When Apple announced macOS Sierra at its 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference, one of the headlining features was the integration of Siri, the company’s digital assistant, across the operating system. Plenty of people are excited that Siri is finally making her debut on Mac, and many Mac users are also excited about features in macOS (renamed from OS X) that will make it easier to manage photos, shop online, and multitask. Curious about how things will change when you upgrade to macOS Sierra? Ahead, here’s everything we know about macOS Sierra.
macOS Sierra overview
Apple announced macOS Sierra on June 13 during the keynote at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. As had been rumored before the event, Apple opted to rename OS X to macOS, aligning the branding with its other software platforms (iOS, watchOS, and tvOS). As MacRumors reports, the biggest new feature in macOS Sierra is Siri integration, which brings the digital assistant that users have grown to love (or just to tolerate) on the iPhone and iPad to the Mac for the first time.
Even though Apple changed the name of its Mac operating system from OS X to macOS, it’s continued the tradition of naming major Mac releases after California landmarks. The “Sierra” in the name of this year’s release refers to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the vast majority of which is in California but also spans part of Nevada.
macOS Sierra is already available to developers, and will go through a public beta release in July. (You can sign up for that beta release on Apple’s website.) Finally, the release will be launched to the public in the fall. The operating system will run on a wide variety of Macs. That includes the iMac and MacBook from 2009 or later, plus the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and Mac Pro from 2010 or later.
macOS Sierra features
Siri: Apple’s choice to integrate Siri into macOS means that many of the capabilities Siri has on iOS will also be available on Mac. (You’ll be able to ask Siri some simple questions, get her to do a web search for you, send messages, and open apps.) Additionally, there are macOS-specific features, like the ability to ask Siri to search for specific files. You can even use follow-up questions to refine the results. You can also ask Siri to find you images to add to a document, or create a map to add to an event invitation, which makes it easier to multitask.
Additionally, Mac users will be able to pin search results that Siri surfaces to the Today section of the Notification Center, and Siri will be able to search Photos, set reminders, and place FaceTime calls. In macOS Sierra, you’ll be able to access Siri through an icon on the menu bar, a dock app, or via a keyboard command that you specify.
Messages: As with iOS 10, macOS Sierra adds some new features to Messages. The app gains rich links for previewing web content and watching videos directly in a conversation. The macOS Sierra version also supports the features coming to the iOS 10 version, including bigger emoji and a Tapback feature for quick replies.
Photos: macOS brings a number of improvements for the Photos app. New computer vision and deep learning algorithms enable the app to recognize the people, objects, and scenes in your photos. The app will be able to group photos into collections, and users will be able to take advantage of powerful search functionality to find the exact photos they want.
Additionally, a new “Memories” tab displays curated collections of photos to resurface those memories, and a Places album shows photos on a map. The Memories feature generates video montages of the photos that you took on a specific trip or in a given location, and the app will automatically add music, titles, and transitions. Once the montage is generated, you can customize it to fit the right mood, or change out the titles and photos included in the video.
Apple Pay: In Apple’s next-generation operating system, Apple Pay is supported in the browser, enabling users to pay for purchases they make on the web with Apple Pay. Each payment is authenticated via the Touch ID sensor on a connected iPhone or via an unlocked Apple Watch.
Apple Music: As on iOS 10, the Apple Music app for macOS Sierra features a brand-new design, with a bolder aesthetic, a new focus on album art, and a pared-down interface to make it easier for users to discover new music. (Which should solve some of the frustrations around using Apple Music on the Mac.) The tabs included in the interface now include “Library,” “For You,” “Browse,” and “Radio,” plus a new “Search” tab that makes it quicker to search for specific songs or albums. Additionally, the app gains a new feature to view the lyrics to a song while listening.
Tabs: In macOS Sierra, all Mac apps are able to use multiple tabs. That means that in apps like Pages, you’ll be able to work in multiple tabs instead of dealing with multiple windows when you have more than one document open. A related feature is new Picture-in-Picture multitasking for Mac users, which will make it easier to watch a video or participate in a FaceTime call while completing other tasks.
Continuity: Apple is adding new Continuity features in macOS Sierra, including new Auto Unlock capability for Apple Watch owners. When you sit down at your Mac wearing an authenticated and unlocked Apple Watch, your Mac will automatically unlock without requiring you to enter your password. Another new Continuity feature is the Universal Clipboard, which will span macOS and iOS devices and enable you to copy something on one device and paste it on another. As Brandon Widder reports for Digital Trends, Handoff and Cellular Calls are Continuity’s two biggest features, but the Universal Clipboard may change that.
iCloud integration: Another feature that owners of multiple Apple devices will be able to take advantage of is deeper iCloud integration. All of the files that you store on your desktop or within the documents folder of your Mac will be available on all of your devices, including another Mac, your iPhone, or your iPad. You’ll be able to access them through the iCloud Drive app or on the web via iCloud.com.
New Apple File System (APFS): With macOS Sierra, Apple is introducing a new file system built around SSDs, with native encryption as its headlining feature. On a related note, Apple is also introducing an Optimized Storage feature to automatically free up storage space when your storage is getting tight. The feature stores infrequently-used files (like read ebooks, old screenshots, iTunes U courses, full-resolution photos, unused Mac App Store apps, old presentations and text files, unused fonts, and old Mail attachments) in iCloud and removes them from your Mac’s local storage, and it reminds you to delete used app installers and clear out duplicate downloads and caches.
Safari Extensions and Plug-Ins: In the past, Safari extensions needed to be downloaded from the web. In macOS Sierra, they’ll be accessible via the Mac App Store. Additionally, Safari 10 in macOS Sierra disables common plugins like Adobe Flash, Java, Silverlight, and QuickTime by default in order to focus on HTML5 content and improve the browsing experience. To access content on websites where these plug-ins are required, you’ll have to authorize playback with a click.