What is Console on macOS Sierra and why should you care?

The average person doesn't really need to look at their Mac's logs or status messages, but more advanced users and tech troubleshooters turn to Console to glean important information on what's going on under the hood. Thanks to a redesign in macOS Sierra, if you're looking for more information on what your Mac is up, it's much easier to find and read the information than ever before.

Console gets a new look

Previously, data in the Console app looked like run-on sentences. Distinguishing the process from the event was difficult, at best. Now, these lines of text are separated by columns, which can also be filtered by errors and faults. You can customize the columns to specify what data you are most interested in.

When you search for a term, you'll be given a secondary search option to look for the queried term under a specific category, like Process, Library Path, Message Type, and more. When you find the term and category you are looking for, you can save the filtered information in your tab bar, so you can click on it to check data at any time.

There is a new Now button that will immediately zoom you to the end of the data stream, looking at the most current threads. Even as new data appears, your window will remain at the bottom, so you can always see the newest incoming information.

You can also view data by Activities to see what actions are taking place by different processes. This is helpful for developers working on debugs for their apps, but is also a quick way to look for issues you may come across.

When you select a line, something that is causing an error or fault, for example, you can view additional detailed information about the problem. You can also share that information to someone else via email, text, and social media. Or, you can save it to your Notes or Reminders app, or another third-party note-saving app.

Unfortunately, Console has also been redesigned to only show you data from the time you open the app. That means, if your Mac crashed and you want to find out why, opening console after the fact may not yield you any useful information. You can browse Console's log archives, but it is an arduous process that involves creating a system diagnostic report first.

Why should I care?

When you first look at the Console app, it might look like a bunch of confusing tech jargon that only engineers and computer scientists would give a crap about. But, even the everyday Mac user could, potentially, benefit from using Console.

Let's say your Mac is starting to act up – maybe you keep getting error messages when trying to empty the trash, or a particular app doesn't load properly.

You've tried all of the general troubleshooting options, turning it off and on, deleting and reinstalling software, etc., but you can't seem to fix this one problem.

You can launch Console, filter the data by Errors and Faults (or search for the app), find the line that seems to refer to your problem, and do a quick search on the internet for a solution. Oftentimes, Console will provide an error code, which is very useful when troubleshooting a problem on your own.

Even if you can't diagnose the issue yourself, you can send the error details to your IT support, so they can better understand the problem and help fix it remotely.

Console isn't a go-to app for the average Mac user, but for those that do use it, it's invaluable. And, thanks to a complete redesign in macOS Sierra, it's even easier to find and track the data you need.

What do you think?

Are you a regular Console app user? Let us know your best practices and what you think about the redesign.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).