Apple began rolling out the latest major update to its Mac operating system yesterday. Named macOS Sierra (yep, the OS X name is no more), this update brings with it key improvements such as the voice-activated virtual assistant Siri's debut on the desktop, iCloud desktop integration, a universal clipboard across Apple devices, Optimized Storage, Apple Pay, and unlocking with an Apple Watch.
We have been testing the macOS Sierra Public Beta builds but now that it finally has its general release, we will explore how these new features and changes could impact everyday users and assess if it's worth updating now, especially for owners of older Macs.
Siri on your Mac
If you have been patiently waiting for Siri to arrive on your Mac, now is your chance. On your desktop, you can use this virtual assistant to search for files on Finder or online, add events and reminders to the calendar, control settings and check weather. Basically, it does whatever iOS Siri can.
The main caveat is that you can't activate macOS Siri just by saying the phrase "Hey, Siri." Siri on the desktop can only be summoned by clicking on its icon on the menu bar or holding down Command with the spacebar. If you're not a fan of iOS Siri in the first place, Siri on macOS will not offer anything particularly enticing.
iCloud Desktop Integration
macOS Sierra can automatically sync files in your Documents folder and on your desktop to your iCloud Drive. This works across other Macs too and the synced files will be accessible on iOS devices too.
This is similar to how other cloud storage services like Microsoft's OneDrive and Dropbox work but again, you will be limited by how much space you have on your iCloud Drive. 5GB is free but beyond that, you will have to shell out $0.99 a month for 50GB, $2.99 a month for 200GB or $9.99 a month for 1TB.
It looks like Apple is pushing the $2.99 plan because they bumped the storage from 20GB to a whopping 200GB and they dropped the price by a dollar. This is the best value if you want to sync more files to your iCloud Drive.
Speaking of the cloud, macOS Sierra will also start storing items that you don't use often to your iCloud Drive. These files include old photos, documents, or videos that are rarely accessed. Optimized copies of the files will remain on your local computer.
Optimizing your Mac's storage will also attempt to empty your Trash, reduce clutter, and remove unnecessary files regularly. If you are constantly trying to squeeze space out of your Mac then this automatic cleanup feature of Sierra will be a good reason to upgrade.
Expanding on the Continuity features across Mac devices is the Universal Clipboard. This will allow you to copy and paste between Macs and iOS gadgets like iPhones and iPads. If you are constantly ping-ponging tasks between the desktop and your iPhone, this should be a welcome addition to your efficiency workflow.
Multiple tabs on applications
A new interface tweak with Sierra will now allow multiple tabs in applications that support multiple windows. These applications include Apple's own productivity apps like Maps, Pages, Numbers, Mail, etc. This is great for jumping between multiple tasks within the same application without exiting your current place in another window.
Unlocking with Apple Watch
Users can now unlock their Macs with Sierra just by moving into close proximity with an authenticated paired Apple Watch. This will surely be an added convenience for owners of Apple's smartwatch.
Photos will be updated with a new filter called "Brilliance," which aims to make your photos look richer. A new "Memories" feature will also combine photos into albums based on facial, location, scene recognition and other metadata.
Other noteworthy additions we like are Apple Pay integration, Safari picture-in-picture video mode and enhancements in Messages.
Should you upgrade?
As usual, older Macs will not support macOS Sierra so make sure you check the system requirements first.
Sierra will be available for:
- mid-2010 or later MacBook Pro
- late-2009 or later MacBook
- late-2010 or later MacBook Air
- mid-2010 or later Mac Mini
- late-2009 or later iMac
- mid-2010 or later Mac Pro
Also, features that use Bluetooth 4.0 such as Apple Watch unlock and Universal Clipboard will only work with newer Macs:
- mid-2012 or later MacBook Pro
- early-2015 or later MacBook
- mid-2012 or later MacBook Air
- late-2012 or later Mac Mini
- late-2012 or later iMac
- late-2012 or later Mac Pro
Before you upgrade
Before you upgrade, please make sure you have a backup of your Mac either via Time Machine or other third-party software. This is always a good fail-safe option in case something goes wrong during the update process.
To download macOS Sierra, go to the Mac App Store (make sure you have your Apple ID and password), go to the macOS Sierra page and just click Download. Your machine will then download the hefty 5GB update. There will be a progress bar and estimated time remaining indicator so you'll have a good idea when the download is ready.
Your machine will then download the hefty 5GB update. There will be a progress bar and estimated time remaining indicator so you'll have a good idea when the download is ready.
To install the update file, just click the "Continue" button and choose your destination drive (typically it's the Macintosh HD drive). Wait for the process to complete (don't turn off your Mac!) and after the final reboot, MacOS Sierra should be up and ready for use.
To double check if your machine has been successfully updated, click on the little Apple logo on the menu bar and check "About This Mac."