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Hands On: macOS Sierra, part two
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Jun 29, 2016, 10:36 PM
In part one of this piece, we took a look at some of the headline features in macOS Sierra, coming later this fall. This time around, we examine some of the other features that Apple has baked into macOS Sierra. As we noted last time, there is a lot to like about what Apple is adding to the macOS mix with this latest update. Features like Apple Pay for the web, Auto Unlock with Apple Watch, Universal Clipboard, iCloud Drive, Optimized Storage, and Tabs are also worth a look, particularly as the latter is something I suggested to Apple a couple of years ago, and it's great to see them implement it.

Apple Pay for the web

That Apple is keen to push its payments system is no surprise. It will eventually become as important to them as iTunes is now. Just as iTunes has grown into a juggernaut, its origins were rather humble, designed primarily to help Apple sell iPods. Apple Pay is currently a rather humble offering, but it succeeds as a service as it makes payments super easy and super secure -- it is the best way to pay for things, period. Adding Apple Pay to webstore transactions that can be authenticated with your iPhone is a logical and clever next step. It also lends support to the theory that Apple may add Touch ID to its MacBooks in the near future.

Auto Unlock with Apple Watch

Let's face it -- while we appreciate the security of requiring a password to log into our Macs, it is a right royal pain in the posterior. Auto Unlock with Apple Watch could be the feature that helps to keep me in the Apple ecosystem when it comes to choosing future smartwatches. To be able to just open my MacBook and automatically log in is like days gone by, when we were a little more carefree with our digital assets. It's small but very welcome touch that is just one more reason to help you justify buying an Apple Watch.

Universal Clipboard

The Universal Clipboard is the latest feature that Apple has added to its suite of Continuity features on both macOS and iOS. We already love the ability to quickly pick up where we left off on our iOS devices, like jumping straight into the same webpage we were viewing on one device without having to type in the same URL all over again on another. Universal Clipboard is a logical next feature to add, as it will make your workflow from desktop to mobile and back to desktop as seamless as it has ever been -- although we do expect that we might get tripped up here and there by forgetting that we have something on our clipboard cut from another device. Overall though, we like it.

iCloud Drive

Although we often use one of the iCloud Drive alternatives out there, the latest update to iCloud Drive makes it worth taking another look at it again. If you, like us, sometimes forget to save documents to the cloud, but save it to your Mac Desktop or Documents folder, iCloud Drive now has you covered. In macOS Sierra, all your documents, whether on your Desktop or in your Documents folder on all your Desktop are now automatically synchronized with the cloud and are available everywhere. It's the type of feature that works best with plenty of Internet bandwidth, but this is slowly improving for most of us that this is a feature that will become increasingly popular as it will be handy.

Optimized Storage

This is another feature upgrade that is powered by iCloud. We often carry documents and files, including video, and music, and mail attachments on our devices that we rarely-if-ever access, but which collectively take up a lot of storage space. With a decent iCloud drive allocation (that you will need to pay extra for), macOS will scan your computer for these dormant files and automatically upload them to iCloud, freeing up your local storage space. The system now also makes it easier to help you find and delete duplicate or obsolete files as well (killing of the need for some types of popular macOS third-party desktop utilities in the process).


I wrote a suggestion to Apple about this a couple years ago, and that was to introduce tabs into apps other than just the Safari browser. Frankly, I was surprised no one had either thought of it or implemented it previously. When you are working with multiple Word documents for example, wouldn't it be better if you could just switch between tabs, rather than necessarily having to keep all the documents open in separate windows. Yes, Expose/Mission Control helps with this problem, but being able to put them into separate tabs helps keep your desktop clear of clutter.

Apple eventually introduced this idea into Finder with tabs, but now has managed to implement it as a system-wide feature in macOS Sierra -- although it is not currently enabled that I can see in the current beta. The beauty of Apple's implementation of tabbed apps is that developers will not need to lift a finger to jump on board -- it will work out of the box on any app where it makes sense to have tabbed windows. It's pretty cool to see it come to life, and I think it will make using your Mac even more pleasant.

Initial thoughts

To look at macOS Sierra on the surface, it looks pretty similar to OS X 10.11 El Capitan. The only obvious clue that something is different is the addition of the Siri icon in the dock, and at near the top right hand corner of your display where Spotlight used to reside on its own. However, the addition of Siri alone makes it worth the upgrade, as it will help to effectively automate a lot what you used to have to type in. Using a Mac will never be the same again, and this in fact a really good thing!

In fact, we can see everyone who upgrades to macOS Sierra using nearly every new feature that Apple has built into it, if not all of them. They all make sense, and are useful additions to what is already the best desktop operating system on the planet. Coupled with the upgraded Apple File System beneath the hood, which features built-in encryption, we strongly recommend that you make the upgrade when it rolls out later this year.

-- Sanjiv Sathiah

( Last edited by NewsPoster; Jun 30, 2016 at 12:16 PM. )
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