About 1 million people can get access to the next version of Apple's OS X starting tomorrow (July 24). This marks the first time in about a decade that Apple has allowed a public beta program of its OS before full release. Those not among the first wave will have to wait until the fall for the full release of 10.10 Yosemite.
You'll need to make sure you're signed up first by going to Apple's OS X Yosemite beta website. The company recommends that you not use your primary computer, in case things go awry. And, as you should always do before installing a new OS, back up your current system first.
You'll need to make sure you're already running OS X Mavericks before getting started. It's also worth noting that some of the features, including integration with the yet-to-be-released iOS 8 and iCloud Drive, are not available yet.
To sign up, you only need your Apple ID, and a redemption code that will be emailed to you. After downloading and installing Yosemite from the Mac App Store, you'll be good to go. The Feedback Assistant app will help you report any glitches you find. The Cupertino, California-based company hopes that user feedback from the beta will help improve the user experience in the final version.
During our hands-on look at the beta, we were impressed by the clean and modern redesign, complete with subtle transparency effects. The updated Spotlight feature offers powerful search functionality, allowing you to look at your local info as well as the Web. Safari gets a complete overhaul, too, offering new favorites and tab views.
Overall, we like that Yosemite maintains a familiar desktop-like environment, while still finding clever ways to integrate mobile touches. The upgraded Today View, which offers birthdays, weather, stocks and more at a swipe of two fingers, is evidence of that.