So You Want to Be a Dummy and Install the OS X El Capitan Beta

The new version of OS X is called El Capitan and is coming out this fall for every Mac that can run OS X Yosemite. If you’re a paid Apple developer (or a clever kid who knows their way around a good torrent site) you can install the beta version of the operating system today. The big question is this: should you do it?

Short answer: no

As always, it’s a bad idea to install any beta software on your daily driver (i.e. a computer you rely on to do real work). Bugs are more prevelent than at any other time and features are getting added and removed all the time.

In addition, you don’t even get access to a lot of the cool things you saw in the on-stage demos at WWDC. New features don’t come for free, and developers need time to implement the new hotness into their apps. Be prepared for some weirdness with apps that have no idea how to respond to new features.

So you want to be a dummy anyway

If you want to throw caution to the wind and install El Capitan on your main Mac, then here’s what you can expect.

What apps don’t work?

Pixelmator is the only app I have tried that is unusable on El Capitan. I’m getting very weird glitches that make manipulating images completely impossible.

Besides that one app, I have not gotten any unexpected crashes or apps that simply fail to launch. Critical apps like Photoshop, Google Chrome, Final Cut, Logic, Garageband, OmniFocus, Things, as well as all of Apple’s apps seem to run just fine.

I have seen some issues in the Microsoft Office 2015 beta suite (I’m all in on beta right now, I guess) where I had the UI get “funky” when editing a document with checkboxes. The entire document would go black when making something as checked, but simply clicking elsewhere in the UI returned everything to normal.

There is a visual bug in the printing interface that makes print dialog boxes look pretty ugly, but they work just fine. Considering how little I print anything, it’s amaing I even came across this issue at all!

Overall, my stability is quite solid, and besides Pizelmator, everything works well.

It’s not all here yet

Many things shown off in the keynote are not in the beta yet. Mail and Notes have both been updated and both function well. Notes in particular is really quite good, and has become an app that I might actually use regularly. Spotlight has also gained some smarts and does all the natural language searches you saw on stage, and Safari is new and is the best it’s ever been.

But sadly the highly touted News app and new iTunes are not in this build. You also don’t get any new feautes in Photos since no 3rd party apps have been written to take advange of the new extensions functionality.

Finally, while the split view mode is active in this early beta, it only works well with Apple’s built in apps. I have had a pretty rough time getting any thrid party app to behave well in this mode; they all get terribly confused.

Wrap up

It’s your decision whether you want to get in on the El Capitan beta, but I would reccommend against it. You’re simply not getting much value here for the risk you’re running.

But hey, I’m not taking my own advice. I know it’s not smart, but I couldn’t help myself. Venture forth, but know what you’re getting in to.