Get Yosemite features on OS X 10.9
Find out how to revamp your Mac’s look and feel, take calls on your Mac, and much more
Agreat thing about Macs is the fantastic software developers create. They often try to solve common problems and improve your Mac experience – just like Apple. Logically, then, their ideas sometimes mirror Apple’s own – and this handily enables immediate access to features resembling those Apple will ship in OS X Yosemite this autumn.
Before we delve into apps and utilities, be mindful some alter how your Mac works. We’ve never had issues with any of the products mentioned, but it pays to be safe, so back-up before using them. Also, set expectations accordingly, because some solutions lack the polish and integration of what was on show at WWDC. That said, several third-party utilities go beyond what Apple has announced.
A NEW LOOK
Yosemite’s most obvious change is to its interface, which embraces the minimalism favoured by Apple design head Jony Ive. Windows, icons and the Dock are simpler, there’s an optional ‘dark’ theme, and the system font is a Helvetica variant.
There doesn’t appear to be a simple way to add a dark theme to OS X, but the other elements can be brought to your Mac with varying amounts of effort. The biggest – changing the general interface – is in fact the easiest. Install Flavours (about £12, flavours. interacto.net), click ‘Get More’ and browse the community-made OS X themes. Search for ‘OS X Yosemite’ and you’ll find Cullen Card’s creation of the same name, based on Apple’s upcoming update. Click Apply and this ‘flavour’ will be installed; logout and login for it to take effect. (To revert at any point, turn Flavours off and logout/login.)
Although not identical to Yosemite (there’s no transparency, for example, and the buttons are a bit different), Cullen’s work is a close match — although if you think you can do better, you can click Create and design your own theme!
Flavours does not offer dark themes – although dark menu backgrounds are possible, you can’t invert the text colour. However, there are ways to invert the menu bar alone. Obsidian Menu Bar (donationware, obsidianmenubar.com) is a simple hack that makes your menu bar go dark, and (for the most part) makes your menu bar extras white, so they remain visible. (The developer suggests WhiteClock – taimila.com/ downloads – or iStat Menus – bjango.com/ mac/istatmenus – to get a working clock.)
An alternate option is Aaron Olive’s Nocturne Theme (aaronolive.deviantart.com/art/ Nocturne-Theme-For-OS-X-10-9-x-326453358), which also helps with another item on the Yosemite wish-list: fonts. Using the Nocturne installer, you can select a new system font, along with a few variations regarding how the dark menu bar will appear. We must warn,
however, that this hack totally swaps out OS X’s existing Lucida Grande system font for a version of Helvetica (or some other font, should you choose an alternative), and so do not use the theme if you’re reliant on Lucida Grande in any way.
JUST YOUR TYPE
Although it’s a bit of a faff, Nocturne also provides a means to get a Helvetica system font without the black menu bar. To do this, install Nocturne and select Helvetica Neue from the Fonts options. Logout and login for this to take effect. Next, go to System/Library/ Fonts/ and copy LucidaGrande.ttc (which is Nocturne’s special Helvetica version of that file) to your desktop. Then use Nocturne’s uninstaller to remove the theme. (You’ll need to restart after doing so.)
Return to the Fonts folder and copy LucidaGrande.ttc (which is now the original version) to another folder on your Mac. Keep it
Yosemite’s most obvious change is its minimal interface: a classic Jony Ive design if ever we saw one
safe; you’ll need this file if you later want to revert your Mac to its default state. Copy the ‘Helvetica’ LucidaGrande.ttc from your desktop to the Fonts folder, selecting Replace in the Copy dialog. You’ll need to log out and log back in again, but then you’ll have a Mac full of Helvetica, albeit bereft of Lucida Grande. (It’s very easy to revert this procedure – just copy the original LucidaGrande.ttc back into the Fonts folder.)
App icons and the Dock provide finishing touches to an interface revamp. For icons, use LiteIcon (free, freemacsoft.net/ liteicon). Drag ICNS files to relevant slots, click Apply Changes, and clear the icon cache and logout when prompted; changes will occur when you next log in. To later revert an icon, drag it off of its well and click Apply Changes; to restore Mavericks system icons, use Tools > Restore All System Icons; note: app icons must be removed individually. To source icons, a search engine will unearth ones essentially identical to Yosemite’s. DeviantArt also has designers providing free icons that suit a Yosemite-style Mac set-up.
The Dock could originally be made 2D using a Terminal command, but that changed in Mavericks. Fortunately, cDock (free, sourceforge.net/projects/cdock) provides something similar. Launch it, select Install Customizable Dock and click Okay. You’ll see two TextEdit documents: settings info.txt denotes what the numbers mean; dock_ settings.txt is for configuring the Dock.
Because the Mavericks Dock lacks a frosted glass effect, you need to fake this by making the Dock grey and quite opaque. Adding a corner radius and subtle shadow adds to the Yosemite feel and helps the Dock stand out. We used the following numbers in dock_settings. txt: 135, 135, 155, 80, 0, 0, 0, 0, 5, 0, 10, 80, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0. You can at any point save dock_ settings.txt and click the cDock menu extra to restart the Dock and view changes. When done, quit the menu extra.
Note that cDock doesn’t work well if the Dock’s at its smallest size and may need
reapplying after a restart. It also doesn’t have custom app indicators, but you can add those with MacUtil (free, russellsayshi.com/MacUtil/ home). Click ‘Change’ next to ‘Change indicator light colour for open applications’ and load a custom PNG; if you create a 7px PNG with a centred anti-aliased 3px black circle yourself, it should work well.
Most Yosemite updates beyond the interface are about efficiency. For example, the green ‘zoom’ button makes a window full-screen; Right Zoom (free, blazingtools.com/right_zoom_mac.html) provides similar focus by making the zoom button maximise a window — not quite Yosemite’s full-screen setting, but close. Moom ($10, manytricks.com/moom) boasts even more window-management tricks.
Our favourite Yosemite productivity feature, though, is taking iPhone calls on your Mac. Perhaps surprisingly, apps already exist that enable such functionality. The cheaper option is Connect (£1.49, connectmacapp.com), which after you pair your iPhone with your Mac over Bluetooth provides a basic interface similar to the one found in Yosemite; Phone Amego (£20.99, sustworks.com/pa_guide) is far more configurable, and integrates with a selection of CRM/contact apps and launchers. In use, we found both had a slight delay, but it was manageable and largely offset by the convenience of using the Mac for answering and dialling.
The other big communications overhaul in Yosemite involves Mail, which includes annotations and the means to route massive files through iCloud, which are then directly integrated into messages if the recipient’s also using Mail. (If not, they get a download link.) If you want to be able to send big files easily over email in Mavericks, use CargoLifter ($8.95, chungwasoft.com/ cargolifter), which, unlike Apple’s take, allows you to select the cloud service you prefer. You can also set a custom minimum size for messages to be sent in this manner.
Email annotations will be an even more useful addition for many people. Yosemite’s implementation is userfriendly and built into Mail, but is also very basic in that it burns annotations into an image. Apple’s own Preview already offers similar functionality in Mavericks, but you can save the annotations (which remain editable) as a PDF, while also sharing the resulting document to Mail as a flattened image – it involves more steps, but is actually a better option in many ways.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
And finally, we need to talk about file management. Spotlight in Yosemite, for finding files, gets a radical update, moving it to the centre of the screen and ramping up its feature set. As longtime Alfred users (free/£17, alfredapp.com), we got a distinct feeling of déjà vu upon watching the WWDC Spotlight demo. Alfred looks similar and makes it easy to rapidly search your Mac, getting in-context results relating to search terms or when drilling down into a specific app. Unlike Spotlight, though, Alfred has file management and multiple clipboard capabilities, is extensible, and supports complex workflows. We’d always considered Alfred a kind of ‘Spotlight Pro’, and Yosemite’s Spotlight revamp makes that comparison even more valid.
Our favourite addition is that you can add a version of AirDrop that works in a cross platform manner
When it comes to storage, iCloud in Yosemite opens up with iCloud Drive, so instead of documents solely living ‘within’ apps, you get a file system accessible across devices. However, Dropbox (from free, dropbox.com) has wider platform support, yet also integrates well with OS X: your Dropbox folder appears in Finder sidebars and open/ save dialog boxes, and you can optionally automatically send camera uploads and screen grabs to the service. It will also be supported by iOS 8’s new expanded storage options for apps, so will be almost as flexible as iCloud Drive across devices.
Our final, and perhaps our favourite, Yosemite addition that you can add today is a version of AirDrop that works like AirDrop always should have – cross platform. If you don’t fancy waiting until the autumn to easily and instantly send files between your Mac and an iPhone or iPad, check out Instashare (£2.49, instashareapp.com); along with its free iOS client (or a 69p ad-free version), sharing is just a question of drag-and-drop – this means no more emailing files to yourself, or waiting for them to show up online!
If you’re not keen on existing Flavours themes, it’s relatively
simple to design your own. A combination of all our interface tweaks has a good crack at impersonating Yosemite. Yosemite themes exist in Flavours, but there are also plenty of alternatives to try. There’s no dark theme in Mavericks, but a dark menu bar’s possible with Obsidian Menu Bar.
Nocturne is useful for swapping out the OS X system font for a Helvetica alternative.
If you can find some Yosemite icons online, LiteIcon enables you to use them in Mavericks.
Although cDock’s not exactly user-friendly, the app works nicely for simplifying your Dock.
Mail in Yosemite gets natty new annotation tools, but you can already annotate in Preview.
We always felt that Alfred was a bit like a ‘Spotlight Pro’; with Yosemite, the comparison’s more overt.
There’s no need to wait to share files between iOS and OS X – you can just use Instashare instead.
Connect and Phone Amego both enable you to take and make iPhone calls using your Mac.