Less than a month after its unveiling, macOS Sierra arrived today for beta testers who have signed up to try Apple’s new desktop operating system. This is the third year in a row Apple has offered a public beta of an upcoming desktop OS.
This year the Mac platform gets some enhancements, with Sierra bringing one notable feature that promises to change how users interact with their Mac. After teasing users in 2015 with a revamped Spotlight in OS X El Capitan that understood sophisticated requests, Sierra finally brings Siri to the Mac.
Siri’s integration means you’ll be able to control certain functions on your Mac using natural language voice commands, and Siri on the desktop is just as functional as Siri on the iPhone, and with Mac-specific tricks, too. From what I’ve seen using the early Sierra betas, I expect to be spending more time talking to my Mac.
Sierra isn’t due out in final form until sometime this fall. But beta users, as of today, can check out the tweaks and additions the upgrade offers to make using your Mac a better experience. Those features include picture-in-picture for videos, better photo organization, improved device collaboration via the Universal Clipboard, iCloud Drive (which allows shared Desktop and Documents across all of your Apple devices), and Auto Unlocking your Mac when you wear your Apple Watch (running watchOS 3).
But the biggest standout feature is Siri, which arrives on the desktop years after its debut as an app in iOS and then as a tent-pole feature for the iPhone platform. Apple now joins the ranks of other big-league developers, including Microsoft, Google and even Amazon, who are rapidly rolling out voice-activated features for their products.
Before I get into more details about Sierra, a programming note: If you haven’t signed up for Apple’s beta program. Just a warning: thisis a beta, so there will likely be issues if you’re running this operating system. Apple still has months of work ahead to bring Sierra to its final, shipping form. Remember: before you rush to install it, always have a backup of your computer, and never use a beta on production-critical hardware.
It’s been five years since Siri’s introduction on the iPhone. Since then, public acceptance of using voicing commands to control a device has slowly been on the rise. Amazon, Google and Microsoft all have virtual assistants now, and, for Apple’s part, the Siri technology has been expanding the use of voice commands in a variety of devices. Siri has bounced from the iPhone to the iPad to Apple TV and CarPlay. If history is any indicator — and by history, I mean Apple’s other product releases — Siri integration will absolutely change how you interact with the Mac — even if you’re still not sold on voice interaction.
Why? Because over the years, Siri has learned platform-specific tricks that make interacting with devices much more effective. For instance, when Siri is prompted on the Apple TV for a specific show, Siri searches across all supported apps and displays the relevant results, saving you the trouble of opening and poking around for that specific show. And on Apple TV, rewinding and fast-forwarding to specific spots isn’t much of an issue when you can tell Siri to just skip back or ahead with your voice.
Siri will be no different. It’s still as whimsical as it is on the iPhone (ask how it feels about living in a Mac and Siri might joke about living in an aluminum housing with no Windows). But there are a variety of new tricks that should be helpful for day to day users.