On Monday, Apple unveiled the latest version of Mac OS X. The operating system has now reached it's tenth major revision, and with that not only comes new features, but the largest visual change we've seen to date. In past updates OS X has had visual changes for sure, but the aesthetic transition has been mostly a gradual process stretched over years and various iterations of the software. That is, until now.
With OS X 10.10 Yosemite we're seeing a clean break from OS X's classic aesthetic and moving towards something more akin to the modern, flat UI design that we've been seeing in many mobile operating systems and even Windows recently.
Pretty much all the aspects of the OS have been overhauled in Yosemite, starting with the most basic of things: the font.
The system font has been updated from Lucida Grande to Helvetica Neue, which brings Mac OS more in-line with the look that Apple introduced with iOS 7 last year. Lucida has been the main font of Mac OS since the beginning, so it's a significant change in it of itself. I personally like the new look, and I think the font change fits the newer, more modern OS just as well as it did iOS last year. There have been some skeptics, and a few typographers have been saying it's an odd choice because of Helvetica's reduced legibility when in smaller type sizes. The concerns are reasonable, but I think that Apple was able to properly implement the font change last year on iOS, and I think that they'll be able to do the same here on the Mac. It really is a striking change, and I already find myself noticing it and enjoying the new font in everyday things like browsing Safari or using the menubar.
After the font, the next largest update has to be the update to the OS's basic templates and bulding blocks of the UI. The buttons, toolbars, and menus have all been updated to be flatter and cleaner, and they come across just as well as Helvetica Neue does; clean and fresh. The classic "Red, Yellow, Green" navigation controls have been updated, with new colors and iconography, all of which fit well with the aesthetic. The one functional change to the nav buttons has been to change the green button's function to the "fullscreen" command that was in the top right of windows in Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks.
I'm sure some legacy users will put up a fuss about this, but as a newer Mac user I rarely find myself using windowed applications. I much more often end up using fullscreen apps in spaces, and I think it's honestly the most productive way to work in OS X unless you absolutely need two windows next to each other on the same screen. A good change in my opinion.
Sprinkled in with the new toolbars is a bit of the same "frosted glass" design that we saw in iOS 7's control center and notification pulldown design. Just like it did there, it adds a little bit of personality to your machine by taking on the color of your wallpaper beneath. It also serves to add more of a sense of depth when working with multiple windows, as the glass will take on the color of any window directly beneath it. I'm not sure that I buy Apple's reasoning for implementing this look in iOS or OS X, but either way it looks nice and is a new aesthetic which will be fresh for awhile. I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually saw the frosted glass go the way of OS X's original Aqua aesthetic and slowly fade away in a couple of years, but who knows. Only time will tell.
The last thing that has seen a significant change in Yosemite is the iconography in OS X. Apple has taken a bit of the style which they used to overhaul iOS's icons and brought it back to the Mac here. The style isn't exactly the same as what we have on iOS today, there's a bit more detail in the icons while still maining the more flat and clean aesthetic. On stage I beleive Craig Federighi described it as "still distinctly Mac" and I think that's pretty much a good summary of it. Before the update I was using a set of custom icons which looked pretty minimal in their own right, but since the update I've been using the stock Yosemite icons for some of the Apple apps, because I think they fit them well.
The Finder, Trashcan and Folder icons have all gotten some of the better overhauls in the OS in my opinion. The finder is minimal and new while still retaining the happy, cheerful face that has been there for ages. It's a staple of Mac OS and I'm glad they kept it, rather than stripping it down to a more bland but clean icon. As for the trashcan, I think it almost looks a little like it's been made out of some of the frosted glass that I mentioned earlier, and it's definitely a trashcan icon I can live with, unlike the one from Mavericks and it's skeumorphic appearance. The folders have been given a lighter, more saturated color and a slightly different shape. I like it, it fits the overall more colorful aesthetic that Yosemite has, and I think they're quite nice looking.
With Yosemite, I think this clean break that OS X has taken is more than just an aesthetic change. This version of OS X signifies a new Apple to me. We've been through the transition period since Job's death in 2011, and this year's WWDC seems to say "We're back, and ready to get back to doing a bunch of cool stuff." From the new aesthetic stuff to the new developer options in iOS 8, Apple seems to be back in the driving seat and pressing down on the pedal. I'm really excited for what could happen in the next couple months as 2014 starts to come to a close and more of the upcoming products get announced. This years gonna be a big one in Apple's history, that much is certain.
( The header image in this post belongs to Jared Chambers. I do not own it and am purely using it because I think it looks gorgeous with this version of Mac OS. Also, I am exercising my rights of Apple's NDA agreement. I am only writing about the features and changes revealed at WWDC, and this is merely an opinion of the new design, not a full review. )