Some Thoughts about macOS Sierra

August 23rd, 2016

Since the middle of June, Mac developers have had the chance to pound on betas of Apple’s operating systems to find bugs and make sure their products are compatible. The public got their chance a couple of weeks later with macOS Sierra and iOS 10. All told, more than a million have had their chance to see what Apple is working on, and there’s been plenty of coverage.

Let’s hope Apple pays attention to all that user feedback they must be receiving.

It’s unfortunate that a few have treated these betas as final releases in the way they cover them. The bugs, of which there are plenty, are described in exquisite detail, and Apple is criticized for their lapses. Forgotten is the fact that prerelease software is apt to have lots of problems, and the purpose of a beta is to iron out as many as possible, with the emphasis on things that can cause crashes, data loss and poor performance.

The beta process is entering the late stages. iOS 10 will be out in less than a month, meaning that the Golden Master, or the first Golden Master, is near. So iOS 10 ought to be in a pretty decent state of development by now, with only some final spit and polish and lingering bugs left to deal with.

I had more confidence in iOS 10 than macOS Sierra, so my iPhone 6 has been running it since the early days. After suffering through some irritants and sluggish performance for the early betas, it’s in good enough shape now that I find it hard to locate the signs that it’s still a beta. I’m sure some of you have your own lists, but the worst I see is a Safari glitch, where after using the option to “Clear History and Website Data,” some sites won’t display properly until I restart. Otherwise, it’s been rock solid.

But this isn’t a review, so don’t pay attention to the problems.

I’ve been using Macs for over 30 years, so let’s focus on macOS Sierra for the rest of this column.

Siri is, as expected for weeks before Sierra was launched, is the big deal. Siri is smarter for iOS 10, and for the Mac as well. But I generally use Siri to set alarms or map directions on my iPhone. I also made it clear Siri’s arrival on the Mac wasn’t my first choice of a most compelling feature. I will give it its due, however.

What I do like is the fact that I’m not forced to call upon Siri with my primary input source, the external Behringer mic mixer I use to record my radio shows. So I was able to pick the Internal Microphone without changing what I selected in the Sound preference pane. Maybe the rest will come, or maybe I’ll write my review of the release version of macOS Sierra and conclude it’s still not my cup of tea.

Sierra also has a smarter Photos app, with a Memories feature that lets you harness its face recognition capability to create slideshows and other fancy collections.

If you have an Apple Watch or iPhone with Touch ID, you can use it on a Mac with Sierra to make online purchases funded via Apple Pay. Here Apple is leveraging its Continuity feature, which allows all its devices to talk with one another. You can also awaken your Mac from the Apple Watch, and it makes me wonder if the next generation of Macs will have their own Touch ID sensor.

The cloud’s importance is never more obvious than the Universal Clipboard, allowing you to copy on one device, paste on another. The Desktop and Documents folders are shared on your iCloud Drive and available to all your gear, even your iPhone and iPad.

If you have a Mac with a tiny SSD, such as a basic MacBook Air, you’ll appreciate the Optimized Storage feature that can call upon iCloud for storage of documents you don’t lose often. It can also help you get rid of duplicate and obsolete files, such as all those extra app installers that accumulate over the years.

Messages is flashier, echoing some of the advanced formatting features of the iOS version. If you’re into emojis, you’ll be in your element. It won’t light my fire, but I’m sure it has its charms.

Although it’s supposedly in a fairly advanced state of development, Sierra, to me, remains in shakier condition than iOS 10. I’m using it on a second partition on a recent 27-inch iMac. But it hasn’t become stable enough to consider using it as my primary OS, even though Sierra-savvy apps are arriving. As usual, Mail has not been well behaved.

In a sense, this is reminiscent of Mail’s condition with El Capitan. One problem, stalling for 30 seconds for no accountable reason, still exists with OS 10.11.6. I assume the chances of a 10.11.7 are probably slim to none.

I’m not overly concerned with macOS Sierra’s shaky condition, since it probably won’t be out until October, in keeping with previous releases. There’s still time to clean it up, so it probably won’t be long before it earns a place on my primary partition.

But not yet.

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5 Responses to “Some Thoughts about macOS Sierra”

  1. DaveD says:

    Thanks for the beta status update of macOS Sierra and iOS 10.

    With El Captain the overall stability is fine. Apps that crashed in Yosemite stay working in version 10.11.6. A few annoyances with beachball appearances in Safari. The occasional trackpad click not registering requiring a second or third click (could be from a third-party app).

    I would like Apple take the time and make Sierra snappy on all Macs.

  2. dfs says:

    Somehow I think Siri on the Mac is at least a somewhat bigger deal than Gene does. In fact I don’t understand why Apple hasn’t gotten around to this some time ago. When Siri was first introduced there may have been bandwidth issues, but if so, then surely that’s ancient history by now.

  3. Bruce Austin says:

    Hi Gene – long time fan here. I’m reading this posting on an iPad. The page font is very small, painful to read, and no way to zoom other than using touch-pinch, which sends the margins out of sight off both edges of the screen. Any reasonable way to add an “A+” button to zoom text on the page?
    Thanks, Bruce A

    • I’d have to talk to a web developer about this. I’m sure it’s possible. Understand that we haven’t seen requests of this sort. But I grant some just suffer in silence.


    • DaveD says:


      I read it daily on an iPad mini using the Reader View. In the location bar left to the URL is a stack of horizontal lines. Click on it for a more readable page.



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