Apple released OS X 10.11 El Capitan in September 2015, with the promise of “refining the experience and improving performance in lots of little ways.” That’s marketing speak for “you may not notice hardly any difference.” But just because the changes are minor doesn’t make the decision to upgrade any easier. Here’s why.
On the one hand, you shouldn’t worry about El Capitan’s new features being hard to learn. Split View is the only truly new feature, and by merely clicking and holding the green zoom button in a window, you can assign it to a side of your screen, after which you can pick another window to occupy the other half. Other new features, such as expanded Spotlight searches, the shake-to-zoom feature for finding the lost pointer, more swipe gestures in Mail, the capability to mute tabs in Safari and pin other tabs so they can’t be closed accidentally, and an all-new Notes app, are all easy to figure out and at least moderately useful.
On the other hand, if whatever version of OS X you’re using now is working fine, why mess with it? If it ain’t broke… For the most part, El Capitan hasn’t caused compatibility problems, and most of those that did crop up immediately have been resolved, either by updates from other developers or by subsequent minor updates, which fixed nasty crashing problems experienced by Microsoft Office 2016 users.
Nevertheless, upgrading to El Capitan may require you to update many of your applications, and if you’re relying on a significantly older version of expensive software, like Adobe Creative Suite, it’s hard to justify even a free operating system upgrade if it comes with lots of hidden app upgrade costs.
But you will have to upgrade eventually, and that’s particularly true if you use an iPhone or iPad running iOS 9 and want to sync Notes between them. An El Capitan upgrade will also give you certain useful features in the included Apple apps, such as geotagging and editing extensions in Photos, and transit directions in Maps. And if something were to happen to your Mac and you had to buy a new one, it would come with El Capitan, so you don’t want to be caught flat-footed with incompatible software and a looming deadline.