Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan is the next version of OS X, succeeding Yosemite. Apple previewed the new version of the Mac operating system alongside iOS 9 at the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday 8 June. It then released a public beta of the new operating system, so a lot of people were able to try it out. However, despite the beta programme there were still issues with OS X El Capitan when it launched, many of which we address in this article.
El Capitan is available to download from the Mac App Store – as are the updates to the operating system: OS X 10.11.3 offers numerous bug fixes over the previous versions.
If you’re in the mood for more El Cap goodness, here are our top tips for OS X El Capitan and How El Capitan compares to Yosemite.
OS X El Capitan updates: 10.11.4 Beta now available
Please note at the time of writing 10.11.4 is currently in Beta; therefore you might experience problems whilst using the potentially non-stable version.
On 11 January 2016 Apple released its preview release of 10.11.4 as a developer build and public beta. You can join the Beta Software Program through Apple’s website, where you’ll then be able to download the latest 10.11.4 update through the Software Update section on the App Store. Read next: How to join Apple’s OS X El Capitan Beta Seed Program.
If you’re a developer you’ll be able to download the update through the dedicated download found on Apple’s site. Sign up to the developer program if you’re not already a member.
Unlike 10.11.3, the 10.11.4 beta adds a new feature over the previous build by giving you the ability to view and share Live Photos through Messages. This small but useful update will now allow you to view your Live Photos as you do on iMessage after capturing them on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Previously, Live Photos caused problems when being viewed or shared on a Mac, where at times audio and video would be lost.
(For those that aren’t familiar with Live Photos, it’s a new iPhone feature that, when enabled, captures a brief video clip just before and just after each still photo you take. As of February 2016, Live Photos can only be taken with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus but can be viewed on any device that’s running iOS 9 or OS X El Capitan.)
Read next: How to partition your Mac | How to update to OS X El Capitan | Dual-boot Yosemite and El Capitan on a Mac
What’s the difference between the Public vs Developer Preview of El Capitan?
The public beta is not the same as the beta being released though the developer program. It is likely that developers will receive more frequent updates including new features not in the public beta.
Can I talk about the beta publicly?
There is a licence agreement all beta testers must agree to and it specifies that the El Capitan beta is “Apple confidential information”. If you accept Apple’s terms – and you must in order to partake in the beta programme – you agree not to discuss your use of the software with anyone who isn’t also in the programme.
So you can’t “blog, post screen shots, tweet, or publicly post information about the public beta software”.
However, you can discuss any information that Apple has publicly disclosed; the company says that information is no longer considered confidential.
OS X El Capitan updates: 10.11.3 now available
Apple released its latest stable update on 19 January 2016, which is available to download as a standalone update (6.19GB download size), as an update from El Capitan 10.11.2 (662.38MB download size), as a Combo update from any El Capitan 10.11 version (1.47GB download size). You are also able to directly download from your Mac by opening System Preferences > App Store, and then selecting ‘Install OS X updates’.
The latest stable El Capitan 10.11.3 update “improves the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac”. The update addresses the issue of some users previously being unable to wake their Mac computers from sleep, whilst being connected to certain 4K displays.
Enterprise users will also be able to retain their third-party .pkg file receipts, which will be stored and saved in /var/db/receipts when upgrading from OS X Yosemite.
Finally the update also includes a security update for the operating system and Safari 9.0.3. More information about the security updates can be found on Apple’s website.
The update is therefore centred on bug fixes rather than adding new features.
OS X El Capitan updates: 10.11.2 now available
OS X El Capitan 10.11.2 has now been updated to 10.11.3. See above.
There’s a new update to El Capitan available on the Mac App Store.
OS X 10.11.2 El Capitan includes improvements to Wi-Fi reliability, Handoff and Airdrop, solves an issue with Bluetooth devices disconnecting, and fixes an issue with the way Mail and Exchange interact, it also fixes an issue that prevented photos importing from an iPhone to a Mac, according to Apple’s release notes.
You will be able to update to the latest version of El Capitan, if your Mac isn’t set to do so automatically, by visiting the Mac App Store, locating El Capitan ( here) and downloading and installing the update.
If you would prefer the Mac to update itself as and when required, open System Preferences > App Store, and select Install OS X updates under Automatically check for updates. You can also choose to Automatically download apps purchased on your other Macs that use your App Store log in.
OS X El Capitan updates: 10.11.1 now available
OS X El Capitan 10.11.2 has now been updated to 10.11.3.
Apple released the first update to OS X El Capitan on 21 October. The company says that OS X El Capitan Update 10.11.1 improves stability, compatibility and security.
Most crucially for users of Microsoft Office 2016 the update is said to improve compatibility – hopefully fixing the issues many users of that suite have been experiencing. Read more about the issues with Microsoft Office below.
The update also fixes issues in Mail, including one related to the outgoing server and an issue that prevented display of messages and mailboxes in that program. The issues with Mail are also addressed below.
There’s also a fix for an issue preventing some Audio Unit plug-ins from functioning, and improved VoiceOver reliability.
The update also fixes problems with the installation process, according to Apple, which is good news considering just how many people have had issues installing El Capitan, with people complaining that the Mac would get stuck on a grey screen during the installation.
And finally, more than 150 new emoji characters arrive in this update.
The update requires a restart and weighs in at 1.19GB.
OS X 10.11.1 had been with beta testers since 14 October.
OS X El Capitan issues, problems and fixes
As is the case with any operating system from Apple (last year was no different with the launch of Yosemite) it appears that there are a number of issues with the operating system. Below we address some of these issues, many of which are now said to be fixed by the above updates. Note: We’ve left the previous issues below in case you want to know if they been patched by Apple (or by another company).
Microsoft Office for Mac issues in El Capitan: Patched in 10.11.1
If you have been having with your Outlook email since updating to OS X El Capitan you may not be alone. Some Mac users have found that there email is no longer syncing properly in Outlook, with the email crashing when it tries to sync with the server, as a result users are unable to read messages unless they access their email via the web. The issues seem to be down to a bug in OS X El Capitan, and the issue is being experiences by users of Office for Mac 2011.
Luckily there is an update to Office 2011 now available from the Microsoft Download Centre. The update is v14.5.6 and apparently it addresses the Outlook issue.
However, there are also similar compatibility issues between Office for Mac 2016 and El Capitan. Microsoft has acknowledged these issues but has announced that it would not release a fix for the crashes, shifting the blame to Apple.
An Office 2016 update released on 13 October did not include a fix for the issue; Microsoft claims that its customers will have to wait until Apple releases the next update to OS X El Capitan. Microsoft says that it is working with Apple to resolve the issue. That update arrived on 21 October, as mentioned above.
It appears that the issues with Microsoft Office 2016 were known of prior to the release of El Capitan at the end of September, with beta testers flagging the bug back in July. A thread on Microsoft’s support site stretches to more than 400 separate posts about the issue.
While the issue mostly concerns Outlook 2016, some users have experienced issues with the other Office apps, although in many cases it appears that an Outlook crash triggered the behaviour in the other apps.
Office for Mac users may also be disappointed to learn that the new Split View feature in El Capitan is not supported in the Office apps.
The update to El Capitan, OS X 10.11.1, includes a compatibility update that should address the Office 2016 issue.
Issues with Mail in El Capitan: Patched in 10.11.1
It’s not only Outlook that suffered from the El Capitan introduction. Following installation of El Capitan some users experienced issues with the Apple Mail application including a bug that prevents messages and mailboxes appearing in the app.
It is possible that the reason for this issue is that El Capitan has changed the way OS X handles incoming emails and if your setting conflict with this the app may freeze when it connects to the server.
The update to El Capitan, OS X 10.11.1, includes a fix for this issue. If you still have problems you could try deleting the email account in preferences, and then creating a new account with the same information to see if that fixes the issue.
Google Docs no longer working in Safari in El Capitan: Patched by Google in late 2015
We’ve discovered that our Google Docs can no longer be updated in Safari. Luckily it is possible to update them in other web browsers.
El Capitan breaks UK keyboard – no more £ key
A few days ago when we went to type a £ sign our keyboard typed the hash sign.
Immediately we were suspicious that the keyboard had changed from British English to American English, and when we checked in System Preferences > Keyboards we could see we were right.
It turns out that this is a bug in El Capitan although we hadn’t noticed the behaviour until 20 October and it only happened on our work Mac, not the Mac we use at home. Very strange.
To fix it we opened System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources and added the British Keyboard by clicking on the + sign.
Issues with iBooks in El Capitan
Following installation of El Capitan some people have found that their iBooks disappeared.
On opening iBooks a message would appear saying that iBooks cannot access your library.
Luckily there is a fix, if this has happened to you.
First try logging out of the iBooks store via the Store menu, and then log back in.
If that doesn’t work you could try Deauthorize and then Re-authorize iBooks on your Mac.
Now if you quit iBooks and then relaunch the app you should see you iBooks.
If the books are still no there, MacIssues recommends the following steps:
Quit iBooks > Hold down the Alt key and choose Library from the Go menu in the Finder > Open the Containers folder > Move the folder called com.apple.iBooksX to your Desktop > Move the folder called com.apple.BKAgentService to your Desktop > Open iBooks.
This should restore your book purchases, but if you have more issues the MacIssues article offers some further solutions.
Spotlight not indexing since El Capitan installation
Since updating to El Capitan some user have found that Spotlight is slow to respond. This is likely because Spotlight’s index has become corrupt during the installation and Apple’s search tool is reindexing the Mac.
If you want to speed up the indexing process you can deselect some of the things Spotlight might index. Go to System Preferences > Spotlight and choose Search Results. Here you can pick what Spotlight indexes.
El Capitan Battery Life issues
Some Mac laptop users are finding that battery life is suffering following the installation of El Capitan.
The battery life issues might be related to Spotlight reindexing, especially if you experience them soon after the installation.
Split View not working in El Capitan
Users of the Apple Support Forum have been complaining that El Capitan’s Split View is not working for them. Split View should allow a user to place two windows side-by-side in full screen mode.
If this is the case for you, the best fix is to go to System Preferences > Mission Control, Select ‘Display have separate space’ then reboot the Mac.
This should allow you to use Split View.
Slow Mac since El Capitan installation
A quick look on Apple’s support forums suggests that some users are finding that their Macs have slowed following the upgrade to El Capitan. Others are finding that apps are freezing and requiring them to force quit.
Printing problems in El Capitan
Some users are experiencing problems with printing since installing El Capitan, specifically landscape PDFs in Preview.
If this happens to you try going to System Preferences > Printers & Scanners and select Print. Then click on the printer you require and select Reset Printing System. Restart your Mac and turn the printer on and off again.
Issues with iTunes in El Capitan
Some people are posting on Apple’s forums about an issue with iTunes.
Posts suggest that the application is freezing on start-up and also that when it does work it can take “about 5 minutes” to find music folders.
WiFi connectivity issues in El Capitan: Presumably Patched in 10.11.2
There are reports of people having WiFi issues in El Capitan.
OS X Daily suggests that the best fix is to delete the current WiFi preferences and create a new network location with DNS settings. They explain how to do this here.
OS X El Capitan feature summary
When Apple unveiled the software in July it confirmed that the new version of OS X would build on the strengths of Yosemite with “real refinements”. What that really means is that with this release Apple is focusing on performance and introducing only a handful of new features.
That’s not to say that there are no new features for Mac users to enjoy. There will be tweaks to the interface, new full-screen views, changes to the way you arrange all the windows on your desktop, a smarter Spotlight that can recognize natural language (and be moved around your desktop), and changes to the Mail, Safari, Notes and Photos apps.
Our favourite new feature might just be the new way to find your cursor – just shake your mouse, or wiggle your finger on the trackpad, as we all do, but doing so will now make the curser grow in size momentarily.
The performance improvements will mean that your Mac should feel faster, for example, opening your first email message will be two times faster, according to Apple, and PDFs will open four times faster.
That’s a very quick summary of what to expect from OS X El Capitan. In this article we will look more closely at all of the new features and also how you can get hold of the beta of El Capitan now. Here are our top features coming in OS X El Capitan
How to download El Capitan
We have a detailed article about how to install El Capitan here.
Alternatively, here’s a video demonstrating how to download and install El Capitan:
How to revert back to Yosemite from El Capitan
Luckily you can revert to an earlier version of OS X, though depending on how you back up, it’s not necessarily a painless process.
Start by making sure the data on your drive is backed up, then erase the drive and install Yosemite. When you first startup Yosemite you can use the OS X Migration Assistant to import your data from the backup.
If you install El Capitan and then think you made a mistake, here’s How to remove El Capitan and revert to Yosemite
OS X El Capitan system requirements
If your Mac was able to run Mavericks or Yosemite it will be able to run El Capitan. Those supported Macs include:
- iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
- MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
- MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
- Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
- MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
- Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
- Xserve (Early 2009)
All of those Macs feature a 64-bit CPU. You’ll also need about 6GB of space to be available for the install (so make sure you have more room than that or you may encounter issues).
Find out if your Mac is supported by clicking on the Apple logo in the top left of your screen, and selecting About this Mac > Overview. There you will see details of which Mac you have, and the year that model first appeared.
When Apple announced that El Capitan would have the same system requirements as Yosemite and Mavericks it confirmed that the next version of OS X would actually offer improved performance on the older hardware.
OS X El Capitan: why that name?
Because it’s building on OS X Yosemite, Apple felt that the new operating system should take the name of something within the Yosemite National Park, so OS X 10.11 will be known as El Capitan.
This follows the convention started with Snow Leopard. When Snow Leopard was introduced, it was a successor to Leopard, with security enhancements and system fixes (sound familiar?).
El Capitan is the name of a rock formation in the Yosemite National Park. Its sheer granite face is said to be one of the world’s most challenging for rock climbers. El Capitán means the captain, or the chief and was a Spanish translation of the name the Native Americans had given the rocks. Rock climbers and base jumpers refer to the rock as ‘El Cap’. We’ve already started referring to it colloquially as OS Cap Ten. The general consensus seems to be that it’s an awkward name, it generated a lot of banter on Twitter when it was unveiled with many variants of the name being shared for comedy value. Still it’s probably a better name for the next version of OS X than the other well known rock formation in Yosemite: Half Dome.
Interface and Desktop changes in OS X El Capitan
The name isn’t as important as the ways in which the interface is changing in OS X El Capitan, though. While the interface changes in El Capitan are minor compared to the complete overhaul of Yosemite, there are some very notable tweaks.
The first thing you will probably notice when you start up El Capitan is that when you wiggling your finger on the trackpad, or shaking your mouse, as most of us do when we want to locate the curser the curser will make your curser jump out at you so you can see it clearly. It’s one way that demonstrates that Apple is taking note of user behaviour when updating the operating system.
A significant change to the desktop view that Apple didn’t demonstrate during the keynote is the fact that a new option in System Preferences > General allows users to “Automatically hide and show the menu bar” in a similar vein to the way that users can choose to hide the Dock. This will be especially beneficial to users of smaller laptops such as the 11-inch MacBook Air or the 12-inch MacBook where every pixel counts.
During the WWDC keynote Apple’s vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federaghi showed off some new (and old) ways of managing your desktop. Currently when you have lots of things open you can use Mission Control (probably F3 on your Mac keyboard) to view a minimised version of all the documents and apps you have open along with any desktop Spaces (where users can gather particular programs). We’re pleased to see that the older Exposé behavior has returned to the Mission Control view – currently in Yosemite when you press F3 you see documents associated with apps all gathered together. We preferred the was Exposé used to show you minimized views off all the documents you had open so you could see them – rather than having the Word document you were looking for hidden behind another. The old behaviour will return in El Capitan: pressing F3 will show all your open apps making it easy to find the right document amidst the multiple documents you have open.
In addition, a new Spaces Bar will make it easier to create and manage multiple desktops – a + appears in the far right of the Spaces Bar, click on that to create a new desktop. This isn’t new behavior, you can add new Desktops in Spaces currently by clicking on the desktop image poking out of the top right corner of the Mac, but the new way is a lot more intuitive and the new design take up a lot less space.
There are also better options for working with multiple apps at the same time coming thanks to an improved full-screen mode. Clicking and dragging the green window-resize button will activate a new Split View that fills the screen with two apps at once. Users can choose the amount of space given to each app.
Another change not mentioned by Apple during the keynote is the new system font. As anticipated, the new San Francisco font found on the Apple Watch will be making its way to OS X (and also iOS 9). Currently, the system font in iOS 8 and Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite is Helvetica Neue.
If you are wondering what the San Francisco font looks like, the typeface is very similar to Helvetica Neue but the capital R is less rounded. At least that’s how we can tell the difference.
We’ve had heard that the new font may not look great on non-Retina screens, but we can confirm that it looks absolutely fine on the 12-inch MacBook screen. We haven’t viewed it on a 17in Retina iMac yet though.
OS X El Capitan: Spotlight
Spotlight search is gaining some longed for enhancements: namely the ability to move the new Spotlight window around the screen. In Yosemite the Spotlight window moved from the right hand side of the screen to take prominence in the centre, which is a problem if it is overlapping other applications you are working with. In OS X El Capitan the Spotlight window can now be dragged away from the screen center. You can also resize the results window.
Our other wish for Spotlight hasn’t been fulfilled (yet) – the Spotlight window still disappears as soon as you click into another application. When using Spotlight to perform calculations or conversions it would be useful to be able to see the answer when you are trying to add it to the document you are working on.
Spotlight does gain a few other improvements, though. The most notable is probably the fact that Spotlight now lets us users write queries in natural language. Search for “documents I wrote last July” for example and Spotlight will find those documents. We think that this new intelligent Spotlight could hint that Siri is coming to the Mac since that is exactly the phraseology that a user would use to ask Siri the same question.
Spotlight also gains access to weather, stocks, sports, travel, and web video, so searches cover a wider variety of places.
Read: How to use Spotlight in Mac OS X El Capitan
OS X El Capitan: Photos
Apple rolled out Photos for the Mac earlier this summer. It’s a companion app to the iOS version so we weren’t expecting a big change in OS X 10.11, however, there are some new features and enhancements to the editing options, including support for third-party editing tools and third-party image-editing extensions, which you will be able to download from the Mac App Store.
When El Capitan arrives geotagging will return – the ability to tag a location is absent in Photos currently, but was in iPhoto so it is missed by many. Users will also be able to sort albums by date as well as title, and batch-change titles. Photos will be better at handling Faces too.
You will also have the ability to edit image data both individually and in batches. You’ll be able to add location information, batch-organise faces and batch-change title.
You’ll also find more flexibility for sorting albums – currently it’s date only, but you’ll be able to search by date, title and more.
Read more about Photos on the Mac
OS X El Capitan: Safari
Apple spent some time showing off two new features in Safari during the WWDC keynote, first, the ability to pin your favourite sites, and second, the ability to spot audio playing in tabs. These features are both known to Chrome users, so they aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but they are welcome.
Pinned sites are like tiny tabs. shortcuts to those sites you visit every day, like Facebook or YouTube. It struck us that this is yet another way to store our favourite sites – we already have Favourites and Top Sites which essentially do the same thing. Apple needs to decide which of those we should be using (I stick to Favourites since those come up when clicking the URL field).
Audio can be muted with a single click on its tab, which will be welcome to anyone who’s had multiple web pages open only to suddenly hear audio blasting out of their Mac. The new version of Safari will make it obvious which of those tabs is responsible and you will be able to hit a mute button on that tab. If you have more than one audio stream open Safari will make it easier to manage that too – just click on the speaker icon in the address bar to see a list of all the tabs playing audio. You’ll be able to shut down the audio on the tabs you wish from this view.
Not announced during the keynote, apparently the Safari Reader has four colour themes and eight typefaces, plus Safari’s top hit will show now when you search in Spotlight.
Read more about Safari on the Mac here
OS X El Capitan: Notes
Notes gets a much needed refresh on the Mac – that app has been far too limited to be useful other than as a way to share text between the Mac and iPhone quickly.
Now it can now handle media including photos and PDFs, URLs, and map locations as well as text. It will sync with other devices on the same account. And it will allow formatting of text.
There’s also a new formatting option that will turn a list into a checklist. You will also be able to share to Notes from other Mac apps.
Also in Notes is a new attachments browser which you can flick through to fins all the media, websites and other attachments you have added to Notes, similar to how you can look at all the images sent to you in Messages.
In iOS 9 Notes synced with iOS via an IMAP mailbox, rather than using the iCloud infrastructure to sync, like every other app on your Apple devices. In El Capital Notes will get the full iCloud treatment.
Read: How to use Notes on the Mac
OS X El Capitan: Maps
The big news as far as Maps is concerned is that it is gaining transit directions, so if you aren’t walking or driving you will be able to find your route (presuming you live in London and are using the tube or bus – as yet trains are not included, and the data doesn’t go beyond the M25).
You may be thinking that the update to Maps is more likely to make a difference to you when you are out and about with your iPhone, but it appears that the OS X Maps version includes detailed maps of tube stations so that you can plan which exit to use.
Here’s what you need to know about using Maps on the Mac
OS X El Capitan: Mail
Apple’s Mail app will also gain some new features, many of which are reminiscent of the iPhone and iPad versions of the app. For example, new gestures include swiping to delete an email, just like in iOS. You can also swipe right to mark as unread.
There’s also an option to hide windows within the app without minimizing them – just click on the inbox to minimize the message you are composing to the bottom of the screen, a bar will indicate its presence. You can click on that bar to open the email again, but you may not need to: you can drag attachments into this minimized window to include them in the email you are composing.
Mail also gains better integration with calendar and contacts – this means that if you receive an email from someone who isn’t in your contacts Mail will offer to add them. If a friend invites you to meet up Mail will offer to create a calendar event for you.
Other new features include tabbed windows to manage different email threads and natural-language search so you can search for “emails from Ashleigh including photographs” for example.
Data detectors mean Mail will offer to add events to your calendar and contacts to your address book. This isn’t a new feature, but it is improved in El Capitan Mail. It will adds banners in between the address field and the body of the message with data Mail’s detected and possible actions you might like to take.
IMAP support is also set to improve in Mail 9, thanks to a new engine that makes it twice as fast, according to Apple. Mail will change the say it downloads messages, prioritising the ones in the inbox you are viewing, so you shouldn’t have to wait for Mail to synchronize your messages before you can read any of them.
Here’s how to use Mail on the Mac
Apple Metal updates
There is one more significant change coming to OS X El Capitan, Metal, the graphics technology that was announced with iOS 8. Metal will bring improved game performance and improved performance in processor hungry apps.
Metal is a core graphics technology that gives apps near-direct access to the GPU. According to Apple, Metal will make graphics rendering 40 percent more efficient and games drawing performance is 10 times faster. Apple also claims better battery life because of a 40% reduction in the CPU require to do graphics.
Metal combines OpenCL and OpenGL into a single API, bypassing the OpenGL framework. OpenGL runs slowly on OS X, dragging professional Mac apps down in comparison to their Windows counterparts, so bypassing OpenGL and making apps run natively on top of Metal is good news.
Adobe has already committed to adopting Metal for its OS X apps and demonstrated how Metal has improved After Effects and Illustrator. During the presentation, Federighi claimed that Adobe has confirmed it is able to deliver eight times improvement in rendering in After Effects. Illustrator also offers “flawless interaction”, apparently.
Autodesk and The Foundry have also committed to using Metal and it is thought that using Metal will also drastically speed up the likes of Autodesk’s Maya.
Metal for OS X is also great news if you’re a Mac gamer. According to Apple, thanks to Metal, users can expect up to ten times performance improvements in games.
Major game developers have already confirmed commitment to Metal, including Unity and Blizzard, as well as Feral and Aspyr who specialize in bringing Windows games to the Mac. Thanks to the update users should see accelerate graphics in high performance games – plus games will get direct access to underlying graphics hardware.
Apple says that Metal will pave the way for “new levels of realism and detail in games and other apps”. This means faster and more efficient rendering performance across the system.
Along with the performance enhancements coming in El Capitan we expect Metal to have a real impact on processor intensive work.
Read more: Complete guide to Metal, and what it means for Mac gamers