As expected, today Apple released OS X 10.11 El Capitan for free on the Mac App Store. This release is largely a refinement of last year’s 10.10 Yosemite. 10.11 is named for the El Capitan mountain in Yosemite National Park, joining Mavericks in Apple’s new naming scheme of places in California.
Users should expect few new features because Apple has spent their energy this past year making their Macintosh operating system more reliable, faster, and less power-hungry. A few of the new features we do get is split fullscreen, a smarter Spotlight that searches more places and understands natural language, revamped Notes app, and a more proactive Mail and Address book.
As always, before updating make sure that you have a current backup and that any software you use is compatible. Most major software such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud already work great, but you may want to check the Twitter, Facebook, and blogs of developers of the apps that you use before making the plunge, especially if you use lesser-known or specialty software.
The update runs on any Mac capable of running OS X 10.10 Yosemite, 10.9 Mavericks, or 10.8 Mountain Lion. The official system requirements list 2 GB as the minimum amount of RAM, but I personally refuse to install it on any system with less than 4 GB of RAM and I recommend at least 8 GB on systems that can handle it.
The update is huge, so expect it to take about an hour to download on cable or overnight on DSL, and you will need to allow you system 30 to 60 minutes of downtime to perform the actual installation.