OS X Yosemite Technology Brief

OS X Yosemite (10.10), formally announced on June 2, 2014, is the ninth significant update to OS X, Apple's desktop operating system. The golden master release became available on October 16th from the Mac App Store. Information Systems & Computing (ISC) and other groups across campus have tested OS X Yosemite and found that it works as expected with many Penn applications and services, including AirPennNet, Box, Exchange, and Zimbra.

ISC recommendation

ISC will support OS X Yosemite for its clients, including off-campus students, on systems that ship with Yosemite pre-installed. ISC strongly recommends that all other University users considering an upgrade to OS X Yosemite adopt a "wait and see" approach, continuing to use earlier supported versions of OS X (i.e., OS X Mavericks, OS X Mountain Lion, and OS X Lion) for at least a week after launch, until the initial bugs and compatibility issues in Yosemite are identified and fixed.

ISC recommends OS X Yosemite only for Macs that have at least 4.0 GB of RAM. The full installation of OS X Yosemite uses approximately 8.0 GB of disk space for the download and installation, depending on the type of Mac and choices made during the installation.


OS X Yosemite is available as an upgrade from OS X Snow Leopard and above at no additional charge from the Mac App Store. The Mac App Store was released with the OS X 10.6.6 update and is only available on Macs with at least that version of Snow Leopard or a newer operating system.


There are currently a few known issues with OS X Yosemite, some of which are especially relevant to Penn's Mac users. Some supported applications will require an update to be compatible with OS X Yosemite. In particular, Symantec has released a Yosemite-compatible update to Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP) 12.1.5 which is available from the University's Supported Products site.

AirPennNet works as expected with OS X Yosemite, but ISC continue to see significant but unpredictable issues with WiFi connectivity, both for Penn’s Yosemite users and across Apple’s entire Yosemite user base. To attach a Mac running Yosemite that has not previously connected to AirPennNet, use the iOS profile within AirPennNet-Help. A more Yosemite-savvy version of XpressConnect is expected shortly.


The most notable change in OS X Yosemite is a near-complete redesign of the user interface that more strongly aligns OS X with current versions of iOS. Icons and buttons have been smoothed, flattened, and simplified, borders have been removed, the system typeface has been changed (it is lighter and more consistent throughout the user interface), and there is an abundant use of translucent panels. These changes will be familiar to users of iOS 7 and 8, and are another indication of the slow convergence of OS X and iOS over the past few years.

Besides the user interface, there are several notable features, particularly those that facilitate continuity between multiple Apple devices; indeed, this suite of features has been named "Continuity" by Apple. Handoff allows users to open documents in progress on other devices, AirDrop now can transfer files between OS X and iOS devices, and non-iMessage text messages now appear in Notification Center and Messages. Further, with an iPhone, phone calls can be made and answered directly via OS X. Many of these features require iOS devices to be running iOS 8.

OS X Yosemite also includes iCloud Drive, Apple's cloud-based file system akin to Box, DropBox, Microsoft OneDrive etc. iCloud Drive allows direct editing and manipulation of files from the Finder, though the files are stored in iCloud. iCloud Drive works with all files, not just those created by iCloud-supported programs. At this point, University data should not stored on iCloud Drive.

OS X Yosemite also includes improved Microsoft Exchange compatibility and ISC expects to add the Apple Mail/Calendar/Contacts groupware suite in Yosemite as a supported product for Exchange. Further features and improvements include:

  • Redesigned Spotlight that opens a search bar in the middle of the display and includes web results along with file search.
  • Redesign of Notification Center to include an iOS 7-like "Today" view and configurability with 3rd-party application plug-ins.
  • Significant redesign of Safari to a more minimalist interface with power savings when playing HTML5 video and increased JavaScript performance, as well as a clustered tab view analogous to the tab view from iOS 7.
  • Significantly redesigned Calendar to match the one in iOS 7.
  • Redesigned Mail application, with a new feature to send attachments via iCloud to bypass mail server attachment size limits. On compatible devices, the files are reattached to the email upon receipt; on others (i.e. non-Apple devices) recipients receive a link to download the files from iCloud.
  • New "dark mode" that changes interface elements to light text on dark backgrounds.
  • Instant hotspot creation with wireless-enabled iOS devices, though functionality is constrained by wireless carriers.


The release of OS X Yosemite at no additional charge obviates the need for a Penn licensing model for any modern OS X: any currently supported Apple notebook or desktop can run Yosemite. This should encourage adoption of OS X Yosemite within Penn's installed base of OS X users, and ISC believes that most users will move to OS X Yosemite sometime within FY2015.

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Date Posted: June 3, 2014 Tags: Technical Info, Supported Product, Apple, OS X, Yosemite, Essentials

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