OS X Yosemite Quick Tips

PDF signature

No need for a paper and pen. You can now sign PDF forms using your Mac’s trackpad. Simply click the Sign button in Preview’s annotation toolbar and trace your signature on the pad with your finger.


Activating Spotlight with Command-Space now brings up a search box in the centre of your desktop. It no longer just searches your Mac for files either. It also retrieves news headlines, maps, Bing web search results, iTunes store media, and it can even convert currencies on the natch.

Green button goes fullscreen

In Mavericks, the green button at the top left of windows is better known as the zoom button. But in OS X Yosemite, it takes windows full-screen. You can still access the traditional functionality however by holding the Alt/Option key when clicking the traffic light.

Record output from an iOS device

Want to record a live screencast of apps or games running on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad? With iOS 8 and Yosemite, you can. Simply attach the device to your Mac using a Lightning cable and it shows up as a video input source in QuickTime. You can then capture anything you’re doing on-screen and store it as a video file.

Check compressed memory

OS X utilises memory compression features when resources are tight, making the system more efficient at passing data from place to place. Activity Monitor’s Memory tab now displays how much your Mac relies on compressed memory, which can be a good indicator of how much you’d benefit from a RAM upgrade.

Safari Tabs

The way Safari organises your browser tabs has changed. You can still switch between tabs in the horizontal strip above the main window, but click the new Tab View button in the top right corner of the toolbar and you get thumbnail previews of all open tabs. Multiple open pages from a single site are stacked on top of each other, while below these are iCloud tabs open on your other devices in a layout reminiscent iOS 7.

Duck Duck Safari

In addition to the typical search engines Safari has traditionally aligned with, you now have the option to choose DuckDuckGo as your default search service. For those late to the private party, DuckDuckGo is a slick search engine that doesn’t track your search activity or share personal information with advertisers or security agencies.

Safari Private Browsing window

Continuing the theme, Safari now allows you to create a separate window of tabs exclusively for private browsing (meaning your actions are not saved or tracked), while enabling you to also maintain separate windows that aren’t set to be private.

Markup in Mail

Apple Mail has aped Preview’s annotation tools. Now, whenever you add an image to an email you’re composing, a down-facing chevron appears in its top-right corner. Clicking this reveals the option to mark up the image with shapes, text and arrows to make your point clearer to your recipient.

Dashboard off by default

Some old-school OS X users may be rankled at the apparent disappearance of the Dashboard in Yosemite. Actually, it hasn’t been removed; it’s just disabled by default – you can switch it back on in Mission Control’s System Preference pane if you still find it useful.

Notification Center overhaul

Notification Center in Yosemite doesn’t just import iOS 7’s Today view. Apple has also opened it up to third-party widgets with what it’s calling ‘Today Extensions’. This will allow developers to feed bespoke information into Notification Center – think your favourite football team’s next fixture or eBay auctions you’re watching, for example.

AirDrop advanced

AirDrop has seen significant improvement in Yosemite. It now works between Macs and iOS devices that don’t share the same local network or have an internet connection. It also now works on older Macs that missed out in previous versions of OS X. Not only that, you don’t need Finder to be open on the recipient’s Mac to initiate a Drop (although it still needs to be authorised at the receiver’s end).

Mail Drop

Everyone’s experienced the frustration of an email not arriving at its intended destination because of an attachment the server deemed too big to handle. In Yosemite, Mail gets round this with Mail Drop, in which large attachments are now uploaded to your iCloud account. If the recipient is also using Mail they see the file just as if it was attached to the email; if they aren’t using Mail, they get a link to download it instead. Note that the size of an attachment will be limited to the free space on your iCloud account.

Soundbites in Messages

You can now send quick voice memos to your Messages contacts with the new Soundbites feature. These disappear shortly after the recipient has read them, but you can choose to save them if you wish. You can also now send short video clips or multiple images directly from within Messages.

Message/iPhone tones

One new feature Apple is rightly proud of is Yosemite’s ability to make and receive iPhone calls. Tied to that is Messages’ ability to send and receive SMS and MMS messages linked to your iPhone number. As a result of this extended phone service, Messages has also inherited all the ringtones of iOS, allowing you to match or differ the sound your Mac and your iPhone make when a message or call is incoming.

Batch rename

Batch renaming files in OS X used to require installing a third-party app or a trip to Automator. No more. In Yosemite, you simply click-drag a selection box over the files in Finder you wish to rename, right-click and select the Rename XX items… option in the dialog.

Screensharing in Messages

Previously screen sharing was only possible in Messages using a third-party service such as AIM. However now Apple has implemented a built-in screen sharing feature that operates automatically over iMessage accounts, meaning you don’t have to set up anything in order to help or receive Mac assistance from a friend or colleague remotely. Simply initiate a Message conversation and click on the Details button in the top right-hand corner of the screen and select the ‘Invite / Ask to share my screen’ button indicated by two overlapping rectangles.

Group messages

Not only can you initiate group chats in iMessage, you can also add and remove participants in your ongoing chat, as well as change the chat thread name (which will subsequently appear on all devices). Using the new Details button, you can also enable Do Not Disturb on individual chats to opt out of the conversation without terminating it.

Dark mode

Dark Mode was demoed on stage at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference as an option to benefit those who prefer to save their eyesight from glare at night as well as photographers and video editors who manipulate colour. You can turn it on via the ‘Use dark menu bar and dock’ toggle in the General pane of System Preferences.

Safari bookmarks

Just like iOS, your website bookmarks and bookmark folders can now be quickly accessed simply by left-clicking Safari’s address bar. Below your bookmarks you’ll also see links to those sites you’ve most frequently visited.

Double-click to zoom

For those who miss the instant action of the green maximise traffic light, try double-clicking an empty part of a window’s toolbar – it should automatically resize the window to fit its content. Note that this functionality may not work on third-party apps and later versions of iTunes.

Finder preview pane

Previously Finder’s file preview pane was restricted to Column view, but in Yosemite you can make it visible in any view mode you like. From the menu bar, choose View > Show Preview to turn it on.

Accessibility improvements

Not everyone gets on with transparency. Happily you can reduce its effect significantly in the Accessibility pane of System Preferences. What’s more, you can change the contrast level of windows and borders as well as increase the overall contrast of your display if you find Yosemite’s new look not so easy on the eye.

Calendar suggestions

Calendar in Yosemite is a little more intelligent than previous iterations and now learns from previous events in order to auto-complete event details as you input them – this includes likely attendees and even suggested dates to schedule the event. The more you use Calendar, the more accurate it becomes at predicting your schedule.

RSS feeds in Safari

RSS feed subscriptions are back in Safari. Simply click on the RSS feed icon in a web page and Safari will prompt you to OK the subscription, whereafter it will appear in the Shared Links sidebar alongside your other shared links piped in from Twitter and so on.