markup in Mail and Preview are slotted smoothly into familiar apps. Terrific Continuity features let you use your iPhone or iPad (running iOS 8.1.1 ) as an extension of your Mac. That means you can answer a phone call on your iPhone and continue the conversation using the mic and speakers on your Mac. Or you can start a mail message in OS X, then rush out the door with your iPad or iPhone and finish and send the same message from your iOS device.
Windows 8.1 is certainly no slouch as a fast, convenient desktop OS, but where Microsoft's OS struggles to jam together a tablet OS and a desktop OS into a single system—and ends up with two different browsers and other needless duplications—OS X gets it right by letting the desktop OS and the mobile OS each do what they do best, while letting them share and communicate in a completely new way.
As always with OS X upgrades, the learning curve for the new features is essentially nonexistent, but you'll need to learn one or two simple tricks to use the new Continuity features to their fullest. The visual design is, overall, a triumph of elegant efficiency—and the new look is spectacular on a Retina display—though I have mixed feelings about some aspects of the redesign and some minor doubts about a few new features. But there's no question that with Yosemite, OS X has again widened its lead over the competition as the world's best desktop operating system, and it remains our Editors' Choice.
Continuity and Handoff
First, the spectacular Continuity features—which, by the way, can be switched off in OS X's System Preferences and iOS's Settings if you don't want them. If your iPhone and Mac are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, and both are logged into the same iCloud account, you can answer the phone on your Mac. The phone and the Mac both ring (with the same ring tone), and a notification appears at the upper right of the OS X desktop. Click Accept to take the call, using the Mac's speakers and microphone. You can also click on a phone number in OS X (for example, in the Contacts app or on a webpage) and call it, using the Mac or your iPhone to talk and listen. A related feature lets you use your Mac to send and receive SMS text messages—the ones that appear in green on your phone because they're not part of the iCloud ecosystem.
Another Continuity feature is called Handoff. When you start writing an email message on your iPhone or iPad and it's on the same Wi-Fi network with your Mac, a Handoff icon will appear next to the OS X dock. Click on the icon, and finish the message on the Mac—it's been handed off from one device to the other.
You can also do the reverse. Start writing in OS X and a Handoff icon appears on your iOS lock screen. If you swipe the icon upward, you can continue writing the message on your iOS device. It took me a while to discover that I had to swipe the lock-screen icon upwards to make this work, but once you figure that out, you won't forget it. Handoff also works in every other OS X app where you'd expect it, including Safari (which opens to the same page you were using in other device), Contacts, Reminders, Maps, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and more.
One small limitation of Handoff is that if you start writing a text in the Messages app on one device and then switch to your other device and click the Handoff icon, the Messages app will switch to the same conversation you were in on the first device, but (unlike Handoff in Mail) the app won't display the text that you were typing on the first device.
One nifty feature for travelers is the ability to use your iPhone as an Internet hotspot. It shows up in Yosemite's list of available wireless networks like any other network—although you'll need to make sure that Bluetooth is enabled on your phone and Mac. I tested this on an iPhone with iOS 8.1 installed, and it took a couple of tries for the phone and MacBook to pair with other, but then it worked perfectly and surprisingly quickly. All the Handoff features, by the way, work only with Macs from 2012 or later (late 2013 for the MacBook Pro).