Apple wants to blur the lines between iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks with its latest updates to the respective mobile and desktop operating systems. Apple wants the two to co-exist seamlessly and offer users a host of new features. Users got a taste of what that could mean when iOS 7 was released in September and now that Mavericks has been available (and free to download) for a few weeks, it’s time to brush up on just what features come alive when combining the mobile and desktop systems.
iCloud Keychain is a feature Apple introduced with Mavericks and the iOS 7.0.3 update, and it’s designed to allow users to store password information across devices. To set up iCloud Keychain on a Mac, users can go to the iCloud pane of system preferences and follow the set-up instructions. You must select a four-digit iCloud Security Code, which will need to be entered on the subsequent devices you choose to sync with Keychain. To allow iOS devices to use iCloud Keychain users can simply toggle it on and enter the security code in the Settings menu.
The Keychain feature will automatically store password information for various website, credit card information and other personal information (including account logins for mail, contacts, calendars, etc.) and automatically sync those passwords across devices. So if a user logs into their account for the local pizza place on a MacBook Air and stores the password in Keychain, a week later if they want to order again from their iPad, the log-in information will be saved and will automatically fill-in on the device.
With iCloud Keychain also comes new features within Safari, including improved auto-fill and a random password generator designed to help users create stronger passwords.
Calendar, Contacts, Notes & Reminders
After iOS underwent a major design overhaul, most users expected a similar design overhaul to come with OS X Mavericks. That didn’t exactly happen, but Apple did update some apps to be more in line with the new aesthetics of iOS 7, and even those apps that didn’t get a design overhaul, did receive an upgrade in functionality.
The Calendar app has received the biggest design overhaul, with skeuomorphism no longer the norm. It now looks and acts more in line with the iOS 7 app. Facebook events and birthdays now automatically sync to the calendar and Apple has added maps integration. Any time a user adds a new event and adds a location, a small Apple map will pop up and calendar will automatically take into account travel time. Then, when a user needs to leave for an appointment, Apple Maps will calculate their current location and send them a notification on their iOS device reminding them to head out soon. Locations will also integrate with Contacts for users who have locations stored for frequently visited friends.
The contacts, notes and reminders desktop apps also sync better across devices, although they didn’t receive the same aesthetic makeover as their iOS counterparts. Apple also improved compatibility with contacts and notes synced with Google accounts, so an update made on an iOS device will sync with the apps across all other devices connected by iCloud.
Apple Maps and iBook
While Mountain Lion was the first OS X to bring iOS apps to the desktop, Mavericks added another two that provide even more cross-compatibility between iOS and OS X. With Mavericks comes a much-improved Apple Maps app and the iBooks app.
Maps has the same clean look as the iOS app and includes much of the same functionality such as directions, bookmarks and search capability for points of interest as Apple showed off at WWDC. The desktop version of the Apple Maps app also includes a “Send to iPhone” feature, which allows users to look up directions and select a route on the desktop app and then send the directions wirelessly to their iPhone running iOS 7, allowing the user to quickly and easily access the directions as soon as they leave the house.
iBooks has also come to the desktop and syncs across devices via iCloud. It features a new design that replaced the dusty wooden shelves with a simpler layout. Users can browse the iBooks Store, download and read books on their Macs. While most users may not want to read a novel on their desktop computer, especially when they have an iPad within easy reach, the integration of iBooks will be a welcome addition for students and teachers. Textbooks are also supported in iBooks and the app features built-in note taking and highlighting capabilities, as well as study cards and the ability to have multiple books open at the same time.
Let’s not forget about Safari. Many Apple users may have ditched the native web-browser for a more attractive offering like Google Chrome, but it would be unwise to give up on Safari just yet, especially considering the new features Apple has thrown into the latest version of the browser.
As with everything else, Safari has received a slight redesign with a flatter look reminiscent of, you guessed it, iOS 7. The Top Sites bar is no longer curved and users can rearrange the menu as they see fit. It’s automatically populated with the most visited sites, but users can also drag and drop from their bookmarks directly into the top sites.
When a user opens up a new tab in Safari a sidebar automatically comes up on the left-hand side that features bookmarks, reading list and shared links. Bookmarks is what it sounds like, although users can also bookmark sites on their iOS device and it will automatically sync to the desktop version of Safari. Reading List hasn’t changed much since it was first introduced in Lion, allowing users to store content for offline reading. Reading List also syncs with iOS devices running iOS 7. Users can either add a website or article to the reading list from their iPhone or iPad or users can download content off the reading list to read offline.
Shared links is new to Safari and is integrated both in iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks. The Shared Links bar populates with links curated from connected Twitter and LinkedIn feeds and again, is available across both iOS and OS X. It’s slightly limited in that it only links to the two social networks, but it’s a nice option to quickly access links and easily store them for offline reading or bookmark them for safe keeping.
Miscellaneous & What’s Missing
Other major improvements to come with the Mavericks update include much improved support for multiple displays, fixing many of the issues that came along with Mountain Lion. Users can also turn a device equipped with Airplay (such as an HDTV) into a second monitor – but that requires a MacBook model later than mid-2011. The Mavericks update also includes many under-the-hood upgrades such as increased speed and battery life.
One major upgrade added in iOS 7 was the integration of AirDrop, which allows users to share files wirelessly (and without a bump) across iOS devices in the same vicinity. AirDrop was brought to Mac with OS X Lion and allows users to share files wirelessly between Macs on the same network. The feature is simple and easy-to-use with both Macs and iOS devices, but an integration between the two devices has been completely left out. It’s simply not possible to AirDrop from an iOS device to a Mac, which would add a load of usability to the feature and seems like an oversight on Apple’s part.
All-in-all the upgrades that come along with both iOS 7 and OSX Mavericks add a host of new features and allow the two operating systems to work better with each other and greatly improve syncing across devices for multiple apps. It’s a keen move by Apple, which has consistently developed products that would work great with each other, thus enticing users to stay within the Apple family when purchasing new devices. Users are promised to get more out of their devices by upgrading and better yet, both operating systems are free to upgrade and when it comes to Mavericks, users can jump straight from Snow Leopard, skipping Lion and Mountain Lion entirely, so there’s really no excuse not to make the leap.