Yosemite: A Take Control Crash Course
by Scholle McFarland

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Take Control of Yosemite’s Look

An operating system’s look is more than just eye-candy, it sets the tone for how you and your computer interact. If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you’ll notice right away how much Yosemite looks like iOS 7 and iOS 8. And that’s not a bad thing .

① 	From a slimmer system font to revamped icons and toolbars, Yosemite gives OS X a fresh new face. Background colors peek through the menu bar, title bar, Dock, and even an incoming notification.

① From a slimmer system font to revamped icons and toolbars, Yosemite gives OS X a fresh new face. Background colors peek through the menu bar, title bar, Dock, and even an incoming notification.

A Modern OS

Apple has long prided itself on making its design beautiful, consistent, and accessible. One of its key techniques has been making virtual tools imitate real ones—making, for instance, the edges of virtual pages curl when turned, or windows on the desktop (themselves part of a real-world metaphor) cast shadows.

Note: If you need basic help with opening and working in System Preferences, see Using System Preferences, part of the free Read Me First crash course.

But overt skeuomorphism, as it’s called, has fallen into disrepute as old-fashioned. After all, critics say, what’s the point of a digital calendar with torn paper edges and leather binding—as Apple’s Calendar (previously known as iCal) recently had—in a world where many, if not most, young people have never used a paper calendar before?

Apple pressed forward with a new design in iOS 7, made incremental steps in 10.9 Mavericks, and as of Yosemite, has now swept away most of the Mac’s 3D look, shadows, and shine. The result is a modern Mac interface that more closely mirrors the one found on the iPad and iPhone.

Redesigned Dock

Take, for example, the reflective shelf that was once the Dock. In its place, is a flat, translucent bar, much like you saw previously if you switched the Dock’s placement to the left or right of your screen .

② 	Mavericks’ Dock (top) looked distinctly 3D, while Yosemite’s is flat and stylized (bottom). The subtle glow that indicated a running app is gone, replaced with a more obvious black dot.

② Mavericks’ Dock (top) looked distinctly 3D, while Yosemite’s is flat and stylized (bottom). The subtle glow that indicated a running app is gone, replaced with a more obvious black dot.

How the Dock indicates that an app is active has changed, too. Instead of a subtle glow under a running app’s icon, in Yosemite there’s a more obvious black dot.

Apple’s app icons have become flatter and more stylized. Even the Trash and the Finder’s friendly face have been updated . (Though, the Trash remains steadfastly three-dimensional.)

③ 	The Finder and Trash icons, before (left) and after (right). (The Finder looks a lot happier.)

③ The Finder and Trash icons, before (left) and after (right). (The Finder looks a lot happier.)

You’ll discover a more subtle change the first time you drag an icon off the Dock. In Mavericks, icons disappeared in a puff of smoke. In Yosemite, you’ll hear the familiar “whoosh” sound, but the virtual smoke is gone. (Poof!)

Outsmart Squirrely Scrollbars

By default, you’ll see scrollbars only when your pointer strays to the right side of a window or you press Page Up or Page Down.

If you find this frustrating—say, you keep revealing a scrollbar and then watching it disappear right before you click it—go to System Preferences > General and change the Show Scroll bars option to Always.

New System Font

Lucida Grande has been part of OS X’s look since the operating system debuted in 2001. That’s over now. In its place is Helvetica Neue, the same slim font that graces iOS 7 and iOS 8 .

④ 	Apple replaced the Mac’s old system font Lucida Grande (top) with Helvetica Neue (bottom), the font used by iOS 7 and 8.

④ Apple replaced the Mac’s old system font Lucida Grande (top) with Helvetica Neue (bottom), the font used by iOS 7 and 8.

Translucency

Apple has eschewed the obviously 3D, but it isn’t opposed to some depth. Background colors now peek through not only the menu bar, but also menus, sheets, and other interface elements .

⑤ 	Yosemite does a good job of blurring the background in newly translucent menus so that even complex images appear as if through frosted glass.

⑤ Yosemite does a good job of blurring the background in newly translucent menus so that even complex images appear as if through frosted glass.

Yosemite does an impressive job making its translucency subtle and attractive. Still, if you find it makes text hard to read, you can do something about it. Go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Display and select the Reduce Transparency option. The menu bar, menus, sidebars, and Dock all become solid. Or, choose Increase Contrast in the same preference pane to do essentially the same thing.

New Traffic Light Buttons

Perhaps the last of the lickable OS X interface elements, the candy-like red, yellow, and green buttons at the top left of every window are now simple circles .

⑥ 	The candy-like “traffic light” buttons (top) have become simple circles (bottom) and the green button now zooms a window full screen.

⑥ The candy-like “traffic light” buttons (top) have become simple circles (bottom) and the green button now zooms a window full screen.

As in the past, click the red button to close a window and the yellow to minimize it to the Dock. However, clicking the green button no longer zooms your window an unpredictable amount as it did before. Instead, it always makes the window full screen so long as the window in question belongs to an app that supports Yosemite’s full-screen mode.

The traffic light buttons disappear in full-screen mode, but never fear—you’re not trapped. Nudge your pointer to the top of the screen and the menu bar and full toolbar reappear. Click the green button again to exit full-screen mode. If you like your hands on the keyboard, move in and out of full-screen mode by pressing Command-Control-F.

Control the Zoom

If you want to expand a window just a bit instead of zooming it all the way to full screen, you still can: double-click the title bar, or hold down the Option key before clicking the green button. Do the same thing again and the window will reduce.

This zooming method can be somewhat unpredictable, just like clicking the green button used to be.

Dark Mode

If you’re a designer, photographer, or developer who gets distracted by bright bits around the edges of your screen, Dark Mode lets you dim the menu bar, Dock, and menus .

⑦ 	Dark Mode dims the menu bar, Dock, and menus to help imaging professionals and developers keep their attention on the center of the screen.

⑦ Dark Mode dims the menu bar, Dock, and menus to help imaging professionals and developers keep their attention on the center of the screen.

To use Dark Mode, go to System Preferences > General and select the Use Dark Menu Bar and Dock option.

Note: To learn more about changing the way your Finder windows look, read Changing the View in a Finder Window, part of the free Read Me First crash course.

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“To zap Yosemite’s transparency, go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Display and select Reduce Transparency.”

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