Apple has announced an update and new name to its Mac operating system at its massive WWDC 2016 event in San Francisco on 13 June. Read on for our full round up of what's new in macOS Sierra, as well as the macOS Sierra release date news, compatible Macs and the beta and preview schedule. Watch the video above for our first impressions of macOS Sierra's new features.
Mac OS X is no more: Apple announced at WWDC 2016 that the operating system for the Mac is now known as macOS to keep it in line with its other OS names (tvOS, iOS, watchOS 3). This year's update will be called macOS Sierra, and it's rolling out officially this autumn. For now, though, you can find out all about what's coming to a Mac near you with macOS Sierra, and when to expect to be able to get your hands on it (it might be sooner than you think thanks to the public preview).
macOS Sierra UK release date: When is macOS Sierra coming out?
macOS Sierra will be available in the autumn for the general public, so around September, but the public beta will be available from this summer, in July.
In fact, the developer preview is available right now. This follows Apple's usual pattern of introducing macOS updates; WWDC is the introduction to developers (who get instant access) but then consumers must wait until the official release - this will be in the autumn, around September and most likely will coincide with the launch of iOS 10 and new iPhones, although Apple has been known to launch its Mac operating systems a bit later in October too.
macOS Sierra public beta to launch this month
There is the option of joining the public beta programme to get early access to macOS Sierra, which is due to begin this month, athough a specific date is yet to be named. If you join the public beta programme you'll be able to download and install a pre-release build of the software and try it out for yourself, but be warned that it's likely to be buggy and may cause problems with existing software. It would be wise to install the macOS Sierra beta on a secondary Mac rather than the machine you need for work.
We've taken a look at how to install macOS Sierra, so you can head over to our write up right now.
macOS Sierra price UK: How much will macOS Sierra cost?
macOS Sierra will be a free update to Mac users using compatible devices, following the pattern that Apple has stuck too since OS X Mavericks in 2013. For a full run down of the expected system requirements for macOS Sierra, read: which Macs can run macOS Sierra?
WWDC 2016: Podcast - WWDC report
The UK Tech Weekly Podcast dissects the announcements of WWDC, including macOS Sierra, in its 19th episode. We've embedded the audio below in case you'd like to hear what the team have to say. The WWDC section starts at the 26:30 point.
A new episode of the UK Tech Weekly Podcast comes out every Friday. Follow them on Twitter for links to the latest episodes.
macOS Sierra compatibility: Which Macs will macOS Sierra be able to run on?
Before we get into the specifics of macOS Sierra, it's probably worth mentioning Mac compatibility. The last four major OS X releases (Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite and El Capitan) were all released without dropping compatibility from any Mac models - sure, not all features of every update were available for every Mac, but the software update itself was available.
That has all changed with macOS Sierra, as some older Macs haven't made the cut and won't be able to install Apple's latest Mac software going forward. So, if you have one of the following Macs or MacBooks, you're sadly out of luck:
- iMacs from mid-2007 to mid-2009
- MacBooks from mid-2007 to mis-2009
- MacBook Pros from 2007 to 2009
- Mac minis from 2009
As a rule of thumb, those who bought a Mac in 2010 or later will be able to receive the update but those that bought their machine prior to 2009 are pretty much out of luck.
macOS Sierra new features: What's new in macOS Sierra?
Auto Unlock with Apple Watch
Apple is putting several new features into the OS. The first announced on the night was Auto Unlock which allows you to unlock your Mac using your Apple Watch. No more typing in lengthy passwords after the screen goes off! A small addition, but no doubt will prove useful to those who have invested in the Watch.
Universal Clipboard was slightly overlooked, but it is a new, great way to sync your copy and paste data between devices. This could be best put into practice with an iPad Pro and a Mac: drawing direct onto the iPad before intelligently copying and pasting on to Mac documents. This is a great way of syncing information between devices and will stop the brain-hurt of emailing yourself pictures or even sticking stuff in the cloud to download to another device.
iCloud Drive and Optimised Storage
iCloud Drive is also receiving a much needed update. For those of us familiar with sprinkling our Mac desktops with files that we need, rejoice - those files are mirrored on your other Macs (if you're rich) and on your iPhone.
Optimised storage for iCloud will automatically back up older files, particularly those that you'll never use again like cache files. It'll make your storage go a lot further before you have to fork out for more, which is great news. It's nice to see Apple thinking about the smaller nuances of its services.
A further excellent feature coming to macOS Sierra is Apple Pay for Mac. Apple Pay icons will now appear on the buy pages of certain merchants - all you need do is verify your purchases with Touch ID on your iPhone or using your Apple Watch. This will be initially supported in nine countries.
Ahead of Apple's keynote, rumours had suggested that at some point Apple will add a Touch ID fingerprint scanner to its Mac range. This more conservative way of introducing Apple Pay to the Mac still provides many of the benefits, and it's still possible that Touch ID will eventually come to the Mac, too. However, the introduction of Auto Unlock mentioned above seems to be the solution to unlocking the Mac securely without the need for Touch ID.
Tabs have also been lovingly reimagined - no longer restricted to Safari, those apps that allow for tabs now (with no developer work needed) will allow you to multi-tab.
Picture-in-Picture mode allows you to thumbnail view photos and, more impressively, videos from certain apps while doing other things. So long, productivity! Although, for those who work in video editing, features like this will be another Godsend.
Apple File System (APFS)
Now while this may not be as appealing as many of the other features of macOS Sierra, Apple's new proprietary file system is worth a mention. Why? One of the most exciting features of the new file system is space sharing, which helps partitioned drives utilise space on the fly. Let's say you had a 1TB drive with two 100GB partitions, with one nearly full and one almost empty. In this situation, space sharing wouldn't limit the almost-full partition, and would instead note that there is 800GB of free space (the total free disk space) for both partitioned drives. Essentially, APFS treats the partition limits as containers that can be expanded when required.
Duplicated files won't take up any extra space either - if you duplicate a 2GB drive it wouldn't take up 4GB, instead the copy would access the original version. Then, if you make changes to the oriignal version, the new data is copied to a separate block preserving the original state.
Essentially, the new file system should make your macOS life a little easier behind the scenes.
Siri for Mac
After all the little bits and pieces, Apple showed us what we were hoping for - Siri on a Mac. A particularly useful and impressive feature that was demoed live on stage was searching through documents using Siri. The voice assistant will also let you be far more flexible with macOS Sierra - you'll be able to image search online with Siri, and have the ability to drag and drop those images directly into a plethora of apps.
Siri is already on iPhone, iPad and even the Apple TV, so it was only a matter of time before Siri came to Mac too. After all, Microsoft already has Cortana in Windows (and has done since Windows 8.1) and Chrome has Google Now.
MacOS wishlist: What Apple didn't announce for Mac OS Sierra
While Apple's macOS Sierra update is pretty huge, there are some things we'd been hoping for that didn't happen.
Ahead of WWDC 2016, rumours suggested that iTunes would get a complete redesign alongside the Apple Music app for iOS, making it "more easy to use" according to people familiar with the matter.
Apple Music did get a makeover, but iTunes was left alone this time. It's a real shame because we think iTunes is in dire need of an overhaul.
Bring back the Save As shortcut
We're still not sure why Apple replaced Save-As (Command-Shift-S) with Duplicate in its iWork apps, but we think Apple should rethink the approach. Whatever new approach to file saving they had planned hasn't gained wider industry traction, and it's just confusing to everybody who knows the Command-Shift-S is Save As.
Read next: Mac Keyboard Shortcuts
Sort out automation once and for all
Read next: 10 ways to automate your Mac
Health app for OS X
Health is a great app for iOS and Apple Watch, and we think it'd be nice to see it come across to OS X. Being able to keep an eye on your health stats from the desktop would help Health become a much more versatile tool.
Read next: How to use Apple's health app
System-wide OS X Dark Mode
Dark Mode for the Dock and Menu bar is nice, but we'd love to see it integrated System Wide and adjust the whole appearance of OS X. There was a rumour of a Dark Mode reskin called Marble at one point, and we'd love to see a darker, edgier OS X.
Read next: How to switch on Dark Mode on the Mac
Dedicated Music App for OS X
There's no getting away from the fact that iTunes is a big, bloated mess of an app. We'd love to see Apple break iTunes up into a series of smaller apps (as it is in iOS). Top of our list would be a dedicated Music app, with deep integration with Apple Music. But we'd also love to see separate Podcasts and iTunes Store apps.
Read next: iTunes 12.2 review
Clock App for OS X
Wouldn't it be great if OS X had a proper Clock app, with all the functionality of the Clock app in iOS. The widget is fine, but a dedicated app with Alarm, Stopwatch and Timer functionality for OS X would come in handy.
Read more: Why we hate the iPhone alarm
iCloud Time Machine
You can backup your iOS devices to the cloud, but what about OS X? With cloud storage prices falling, we think it's high time Apple brought cloud backup directly into OS X. You might have to pay extra for the solution, but it'd be a much better system than backing up Macs to external drives.
Read more: Complete guide to Time Machine