How to get El Capitan features without upgrading to El Capitan

If you don't want to or can't upgrade to El Capitan, there's still a way to get some of its features, thanks to third-party apps.

el capitan split screen macbook 100595273 orig

Get El Capitan features without upgrading

With the release of the pubic beta, there’s been a lot of talk about El Capitan lately. And if you read our first look you may have seen a few new features that you really want. But not everyone can upgrade to El Capitan, beta or final version.

If you don’t want to or can’t upgrade to El Capitan, there’s still a way to get some of its features, thanks to the third-party apps in this slideshow. Get ready—in a few clicks, you’ll be able to call out your cursor and split your screen just like you can in El Capitan.

Got a suggestion for an app? Let us know in the comments.

simple mouse locator

Find My Cursor: Simple Mouse Locator

When you can’t find your cursor in El Capitan, just give your mouse or your finger on the trackpad a shake and the cursor grows bigger in order to catch your eye. It’s a small feature, but with bigger displays and people using multiple displays, it’s a welcomed feature.

Simple Mouse Locator (Mac App Store link; $1) doesn’t make your cursor bigger to locate it. Instead, it surrounds your cursor with a circle. You can also configure a hotkey, have the locator appear when you’re moving the cursor between screens on a multi-screen setup, customize the rings, and more.


Find My Cursor: Mouseposé

Mouseposé (Mac App Store link; $10) doesn’t enlarge your cursor, but it does call it out by dimming your screen and spotlighting it. If you’re balking at paying for the software, consider that it has several other features, like visual mouse clicks, keystroke visualization, and AppleScript and speech recognition support.


Split View: Split Screen

Think of El Capitan’s new Split View feature as a two-app version of full-screen view: two apps fill up the screen at the same time.

Split Screen (Mac App Store link; $7) can do the same thing. You select a window, press a keyboard combination that you configured in Split Screen, and then the window fills up half of the screen. Split Screen Pro ($15) takes it to the next level, with support for splitting the screen for three apps, dual monitor support, and more.


Notes: Evernote

Apple injected the Notes app with new features that make it more useful. But if you’re like me and you use Evernote, you’ll wonder why it took Apple so long.

The free version of Evernote lets you create checklists and you can easily configure the Share button in Safari and other apps to be able to save to Evernote. You can also save attachments to your notes, though Evernote doesn’t have a feature like Notes’s Attachments Browser—but Evernote has a Card View and Expanded Card View that displays your notes and icons, making it easy to spot images and other attachments. And it can sync to the cloud so you can access Evernote on your iOS devices or other Macs.

clear mac

Notes: Clear

One of the new features in El Capitan’s Notes is the ability to make a checklist. Clear (Mac App Store link; $10) is all about lists, and it does a good job at it. If you use a trackpad, you can use Clear’s gesture support to manage your lists—and it works just as well if you use a mouse.

Clear has a unique and colorful interface and you can set reminders for important to-do tasks. Clear has iOS apps ($5) that can sync with the Mac version through iCloud.

notability mac

Notes: Notability

If you rather have a note taking app that allows for freeform writing, try Notability (Mac App Store link; $6). It’s actually a very different app from EL Capitan’s Notes or a feature-filled app like Evernote.

You can type your text into Notability, but if you have a stylus and tablet, you can write by hand or even draw. Images and PDFs can be imported, and Notability also supports audio recordings. The app can also sync via iCloud so you can access your notes in Notability’s iOS app ($4).

google maps transit

Transit info: Google Maps

Wha-what? A Google product! Well, yeah. Google Maps has transit information, which is a new feature in El Capitan’s Maps—but the first public beta doesn’t provide transit info for many cities. In fact, your city may not even be included when El Capitan is finalized in the fall.

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