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Goodbye OS X: Apple introduces macOS Sierra

Apple has formally changed the name of its desktop operating system, moving from OS X to macOS with its latest release, Sierra. macOS Sierra features a major focus on Continuity, iCloud, and Mac experiences.

One of the key new features with Sierra is Auto-lock, which allows you to automatically unlock your macOS computer if your Apple Watch is on your wrist. There's also the new universal clipboard, a shared clipboard between macOS and iOS that allows you to easily share text, images, and video between iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Siri will also be coming to Mac desktops for the first time, and Safari will get picture-in-picture support.

There are also changes coming to iCloud Drive. Your desktop folder and files will now be visible on other Macs and iOS devices. macOS will optimize storage in concert with iCloud Drive, moving your older documents from your hard drive to the cloud. This includes full-resolution photos and movies. It will also automatically delete your trash, old mail attachments, and more if your want.

One other major feature coming in macOS Sierra is Apple Pay for the web, which allows you to tap an Apple Pay button on a website, then authenticate the payment on your Apple Watch or with Touch ID on your iPhone.

macOS will launch in developer preview later today, withe a public beta coming in July. The update will support every Mac from 2010 onward.

Check out the iMore liveblog for more from WWDC 2016.

Press release:

Apple Previews Major Update with macOS Sierra

Use Siri on the Mac, Access Your Desktop from Anywhere, Copy and Paste Between Devices & Rediscover Favorite Memories in Photos

SAN FRANCISCO — June 13, 2016 — Apple® today previewed macOS Sierra™, a major update to the world's most advanced desktop operating system, with new features that make the Mac® smarter and more helpful than ever. Siri® is now on the Mac with brand-new capabilities to help with the things users do every day on their desktop. With Siri, users can look up information, find documents, pin or drag and drop search results, and even adjust system preferences. Seamless integration with iCloud® makes everything from your Desktop and Documents folder available on your iPhone® and iPad® so you always have access to the files you need. Universal Clipboard allows you to copy content, including text, images, photos and video from one Apple device and paste it in another. Apple Pay® comes to the Mac in Sierra so it is even easier to shop securely and privately online. And Photos now helps you rediscover your meaningful memories, organize your library and perfect shots like a pro.

"macOS Sierra is a major update that makes your Mac smarter and more helpful than ever with improvements to the apps you know and love and great new features throughout," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering. "With macOS Sierra, you can get information, find files and multitask using Siri, access your Desktop and Documents from anywhere, copy and paste between Macs and iOS devices, and rediscover precious memories in Photos."

Siri Debuts on the Mac Siri on the Mac is now just one click away. The familiar features of Siri are now on the Mac with brand-new capabilities specifically designed for the desktop. Easily accessible from the Dock, menu bar or keyboard, Siri lets you use your voice to search for information, find files and send messages. For example you can ask Siri to locate a specific document you worked on last night, add a meeting to your calendar or start a FaceTime® call. With Siri on the Mac, you can also drag and drop items from Siri search results into your documents or emails, pin Siri search results in Notification Center to keep an eye on information like sports scores or stock prices, and even adjust system preferences, set reminders and search your Photos library. With its debut on Mac, Siri is now on all four Apple software platforms — iOS, macOS™, watchOS® and tvOS™ — and handles two billion requests per week across 36 countries.

Your Desktop & Documents on All Your Devices With macOS Sierra you can automatically have all the files on your Desktop and in your Documents folder on any Mac, iOS device or even PC. You simply save your files on your Desktop or within your Documents folder as you usually do and you will have them everywhere you need them. You can access your files on your iPhone and iPad in the iCloud Drive® app and on iCloud.com or the iCloud for Windows app. And when you log into a second Mac, your files are automatically on the Desktop and in the Documents folder, exactly where you saved them.

Copy & Paste Between Devices Continuity across your Apple devices also gets better in macOS Sierra. With Universal Clipboard, the contents of your clipboard are available across all your Apple devices via iCloud. You can easily copy and paste text, images, photos and video between your Mac and your iPhone and iPad.

Tabs in Almost Every App To help you navigate your Desktop with more efficiency, macOS Sierra takes the popular Tabs feature from Safari® and makes it available across Mac apps that support multiple windows, including Maps, Mail, Pages®, Numbers®, Keynote® and TextEdit, and even third-party apps. With Tabs you can browse multiple locations in Maps without losing your place, copy and paste between Pages documents in full screen, or quickly jump between multiple email drafts in Mail.

Picture in Picture on the Mac You can now keep an eye on one thing while working on another. macOS Sierra lets you float video from Safari or iTunes® in a window over your desktop as you work, and even resize, drag and pin video to any corner of your screen. The video stays put when you switch spaces, so you'll never miss a thing.

Shopping on Your Mac with Apple Pay Users love to shop online using their Macs and with macOS the shopping experience in Safari is now even better. Apple Pay on the web makes it easy to make secure and private purchases when shopping on participating websites. You no longer need to share credit or debit card numbers with an online merchant and actual card numbers are not stored on your device, nor on Apple servers. Just look for the Apple Pay button at checkout on many of your favorite shopping sites and complete your purchase with Touch ID® on your iPhone or by using your Apple Watch®. Strong encryption protects all communication between your devices and Apple Pay servers, and Apple Pay does not track your purchases.

Rediscover Memories with Photos The new Memories feature in Photos helps you rediscover favorite and forgotten moments deep in your Photos library by automatically creating curated collections of occasions like a first birthday party, wedding or family vacation. With new advanced computer vision, Photos now understands the people, places and things inside your images using on-device facial, object and scene recognition and location information to group images into albums. The People feature automatically groups your photos into Albums based on who is in them. Places now displays your photos on a world map so you can see where they were taken. And, perfecting your photos like a pro is now even easier with the new Brilliance tool, which pulls in highlights and adds contrast to enhance details throughout your images.

Additional macOS Features

  • Auto Unlock lets you simply walk up to your Mac while wearing your authenticated Apple Watch and be automatically logged into your desktop.
  • Optimized Storage frees up space when your Mac starts getting full by storing infrequently used items in iCloud and reminding you to delete used app installers, and even clearing out duplicate downloads, caches, logs and more.
  • Messages makes conversations more interesting, now allowing you to preview web links and watch video clips within the app, post reactions like a heart, thumbs up and more directly onto a message bubble with Tapback, and use bigger emoji for more message impact.
  • Apple Music® in iTunes makes it even easier to discover new music and browse exclusives and new releases.

Privacy in macOS Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of Apple hardware, software and services. iMessage and FaceTime use end-to-end encryption to protect your data by making it unreadable by Apple and others. Services like Siri and Maps send data to Apple's servers, but this data is not used to build user profiles, and Photos uses on-device intelligence to organize your images using facial, object and scene recognition.

Starting with macOS Sierra, Apple is using technology called Differential Privacy to help discover the usage patterns of a large number of users without compromising individual privacy. In macOS Sierra, this technology will help improve autocorrect suggestions and Lookup Hints in Notes.

Availability The developer preview of macOS Sierra is available to Apple Developer Program members at developer.apple.com starting today. Mac users can sign up for the macOS Sierra Beta Program today and download the software starting in July at beta.apple.com. The final version will be available for free from the Mac App Store® this fall. For more information, visit apple.com/macos/sierra-preview. Features are subject to change, and some features may not be available in all regions or all languages.

Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Apple's four software platforms — iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud. Apple's 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.

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Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

3 Comments
  • Great summary. I missed the Keynote today, so your information was vey timely. Thanks for writing. I was skeptical until I read the iMore article. I'm looking forward to unlocking my Mac with my Apple Watch. :)
  • Sadly my Mac is too old and cannot be updated Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • App Stores (Mac App Store, iTunes Music & Movie Store, iBooks Store) Optional larger font size - please! Contacts: Larger font size options. Currently the fonts are so small many adult students have to switch glasses when they use Contacts. Custom Fields - Not having this is very frustrating. (A common custom field is a Christmas List). This field is used to determine who gets a Christmas card. Alphabetic selection like iOS - The letter headings on the right side of the contacts. Click on the G group for last names that begin with G. Saves a lot of scrolling time. Ability to resize the picture. Currently, the picture is very small.
    Insert more than one picture into the contact. Example: Picture of spouse. Facetime: Ability to leave a FaceTime voice mail. FeedBack App for the Mac: (Credit to EcoFritze, May 13, 2016) Copy the Windows 10 Feedback app. This is really helping Microsoft improve Windows 10. Amazon is also using a Feedback App for the Echo. Customer feedback works - my Echo has already surpassed Siri in accuracy after only three months of use. Finder: Add option to have folders displayed at the top of the window (alphabetically but before all other files).
    A Cut function.
    Assign a specific color to a folder or as cqgraphicdesign put it "label a folder with a color" instead of just a name.
    Show Hidden Files. This should apply only to the Finder Window. (Added April 21, 2016). Grab: Share:
    - Send to Photos
    - Send to Email
    - Send to Messages
    - Send to Preview button after capturing a screen. Currently, after capturing a screen you have to copy the capture, open preview, Select new from clipboard before you can do anything with your screen capture. Export in different formats such as jpeg and png.​ Image Capture: Needs a share option​ Share to Photos
    Share to Messages
    Share to E-Mail Extensions for Image Capture. - Allow third parties to extend the functionality of Image Capture.​
    Mail: Default viewing Scale (Zoom) - 125, 150%. Twelve point fonts are difficult for many to comfortably read. Microsoft Word or Pages solves this problem with a Zoom setting. Highlight text in different colors like iBooks. Highlighting text is a great way of focusing students on the crucial issues. Tables to allow comparison and contrasts. (Tables are used all the time in student email communications. Unfortunately, Mail does not have this feature.) Option to Restore text descriptions under the icons in the New Message window in mail. This has become an issue on large screen iMacs because the email icons are very small.​ Maps: Download maps for specific regions for offline use. For example, Windows 10 allows you to download maps for the United States, Canada, Mexico etc.) Messages: An insert button (like iOS) to insert photos or videos into a text message without having to leave messages. An option to configure Messages on the Mac to work like iOS Messages. In iOS - Pressing enter moves to the next line of the message. Click Send when you want to send the message. In OSX - The enter key sends the message. If you want to type multiple lines in a message you have to press control enter for each line and then press enter at the end of the message.​ Notes: Ability to set default font and size. (This appears to be in the Sierra beta) Highlight words and sentences like iBooks. Font and font size selection as pull down menus, not a large separate window just to change a font size. Insert tables like Microsoft OneNote. Insert Arrows, lines etc with the text visible. (In iOS you can't see the text when inserting an arrow.) Photos: Clone Tool
    Tonal Contrast like Google Snapseed for iOS.
    Selective adjustment for certain areas of the photo. Google Snapseed for iOS is probably the best example.
    Basic drawing tools in Photos would be very useful. Arrows, lines, Text boxes similar to Preview.
    Collage Function - Collage needs the ability to move and resize photos on a sheet of paper.
    - Insert Collage Title at the top of the page
    - Insert Captions below each photo.​ Uninstall: When you trash an App it be helpful if it would find and trash all the files related with the App, like App Cleaner does. Window Management: Green button = Maximize window to largest possible size with Dock and Menu Bar visible
    Separate Full Screen Button
    Double click on Title Bar to maximize to content.
    Window Snapping like Windows 10 (Aero Snap)
    A setting to request that Apps remember Window position and size.
    Window preview functionality similar to HyperDock or Windows 10. Visual Elements: Change colors of the Dock and Sidebars if transparency is turned off.
    Translucency settings - Low translucency and high translucency. Save As: Save As needs to be an option without pressing the option key. (Added to list - March 11, 2016)​ Siri: Ability to give Siri feedback via an app similar to Amazon's Echo app. Because of this feedback mechanism Alexa (Echo) has become far more accurate than Siri in only three months of use. Health App: that syncs with health monitoring sensors and displays and charts the data in ways that can be easily exported and compared month to month or year over year.​ Restoration of Securing Empty Trash