Update: If you're enrolled in Apple's developer program, you can try out the company's new filesystem technology now, albeit in a limited capacity. Read on to find out more!
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With Microsoft's Windows 10 heating up the PC market, Apple is bringing a free upgrade of its own with the launch of a new version of OS X for Mac packed with new features and improvements.
OS X 10.12 was officially revealed and renamed macOS Sierra at the Worldwide Developers Conference(WWDC). As expected, Sierra does much more than just providing bug fixes and performance updates, as we saw with the move from 10.10 Yosemite to 10.11 El Capitan.
So what's in store for Mac users? Follow along and we'll tell you exactly what you can expect from the next version of OS X – we mean macOS.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next version of Apple's desktop operating system
- When is it out? Fall 2016
- What will it cost? Like the previous several versions, it will be a free update
macOS Sierra release date
Apple has gotten into a cycle when it comes to releasing new operating systems. Typically they're demoed and debuted during WWDC in June, a beta preview over the summer and having the final OS in our hands by November.
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The Cupertino firm's macOS Sierra seems to follow that same formula. Following its reveal in mid-June, Apple plans to release a developer preview in July and the final OS in this fall.
Siri finally makes an appearance
The biggest new feature slated for macOS Sierra is the inclusion of the Siri virtual personal assistant. Siri was launched on iOS back in 2011, and Macs are surprisingly the last platform Apple decided to bring it to.
Just as with using the virtual assistant on iPhones, users will be able to simply command Siri and ask it questions with their voice. However, being on the Mac opens up a greater swath of options such as searching for files.
At WWDC, SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi demonstrated how Siri can help with sophisticated queries for files like, "Show the files I worked on last week about the off-site." And from there users can narrow down their search based on tags.
Siri also has full access to other parts of macOS' including applications such as iTunes, making her your personal DJ. Alternatively, Siri integrates with Safari to act on web searches.
By adding Siri to the Mac platform, Apple hopes to offer the same services for iPhone and iPad owners with a Mac.
What's more, Apple opened has issued an SDK for developers to make their own applications work with Siri.
A long overdue file system upgrade
Since 1985, Apple has remained complacent with its Hierarchal File System, or HFS. With macOS, however, that all changes thanks to the new APFS, or simply Apple File System. Starting with the company's 2017 MacBook lineup, all of Apple's computers will support the new filesystem on its bootup drive. And, although we'll be able to try it out for ourselves when the macOS Sierra public beta lands, developers in the preview right now are saying the new filesystem is limited to transferring files back and forth on a non-startup drive.
Once Apple's hardware begins to support the new standard, it won't be long before we start to reap the benefits. These include improved flash memory optimization, faster Time Machine backups and improved space allocation letting two APFS-formatted disks act as one combined storage drive. Unfortunately, for legacy Mac users this means HFS support will be ousted in the next 25 years, though it would be a miracle if your computer could still boot up by then.
Continuity gets even better
Continuity between Mac and iOS is a big deal for those engulfed in Apple's hardy ecosystem. Ever since its introduction, users have been able to pick up calls and text conversations from their phones and conveniently pull them up on their Mac computers.
With macOS Sierra, not only will you be able to access your computer from other machines including your iPhone, but if you need to copy something from one device to another, you can achieve that using the Universal Clipboard function. By copying something from one device, you can seamlessly paste it over to another. If you thought AirDrop made your life easier, this enhances the Apple ecosystem even further with yet another method of shuffling around files.
And, while TouchID isn't coming to Mac anytime soon, auto-unlock is. As the name implies, this new feature will let you unlock your Mac by merely being in close proximity to an Apple Watch or iOS device.
What's more, Apple Pay has expanded beyond the restraints of a 4.7-inch screen and onto PCs by way of macOS. Making an effort to compete with ecommerce services like PayPal, a "Pay with Apple Pay" button will soon be integrated in your browser with TouchID on a nearby iPhone or iPad serving as a means of quick authentication.
Better photo and video functionality
Finally we have the Photos app getting an overhaul in iOS 10, and because of the way Continuity works, the incoming features also apply to Mac. These include a new "Memories" tab for a more magazine-like viewing mode as well as an AI that automatically sorts photos either by people or topics.
Likewise, if you're a skilled multi-tasker interested in watching videos while you work, you'll be delighted to know that macOS Sierra's picture-in-picture mode allows users to take their video windows with them even as they rotate between desktop screens.
Gabe Carey also contributed to this article
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