UPDATE: Since publication, MacOS Sierra has become available for download in the app store.
MacOS Sierra will be released later today. Apple has finished beta testing the newly rebranded OS X and has deemed it worthy for public consumption. Unlike the last two iterations, the operating system has seen a complete overhaul and hosts many new features. Features are focused on making your Mac easier to use and furthering integration with iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad.
For the sake of clarity, OS X is no longer OS X. Apple has rebranded Sierra as MacOS. The MacOS brand has a long history with the iconic home computer, as that was what it was called until version 10. The OS X line has seen many changes over the years, but Sierra is arguably one of the most significant overhauls in recent MacOS history. As such, Apple decided it was time for a new (old) name for the software.
— iMore (@iMore) September 20, 2016
The MacOS Sierra public beta was a bit buggy at first. Including the initial closed beta, Sierra has seen seven versions throughout the beta testing process. Apple Insider reported that several “serious bugs and performance issues” were cleared up with the software’s seventh iteration, although it did not specify what those bugs were.
It is worth noting that despite Apple’s readiness to roll out its latest operating system, new software that is this complex almost always has a few bugs that remain undiscovered on release. Once thousands of people are using it under varying circumstances, new glitches are bound to appear. Early adoption is not for everybody, and if your current OS is mission critical, it may be prudent to wait a month or two before upgrading.
For those who can live with the initial flaws and frequent patches, some of the new features might have you salivating enough to be one of the first to download it in a few hours.
— Coko Softs (@CokoSofts) September 20, 2016
One of the biggest features coming to MacOS Sierra is the addition of the digital assistant, Siri. Anyone familiar with iPhones knows what Siri is, but this is not merely a port of the iPhone’s artificially intelligent digital assistant.
According to Apple, Siri has been redesigned “with new capabilities designed just for the desktop.”
One major difference is that in Sierra, Siri can multitask. On the iPhone, everything must stop when using Siri. In the MacOS version, users can continue working while they have Siri do something else.
Siri can also find files in Sierra in a various number of ways.
Apple demonstrates this by asking it, “Siri show me the files I’ve looked at this week.”
The results are displayed and can be further refined by telling Siri something like, “Just the ones Marc sent me.”
Even Spotlight has a hard time doing that as simply. If you have ever lost a file on the hard drive, you will certainly appreciate this functionality.
Users will also be able to drag and drop results from Siri to other applications, the desktop, or even pin them as notifications.
— Coyote Moon, Inc. (@coyotemooninc) September 10, 2016
Of course, Siri will be able to do most of the things that it already does on the iPhone, but with this version of the software, voice and phrase recognition and overall robustness of the digital assistant seems improved. Apple is clearly looking to compete with Microsoft’s Cortana.
Another addition to MacOS Sierra is something Apple is calling the “Universal Clipboard.” With the Universal Clipboard users will be able to copy something on their iPhone or iPad and then paste it into an application on their Mac. Likewise, the process can be used to paste from Mac to iOS devices as well.
This functionality could prove useful in some instances, such as composing an email in which you want to include a picture just taken on an iPhone. However, it is unclear how often one may want to use this functionality. It seems more like a feature that adds a completeness to MacOS/iOS integration but is not something that most people will be using on a day-to-day basis.
MacOS also integrates with the Apple Watch (formerly iWatch) in a way. Sierra will introduce a feature that will log you into your Mac without having to type the password as long as your watch is nearby. It is unclear if this functionality will be extended to third-party smart watches, but do not hold your breath. The feature seems to be a subtle marketing ploy to increase Apple Watch sales. However, Apple consumers can be pretty persuasive because of their large numbers, so who knows? They may demand third-party support, and Apple may comply.
— iPhone News (@_l_l_ll) September 20, 2016
While not quite desktop sharing, files in your Documents folder and on your desktop can be synced with iCloud and be accessed on your iDevices. This feature is handy but nearly as versatile as third-party apps like Dropbox.
MacOS Sierra will also have optimizable storage. For those with smaller hard drives, this addition may be a blessing. The way it works is if your hard drive is getting full, Sierra can take rarely used files and upload them to iCloud Drive to free up space. The files will still be available on demand and appear in their original folder, but will not be taking up disk storage. Of course, the catch is that your iCloud Drive storage space, which is not free, can fill up fast.
Another part of the Sierra’s storage optimization is even more important and exciting. How many times have you wondered how much space useless installer files and whatnot are cluttering up your hard drive? Finally, Apple has added a feature to MacOS that can remove all that useless junk. With a few clicks you can be clutter-free. The trash bin can also now be set to empty the trash bin after 30 days.
Other notable MacOS Sierra features include:
- Improvements to the Photos app.
- Stickers and emoji support for the Messages app.
- A completely revamped iTunes that is easier to use and more functional.
- Tabs for Pages so you don’t have to have multiple word processing windows open when working on multiple documents.
- Picture-in-picture for Safari and iTunes allows video to display in any corner of the desktop.
Since the last couple of OS X versions did not bring too many remarkable features to the table, many Mac users are ready for something new. As always, Apple’s newest operating system is free, which also increases demand. If MacOS Sierra is not available by the time you finish reading this article, you will not have much longer to wait. However, as soon as it launches, servers are bound to get bogged down, and downloads will be slow. If you are interested in upgrading immediately, be sure you can handle the wait time.
[Featured Image by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]