If you want to try the new macOS Sierra before it officially launches, you can download it soon.
Apple will launch the beta version of Sierra to the public Thursday. You can sign up here to try it out. (It won’t be available immediately, so keep checking that link.)
But! Keep in mind this is still an early version of Sierra and there will likely be a bunch of bugs. I’ve been testing it for a few weeks now and it’s mostly stable, but it’s never a good idea to install a beta version of an OS on your primary computer. If you have a secondary Mac that you don’t use very often, then install the Sierra beta on that instead.
So, what’s new in Sierra?
This is the first major rebranding of the Mac’s OS since OS X launched way back in 2001. Calling it macOS streamlines the naming scheme with Apple’s three other operating systems: iOS (iPhone and iPad), watchOS (Apple Watch), and tvOS (Apple TV). The final version of Sierra will be a free update for most Mac users in the fall.
As for features, the biggest change coming is Siri. Siri can do just about everything it can on the iPhone, but includes some special desktop-only features on the Mac. For example, it can search for files and control settings like WiFi and Bluetooth.
All of the other features are relatively minor, but they add up to a one hefty update. Here are some of the most important changes in Sierra:
- Picture-in-picture video, which lets you pop out a web or iTunes video onto your desktop.
- An updated Photos app that uses machine learning to automatically organise your photos. It can also recognise the content of your images to make them easy to search. (Search “cat” and get all your cat photos, for example.)
- Sierra will automatically optimise your Mac’s storage by keeping some files in iCloud and only downloading them again when you need them.
- Messages has a huge update with larger emojis, stickers, and rich links.
Other features won’t be available until iOS 10 also launches in the fall.
For example, you’ll be able to copy and paste items between your iPhone and Mac or use Apple Pay on shopping sites that support it. And when the new watchOS 3 software launches, you’ll be able to unlock your Mac without a password as long as you’re wearing your Apple Watch.
Even with all those features, you won’t notice any big, fundamental changes in macOS Sierra. It largely looks and feels the same way as the version you’re using now. Give it a shot if you’re eager to try Sierra early, but I still recommend that most people wait for the final version this fall.
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