With iOS 10 apparently serving as Apple’s flagship operating system, it’s easy to overlook Apple’s latest software offering for desktops. However, macOS Sierra ought not to be ignored, as it’s evidently jam-packed with new features and improvements.
- Comparing macOS Sierra to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update
The highly-anticipated OS X 10.12 was officially revealed with a new name, macOS Sierra, at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2016. As we experienced in the move from OS X 10.10 Yosemite to 10.11 El Capitan, Sierra isn’t just a compilation of bug fixes and performance updates—it’s a full-fledged follow-up to last year’s update.
So then, what can you expect from macOS Sierra? Fasten your seatbelts and follow along to find out!
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next version of Apple’s desktop operating system
- When is it out? Right now
- What will it cost? Like the previous several versions, it will be a free update
macOS Sierra release date
When it comes to releasing new software, Apple has gotten into an annual release cycle. To no surprise, we saw the reveal of macOS Sierra in June at the WWDC, the Worldwide Developers Conference, with a private beta issued to developers that same day.
A public beta, released on July 7, 2016, brought Siri, picture-in-picture mode and more to a broad audience of Mac users for the first time in Apple history. Since then, the macOS Sierra public beta received a number of different updates, with the first having been seeded on July 20.
The hard launch of macOS Sierra took place on September 20. Of course, in order to take advantage of the new Continuity features like Universal Clipboard, you’ll also need the iOS 10 beta installed on a compatible iPhone or iPad. Apple Pay, however, is available to use on the web right now even if you don’t have an iPhone.
Siri finally makes an appearance
The biggest new feature in macOS Sierra is the inclusion of the Siri virtual personal assistant. Siri was launched on iOS back in 2011, and surprisingly, Macs are the last in a long list of platforms that support it.
Just as with the virtual assistant on iPhones, users will be able to simply command Siri and ask it questions with their voice. However, being on the Mac opens up a greater swath of options such as file searching, storage inquiries and even the ability to toggle settings on and off.
At WWDC, SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi showed audiences how Siri could prove beneficial on Mac while remaining distinct from other Apple platforms. The personal assistant software can respond to complex requests such as, “Show the files I worked on last week about the off-site.” From there, users can narrow down their search based on tags.
- Find out if your Mac can run macOS
Siri can even access other parts of macOS including applications like iTunes, effectively making them your personal DJ. Moreover, the AI is compatible with Safari as well, allowing it to act on web searches.
With an SDK having been issued to developers to make their own apps work with Siri, it will be interesting to see how Siri for Mac works with third-party apps in the near future. Maybe we’ll see the day when Siri can access your Spotify library, manage files in Google Drive or modify spreadsheets in Excel.
A long overdue file system upgrade
Since 1985, Apple has remained complacent with its Hierarchal File System, or HFS. With macOS Sierra, however, that all changes thanks to the new APFS, or simply Apple File System. Starting with the company’s 2017 MacBook lineup, all of Apple’s computers running macOS Sierra will support the new filesystem on its bootup drive.
Once Apple’s hardware begins to support the new standard, it won’t be long before we start to reap the benefits. These include improved flash memory optimization, faster Time Machine backups and improved space allocation, letting two APFS-formatted disks act as one combined storage drive. Unfortunately, for legacy Mac users this means HFS support will be ousted in the next 25 years, though it would be a miracle if your computer could still boot up by then.
Continuity gets even better
Continuity between Mac and iOS is a big deal for those engulfed in Apple’s hardy ecosystem. Ever since its introduction, users have been able to pick up calls and messages from their phones and conveniently pull them up on their Mac computers.
With macOS Sierra, not only are you able to access your computer from outside devices including your iPhone, but if you need to quickly move something from one device to another, this is made even easier than AirDrop thanks to the Universal Clipboard function. Fortunately, if the public beta is anything to go by, it’s as seamless as Command-C, Command-V.
And, while TouchID may come to Mac at some point, a similar feature called Auto Unlock comes packaged in macOS Sierra. As the title implies, this new feature will let you unlock your Mac from other Apple devices merely by being in close proximity to an Apple Watch or iOS device.
What’s more, Apple Pay has expanded beyond the restraints of a 4.7-inch screen and onto PCs by way of macOS. Making an effort to compete with e-commerce services like PayPal, a “Pay with Apple Pay” button will now be integrated in your browser with TouchID on a nearby iPhone or iPad serving as a means of fast authentication.
Better multimedia functionality
Finally we have the Photos app overhauled in iOS 10, and because of the way Continuity works, these features also apply to Mac. They include a new “Memories” tab for a more magazine-like viewing mode as well as an AI that automatically sorts photos either by people or topics.
Likewise, if you’re a skilled multi-tasker interested in watching videos while you work, you’ll be delighted to know that macOS Sierra’s picture-in-picture mode allows users to take their video windows with them even as they rotate between desktop screens.