OS X El Capitan puts the pedal to the Metal

At its WWDC keynote today, Apple introduced the next version of OS X, bringing another slice of California to Mac users everywhere. It's called El Capitan, and though it doesn't bring any earth-shattering changes to the user interface, there is one major new feature that Mac gamers and professional users may appreciate: the Metal low-overhead graphics API from iOS is now available on Macs.

With Metal, apps and games on the Mac could enjoy the same kinds of performance improvements we're expecting from software optimized for DirectX 12 and Vulkan on the PC. Developers from Epic took the stage to demonstrate Metal with a live demo of the Unreal Engine running one of the studio's latest games, Fortnite. Epic claimed a 70% reduction in CPU overhead with Metal versus traditional OpenGL rendering on the Mac.

OS X's Mission Control window management system is more powerful in El Capitan. Full-screen apps can now share the screen with a split view similar to that in Windows 8, and new full-screen or split view Spaces can now be created right from the Mission Control view.

Other minor improvements abound. Apple has improved the Spotlight search function, which can now accept natural-language queries system-wide. Tabs in Safari can be pinned to the tab bar, and they'll persist and refresh automatically every time the browser is opened. Safari will also identify tabs playing audio and let users mute them with a couple of clicks. One final improvement is a cursor-finding gesture that will helpfully enlarge the system's mouse pointer if you wiggle it upon waking up the system.

OS X El Capitan will be available to developers today, with a public beta set to begin in July and a general release to follow in the fall. Like other recent OS X releases, it'll be a free upgrade.

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