Apple releases a new update for its Mac line of computers almost every year, and this year was no different. There aren’t any necessarily groundbreaking and innovative features this time around, but a bunch of little things to make the operating system as a whole feel more polished than ever before. In fact, the biggest change was no doubt the re-branding to macOS. So, whats all in macOS Sierra and is it any good? Find out below.
Siri on the desktop
The update to macOS Sierra brings Siri to the desktop. Originally exclusively on the iPhone and iPad, it’s finally made its debut on another Apple platform. Siri is auto-enabled upon installation, so you can start using the voice assistant almost immediately. Siri has a few configurations available on Mac, including being able to disable it entirely
There’s a bunch of neat things that Siri can do, but nothing really new. You can ask the voice assistant to make your screen brighter just as you can over on iOS. There’s plenty of other standard things you can ask it, like getting the results from the last Lions games, or telling it to give you directions to a location and so on. There’s really nothing Mac-specific here; it’s just as smart as it is on iOS.
The only real downside is the lack of voice activation. You have to press a key combination on the keyboard to wake Siri. Alternatively, you can press a software button, but there’s no way to voice activate Siri. It’s easy to wake Siri, but not as easy as it should be.
Clipboard across devices
This is a simple, but super useful feature. Apple has put a big focus on those pick up where you left off features. Messages is one of those, being able to jump straight from messaging on your iPhone to messaging on your Mac without a hitch. The newest feature is being able to copy something on iOS 10, move to your Mac and paste it there. You can do it the other way around, too (macOS to iOS 10). It also works as a Mac to Mac feature as well.
There are two requirements: you need to be signed into the same iCloud account on both devices. Finally, you need to be running macOS Sierra on your Mac and iOS 10 on your iPhone and/or iPad. Next, you can copy something on any device. From there, you’ll be able to paste whatever you copied to your clipboard on any of your connected devices.
You might not use it all the time, but it’s super handy and a time saver when you need it.
Apple Music gets a facelift
Alongside the macOS Sierra update comes a facelift to Apple Music. Both the mobile and desktop clients have been completely revamped, bringing a much cleaner and organized interface. The desktop client (in iTunes) has three primary sections: For You, Browse, and Radio. The latter two are self-explanatory, but For You is essentially a mix of personalized recommendations and playlists. The personalized recommendations are actually kind of neat, though. For instance, I listen to a lot of country music, so Apple Music was able to recommend this really awesome “For Driving” playlist for me. It’s a really neat recommendation feature, possibly one of the best in the industry.
Messages has also seen some neat improvements. You can send larger emojis, send tapbacks (reactions to messages), and even get inline previews of videos and links. Unfortunately, not all the features included in the iOS 10 messages app have come to macOS Sierra, which is disappointing. On macOS Sieera, you won’t be able to send screen effects, sticks, handwriting or any text effects. Nope, that’s all exclusive to iOS 10. Maybe that’s something that’ll make its way to Mac in a future update, but for now, you can at least see those effects when friends send you a message from their iOS 10 device.
You might be familiar with tabs in browsers like Safari and Firefox, but now they’ve actually made their way to Mac apps. For instance, in Apple Maps, you can search for a location. But, what if you want to keep that result up and compare it with another location? Well, now you can press the CMD + T key combination to open a new Apple Maps tab and start an entirely new search without affecting what’s going on in your other tabs.
It’s not just in Apple Maps, though. You can start new tabs in Mail, TextEdit and the iWork Suite.
All in all, the macOS Sierra update has included a ton of small changes, making for an overall polished operating system. There’s far more included in the update than what we’ve covered here (e.g. Safari now automatically plays HTML5 video, you can now share Notes, Time Machine now supports SMB protocol, etc), but it’s almost impossible to go over every minute detail.
I certainly don’t want to “oversell” macOS Sierra to you. But, it really is a neat update–things have generally been snappier, and my battery life has even improved after installing it. The update isn’t without its frustrations, though. The lack of iOS 10 Messages features in macOS Sierra is really disappointing. Additionally, loading up some video games has become a nightmare, requiring multiple restarts, shutdowns, and even workarounds. It’s also worth noting that, if you decide to upgrade, make sure your photos are backed up, otherwise, they may magically disappear.
If you can overlook some of the small frustrations, macOS Sierra is a great step forward. And eventually, some of the problems it has will get sorted out in future bug fixes and software updates.