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macOS Sierra review: Mac users get a modest update this year

macOS Sierra review: Mac users get a modest update this year

Apple’s latest macOS update, Sierra, builds upon many of Yosemite’s signature features–such as Siri for Mac and Continuity that allows you to use your Apple Watch to unlock it–while also offering new methods of managing and organizing data storage called APFS.

But is that enough to ensure macOS remains relevant?


Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, can provide answers, set reminders and events in Calendar app, send text messages, manage iTunes music library and even make FaceTime calls – now also on Mac!

Siri on a Mac works similarly to its counterpart on iOS, with some minor differences. First of all, Apple requires that users manually activate Siri either by clicking a button or using command-space and hold to activate her rather than saying, “Hey Siri.” In contrast with Cortana on Windows or Google Now which automatically listens for specific keyphrases such as “OK Cortana or OK Google.”

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“Hey Siri!” When you say it aloud, your device wakes up and listens for frequencies and soundwaves in your voice before translating that data into code for an algorithm which attempts to identify patterns, words and phrases to understand what you’re saying – an impressive feat Apple continues to improve with new algorithms and deeper machine learning techniques.

Apple introduced in El Capitan a feature allowing natural-language search queries via Siri, and now this capability extends to search files stored on your computer. When asked to show photos of cows via Siri, Sierra displays up to 10 results before initiating a query within Finder to locate any relevant presentations or image files.

My only issue was with Siri misinterpreting what I meant; moreover, when asked general questions it often provided incorrect or vague responses, which pushed me away to do my own search in Finder rather than wait for Siri to complete its task.


Apple is using macOS Sierra to bring their Mac OS closer to iOS and watchOS, offering space-saving optimizations and Siri updates, and features that let your Mac share data with iPhones and iPads.

Yosemite introduced Continuity, which allows your devices to share small bits of data – like a webpage you are viewing or notes you’ve written down on one device – among themselves. Sierra takes this concept a step further by adding new capabilities which allow your Mac to unlock its user account simply by holding close an iPhone which has been paired, as well as sharing clipboard for cutting, copying and pasting text and rich media between multiple devices.

Other new Continuity features include Auto Unlock and Universal Clipboard – part of what’s now known as Continuity Camera feature – for Auto Unlock and Universal Clipboard respectively. In order to use them, these require an iPhone running iOS 7 that’s connected to your Mac via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and running iOS 7.1; to use these you will have to agree that iCloud and iOS can store a temporary security token known as the Continuity Camera Key on your phone or iPad.

macOS Sierra now allows users to encrypt files and folders with Apple File System encryption technology for improved security, which should make computers safer. Unfortunately, this feature won’t be made publicly available until 2017.

Sierra is compatible with MacBooks and iMacs manufactured since 2010, as well as 2010 or later versions of Air and mini models. However, it will not run on computers older than 2009. Therefore ITS recommends upgrading to macOS Sierra only when replacing an existing machine.

Auto Unlock

Sierra is now available to anyone with an eligible Mac laptop or desktop, making this version more reliable and powerful than its predecessors. While previous updates focused primarily on interface changes, Sierra delivers improvements behind-the-scenes that improve how your Mac functions.

Yosemite introduced Continuity, which allows Apple devices such as Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, and Watches to share small bits of data among themselves. Sierra takes that one step further with Auto Unlock; when you come home it automatically unlocks and locks when leaving using iPhone proximity detection technology to unlock and lock doors accordingly.

Sierra is also the first version of Mac to feature an updated Photos app, complete with an innovative machine learning algorithm to scan every image and identify faces, places and objects – and even recognize if photos are blurry or crooked while providing recommendations for improvements.

After upgrading to Sierra, it’s advisable to leave the app running overnight so it has the best chance of scanning all your library. Since it requires significant processor power, be sure to leave your Mac plugged in and powered on during this process.

Optimized Storage is another non-glamorous but valuable addition, automatically deleting duplicate files such as caches and logs without you even realizing. Furthermore, this feature reduces how much storage iCloud uses by clearing away items that don’t belong there from local folders – an especially handy feature on older Macs with limited disk space! You can enable Optimized Storage within the iCloud settings.

Apple Pay

Apple is well known for producing user-friendly operating systems. Their latest release, macOS Sierra, may not offer massive changes, but still provides numerous advantages to owners of eligible MacBooks or iMacs from 2010 or later from Amazon and Apple respectively.

Siri, previously exclusive to iOS devices such as iPhone and iPad, now makes her way onto desktop computers as an interactive voice-enabled digital assistant. Compatible phones and Apple Watches enable voice control of computers, email send-out, message reception, web search queries and much more!

Apple Pay makes payments easy on your Mac, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch by holding it close to an NFC (near field communication)-enabled payment terminal in stores or apps. Apple Pay stores your debit and credit cards securely in its digital wallet using encryption to protect them.

Other macOS Sierra updates include simpler ways of transmitting files between devices, improved ways of editing and collaborating on documents, as well as the new Optimized Storage feature in iCloud that frees up storage space by automatically deleting duplicate files (caches, logs and other system junk) without your knowledge and automatically storing items that don’t often get used in the cloud.

Staying current with the latest features requires staying current with macOS updates. Some updates, like Picture in Picture, offer unique experiences – such as detaching miniature versions of iTunes or Safari videos to watch in a corner of the screen when switching apps or desktops.


Apple’s built-in Photos app gets an upgrade with macOS Sierra, offering new library browsing features, an organized editing window, and additional tools to enhance images further. In addition, Memories and People features have also been improved a bit more smoothly than before.

The main Library view now offers an always-on sidebar that makes finding what you’re searching for much simpler, and instant filter creation in the sidebar helps quickly locate photos from certain events.

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New to the sidebar photo collection browsing is an organized layout that brings all categories together in one convenient spot, making browsing your image collection much simpler. Sort images by date, location or a variety of criteria before viewing a slideshow of all your favorites at once.

Photos for macOS Sierra makes it easier to locate photos of loved ones by enabling search by name, something previously only possible via Google Image Search but now directly within Photos for Mac.

Photos has also seen some enhancements to its Faces feature, which uses machine learning to automatically identify people and organize your photos accordingly.

Furthermore, its People album now automatically organizes them into collections like family, pets, hiking trips and winter sports photos – and you can easily view all photos associated with an individual by double-clicking their face in the album grid – adding yet another convenient touch that shows just how powerful Photos has become as a digital assistant for life in general.


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