Apple with OS X Yosemite introduced a number of cool features designed to make one’s computing experience easier and more efficient. While some may already be familiar with some of OS X Yosemite’s more prominent features, Apple’s desktop OS, per usual, is teeming with a number of under the radar features which will undoubtedly prove enlightening for both seasoned OS X users and those completely new to the world of Mac.

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Below are 8 such example that you may not yet be aware of.

1. Enhanced Dictation

Though initially spotty, dictation on iOS has gotten remarkably good over the past few years. With OS X Yosemite, Apple finally brought dictation to the desktop. To enable it, simply open up your System Preferences and select the “Dictation & Speech” option from the bottom row.

From there, simply select the Dictation: “On” radio button and you’ll be good to go. From there, you can enjoy the magic of voice dictation by either selecting “Start Dictation” from the Edit menu anywhere you might otherwise type. You can also enable a keyboard shortcut to initiate a dictation session.

2. Add a real signature to any document straight from your Mac

One of the cooler yet “under the radar” features in OS X Yosemite is the ability to sign any document on the web with your own handwriting. This feature is a godsend for those pesky moments where a real life signature is required for an important document.

To sign any document, simply open up the document in question in Preview. From there, go to Tools > Annotate > Signature > Manage > Manage Signatures. Once selected, you’ll be presented with the following screen.

From here, you have a few options. If you have a laptop, you can select the ‘Trackpad’ toggle and scrawl your signature on your trackpad with your finger. If you want the most accurate representation of your signature as possible, or if you happen to have a desktop, you can select the “Camera” toggle instead. From there, all you have to do is jot down your ole’ John Hancock onto a white piece of paper and hold it up to your iSight camera. As the photo above shows, OS X can figure out where the signature is and can copy it accordingly. Once you hit “Done”, you can then drag and drop your signature anywhere on the open document.

As an added layer of convenience, OS X Yosemite will even save previously recorded signatures so that you can quickly add them to other documents as needed, as evidenced below.

3. Send and Receive text messages from your Mac

For many, the ability to send and receive text messages directly on your Mac is by far the most used new feature in OS X Yosemite. For anyone with Yosemite who hasn’t yet tried this, it’s well worth it. It truly makes texting a breeze as typing away on a keyboard is much more efficient than using iOS’ virtual keyboard.

To get things started, open up the Messages app and go to Messages > Preferences. From there, click on the “Accounts” tab. Next, enable the Apple ID account associated with your phone and, boom, just like that texting on your phone and on your Mac is now synced up.

4. Quick and easy unit and currency conversions

One of the more useful features in OS X Yosemite is that it’s never been easier to quickly do currency conversions or unit conversions. Instead of heading over to Google, simply activate OS X Spotlight by either clicking on the magnifying glass on the upper right of your display or by pressing the “Command + Spacebar” keyboard shortcut.

Next, simply type in what you’d like converted and Spotlight will handle the rest.

If you type in 53 Euros, for example, you’ll instantly be able to see what that translates to in a host of other currencies.

You can also conduct unit conversions for metrics like distance, area, temperature, and volume.

5. Screen Sharing within Messages

Screen Sharing has long been a helpful feature in OS X. Originally introduced as a feature within iChat, OS X Yosemite makes it easier to initiate a screen sharing session than ever before. If your Mac is set up to receive and send SMS messages (via the Messages app), screen sharing is as easy as clicking on the details option located in the upper right of the chat window. Next, select the overlapping rectangles (highlighted below in red) and you’ll be good to go. Note that this feature only works if the recipient also has Messages configured on his Mac.

6. Turn volume feedback on

For whatever reason, Apple in OS X Yosemite removed the sound which used to accompany any changes made to system sound levels via the keyboard

If you find it easier to manage your computer’s sound levels with real-time feedback, you can add it back by opening up System Preferences and going to the Sound panel. There, simply check the box labeled “Play feedback when volume is changed” and you’ll be good to go.

Note that this can also be accomplished on a case by case basis if you press down the shift key as you adjust the volume keys.

7. Record your iPhone screen

Recording screencasts from your iOS device onto your Mac has never been easier. Simply attach your device to your computer and open up the Quicktime app. From there, go to File > New Movie Recording.

The default camera for a new movie recording is set to your computer’s FaceTime camera. You can change the input device to your iPhone simply by clicking on the downward facing arrow located to the right of the record button. From there, you can hit record and capture everything that transpires on your device’s display, an overall great tool for developers or for folks interested in creating basic tutorials.

8. Quickly discover movies playing nearby

The revamped Spotlight in OS X makes it extremely easy to quickly find out which movies are playing nearby. To get started, open up Spotlight

From here, you can either type in “Movies” which will bring up a list of all movies playing nearby once you select the “Now Playing in Theaters” pane on the lefthand side.

If you already know what movie you’d like to see, you can just as easily type in the movie name whereupon you’re presented with all the nearby showtimes along with a plot summary and list of cast members.


A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.