MacOS Sierra Preview: Siri, iCloud, Photos App Updates

Apple debuted macOS Sierra at WWDC 2016 and recently released the developer preview. These are the features you can expect to see in its new desktop OS.
iOS 10, MacOS, WatchOS Updates: WWDC Up Close
iOS 10, MacOS, WatchOS Updates: WWDC Up Close
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Apple unveiled a series of software updates to the Mac, iPhone, Apple Watch, and Apple TV June 13 at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

One of many changes announced at the event was the renaming of Apple's desktop operating system. Cupertino decided to ditch the OS X moniker in favor of macOS to more closely align with the names of its other operating systems -- iOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

The developer preview for the latest version of its desktop OS, called macOS Sierra, was made available the same day the new operating system was announced at WWDC. A public preview is expected to launch in July, and Apple says it will make the update generally available for free to Mac users later in 2016.

[Read: Apple Kills Flash on Safari 10, Will Focus on HTML 5.]

The new name was the first of many desktop changes announced at WWDC. Apple demoed a series of new features and fixes intended to improve storage management and continuity between Mac and iPhone.

Let's take a closer look at what's new in macOS Sierra.


Shortly after Microsoft integrated Cortana into Windows 10, Apple brought Siri to the Mac desktop. The personal digital assistant is activated by a keyboard command (Fn+Space). It can find files, message contacts, or research info on news, weather, or restaurants.

You can drag information from Siri into a desktop window. For example, you can pull data from the web into Pages. Search results like sports schedules and Twitter feeds can be pinned into the Notification Center for easy access.

Users will find interacting with Siri on the Mac is similar to interacting with Siri on the iPhone, but the similarity isn't always a good thing, as pointed out by The Verge. You can't type questions to Siri. You can only ask via voice, which might be annoying in public places. Siri also doesn't integrate with Spotlight, even though they perform similar search functions.

iCloud Update

The iCloud Desktop and Documents sync feature is intended to help with saving content to the cloud. The process automatically uploads all content from your Desktop and Documents folders to the iCloud drive unless you disable it.

The idea is to make all of your folders accessible across devices -- not only the ones you store in iCloud. While useful, the automatic upload of content to the cloud may cost you, since users are limited to 5GB free storage.

Storage Management

Apple designed macOS Sierra to maximize storage space. A new Storage Optimization feature takes files you don't use often and brings them to the cloud. There, they are available to download on demand.

There are other features to maximize free space. If you download a file on Safari that you've already downloaded, the OS will delete the original file instead of saving the second with a (1) at the end of the name. If macOS notices you're low on space, it will delete all partial downloads, log files, and caches, according to Ars Technica.


Several updates in macOS Sierra improve the connection among Apple devices. For example, you can use Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. You can also copy and paste content between Mac and iOS devices. If you copy anything on one device, it is available to paste on another.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay can be used from inside Safari. Payments are finalized by double-clicking the side button on Apple Watch or by using the iPhone's fingerprint sensor.

Photos, Picture in Picture

A Photos feature called Memories will automatically sort your photo stream into albums by using dates, geolocation, and computer vision, reported TechCrunch. Photos will also show you all people in the album and a map. You can also use the app to search for objects and people.

Apple is also updating macOS with Picture in Picture, a feature it brought to the iPad last year. This feature lets you shrink down a video window and move it around on the desktop. It makes it easier to keep watching a video while multitasking.

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