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Here’s what’s changing in macOS Sierra

Hey, Siri.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

About a week after updating its mobile operating system, Apple is turning its attention to computers. The company is launching the newest version of its Mac operating system today (Sept. 20), which it’s rebranding from OS X to macOS. If your computer is compatible—which is pretty much any Mac released in the last 5 years—and you want to know what’s changing, read on.

Quartz has complied a quick rundown of what’s new in macOS Sierra:


Hey Siri.

Apple’s occasionally helpful and often sarcastic voice assistant has made the jump from the iPhone to the desktop. Everything you can ask Siri to do in iOS 10, you can now ask her on your computer. There are also Mac-specific abilities, such as asking her to check your spelling, save stuff she finds for you in your notifications center, and even drag files she finds you into other applications. For example, you can ask Siri to find you a picture of Lake Tahoe on the web as you write an email about how nice it would be have a weekend away in the mountains, and then pull an image right into the email. (There’s now a Siri icon on your dock, or you can hold down the Command key and the space bar to launch her.)

Universal clipboard

Cross-device copying.

Ever have an image, a link, or piece of text on your phone that you really want to drop into a Word document or email on your computer? Until now, you’d have to save it, and email it to yourself, or hope that Apple’s AirDrop connection technology is working for once. With macOS Sierra, you can now copy something from your phone, right-click on your Mac, and paste it right into whatever you were working on. Simple.

Log in from your Apple Watch

Typing passwords is so 2015.

Continuing the mobile device-computer pairings, Apple has created a way for users to log into their Macs using their Apple Watches. Preauthorizing the Watch to unlock your Mac can be set up in macOS’s settings, and requires the Watch to be physically strapped to your arm, much in the same way that Apple Pay on the watch does. (This is all assuming you still wear your Apple Watch.)

Jaunty iMessages

All of the crazy new iMessage features that just arrived on iOS 10 are now available on the Mac. So if this past week you’ve been missing out on hidden messages, fireworks, and giant emoji that your friends have been sending you from their phones, the wait is over.

Files everywhere

Files on files on files.

Apple introduced iCloud Drive, a file management system for its cloud storage system, on iOS 9. Now, it’s extending to Macs, so that any file on your computer can be accessed on any mobile device you own, or through the web on another computer you’re using. Also, any documents stored in the cloud that you edit will be updated across your devices. Just make sure you’ve bought a lot of iCloud storage before jumping in.

Apple Pay

Always carry two devices with you.

If you use Safari to do some internet shopping, it just got a lot quicker to spend money. Apple’s web browser now supports Apple Pay, meaning you can check out at a store, and when it’s time to pay, the site will prompt you to place your finger over the scanner in your phone’s home button to complete your payment. No more fumbling around for your credit card, or worrying about storing banking information on websites.

Space savings

With macOS Sierra, your computer should get a little emptier. The system has a new way of managing files, called Optimized Storage, that will offload files that you rarely use to the cloud, shoring up space on your hard drive. It also will automatically delete any duplicate files on your computer—say you downloaded the same song twice by mistake—which should also free up some space on your digital desktop.

Instant collages

Export your memories to the cloud.

In case it was too difficult to scrapbook and document your life, macOS Sierra can now take that burden off your shoulders. A new function in the Photos app, called Memories, apparently uses AI to recognize faces, locations, and activities to pull together automated slideshows of your photos. You can customize them after the computer has made them for you, and share them to your heart’s content. (If you’ve been using Google Photos over the last year, this feature will be nothing new to you.)

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