Apple's latest version of its desktop OS has picked up a rebrand, bringing it into alignment with its tvOS, watchOS, and iOS lowercase stablemates. The rebrand also suggests that Apple is going to settle into a pattern of continually evolving its desktop OS iteratively -- OS X is now macOS in perpetuity, with the internal codename now taking top billing. While it naturally picks up several new marquee features, the arrival of Siri on the Mac is by far the biggest news in macOS Sierra. Read on for our initial thoughts.
It was inevitable that Siri would find its way on to the Mac, and some may wonder why it took so long. After all, Microsoft managed to get its version of Siri, called "Cortana," on to Windows this time last year -- beating Apple to the punch. As is often the case with when Apple introduces new features, however, it is the extra care that it takes with implementation and execution that typically explains its "tardiness."
Even if you take a while to get used to using the full array of features on offer with Siri on the Mac, one thing is certain -- Siri in macOS Sierra will fundamentally change how you use your Mac. Being able to use Siri to multitask, for example, by sending messages, playing music, or launching a video helps you get on with what you're doing with very little intrusion. Being able to locate files that you need to work on with Siri, while then being able to drag and drop them, is also a real time-saver, and works seamlessly.
Perhaps our favorite Siri feature is to use Siri to call up things like sports schedules, Twitter feeds, and related files, for example, and pin them in the Notification Center. Then when you need to look up what's happening, or get a document that you called up previously, you can quickly and easily find it, without cluttering up your desktop. It could have been done with Finder in the past, but it also took a revamp to the Notification Center to make it happen. One thing is for sure -- using Siri on the Mac feels a lot like the future.
The Photos app has also been given a feature boost in macOS Sierra. Given that it was an all-new release not that long ago and rebuilt from the ground up, it was always reasonable to expect that Apple would continue to extend its capabilities. As you might also have expected, the upgrades directly reflect the many photos-hooting capabilities of Apple's iPhones, as well as the iOS version of the Photos app, to some extent. So much so, that you will feel instantly at home with some of the tweaks.
Most notably, the sidebar has been given a facelift, with some new ways of organizing and viewing your photos. Given that many, if not most, Mac users use their iPhone to shoot most of their photos and video, you can now sort these by the mode that you used when shooting them. Once your photo library has gone through the upgrade process when you install macOS Sierra, you will now be able to quickly search and find all your panoramas, selfies, time-lapse videos, slo-mo videos, bursts, and even screenshots.
When you see the changes in action, it will leave you wondering why these weren't already implemented. Now that it is here though (or at least coming soon), it makes life so much easier, and so much more interesting to see each of these results pre-collated for you.
Further, as with the Photos app in iOS 10, there is also a new Memories feature that automatically collects photos shot during different periods of time and place. It works quite well on the whole, and it's easy to edit out pics that don't fit the collection. Apple has also baked in its facial- and place-recognition technologies into the Photos app in macOS Sierra. These can be found in the new People album and Place album, adding a further dimension to the way that your photos are now automatically sorted and organized for you.
The key interface tweak for iTunes arrived in the 12.4 update, where the sidebar was revamped making the navigation of user libraries easier than it has been for a while. The macOS Sierra beta version is version 12.5, with the changes largely revolving around the Apple Music experience. If you've seen our iOS 10 closer look at the Music app
, you will be instantly familiar with the look and feel that Apple has adopted for the desktop Apple Music experience. Also, as with the iOS 10 version, you can now also easily access and view song lyrics. It is much bolder, brighter and from our perspective, better.
As with Messages in iOS 10, Messages in macOS Sierra has also picked up a number of similar upgrades. It now has a much more robust feature set that will make sending messages much richer, with emoji and fun font types, if that is what you are interested in doing. The ability to preview content within Messages, as with iOS 10, is also a step forward, and is a simple touch on the Mac that makes the overall user experience just that little bit better. The changes in Messages will appeal to the younger generation of Mac users, but it certainly makes sense to bring those same features across to the Mac.
The Notifications Center in iOS 10 has been split up, with the widgets moved to the left of the Home screen where Spotlight search is located, which makes sense for the mobile experience. The macOS Sierra implementation retains the current location for widgets in the Notifcation Center on the desktop, but picks up the new look and feel of the iOS 10 implementation. However, the ability to pin documents, sports schedules, and the like called up in Siri to the Today view of the Notification Center where the widgets are located makes this little nook of the Mac experience somewhere you will be visiting more than ever before.
Stay tuned for our second part, which will dig in further in the new features and surprises in macOS Sierra.