At 2016’s WorldWide Developers Conference, Apple announced the next version of mac OS X, carried forward by a brand new name – macOS Sierra, bringing it in-line with Apple’s other product names. macOS Sierra 10.12 is available as a developer preview download right now, but the consumer-ready version won’t be out until this October. If you do not like to wait and want to have a taste of the new features on your El Capitan/Yosemite version right now, you just got lucky.
Let me show you how you can get macOS Sierra features on any mac right now using some third-party apps and other tricks, albeit won’t be as polished as Apple’s integration, but at least you’ll have a sight for what’s coming soon.
macOS Sierra Wallpaper
A pretty wallpaper featuring the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges of California is the first thing you’re greeted with when you hit a mac OS Sierra desktop. OS X Daily has the wallpaper available for download in different resolutions, so grab the wallpaper from their site.
Apple is stepping up it’s continuity game to bridge the gap between iOS devices and mac. ‘Universal Clipboard’ enables copying text on your iPhone and pasting it on mac, or vice versa seamlessly. To replicate this function on older mac versions, we are going to have a look at a third-party solution called ‘Scribe’. Scribe works over Bluetooth Low Energy to pair with your iOS device and enables you to sync the clipboard between both the devices, without having to connect to the same wifi network, or better yet, without even Internet.
For the Android counterpart, I’d recommend going with AirDroid which syncs the clipboard between mac and an Android device, including a lot of great features.
Photos: Smart Object and Facial Recognition
Photos App is getting a major overhaul in Sierra, with the ability to recognise different objects and scenes within a photo. For example, you could search for ‘Beach’ in Photos, and it would list out all of the beach photos from your collection. Google Photos has had this functionality for quite some time. There could be a couple of potential setback for some users as first, Google Photos require you to back up all your photos to their service and secondly, the object/scene recognition search is performed only online which in contrast with Apple’s solution, which can be performed locally within the Photos app. If you’re that guy without Internet access, Adobe Lightroom has a respectable local face recognition feature, so does the Apple’s updated photos App.
Nonetheless, Google Photos is a great service to try. You can upload photos from almost anywhere, including mac itself. I’d recommend converting Google Photos into a mac app using Fluid so that you do not have to open a browser tab every time.
Picture-in-Picture Floating Video
The PiP mode, borrowed from over iPad, enables to pop-out a web video from Safari browser and plays the video on top of all other apps, So you could watch a YouTube video while working on other apps simultaneously. Helium for mac brings this functionality all the way back to Yosemite. Helium also has transparency options and gesture navigation. Pretty neat, I’d say.
Unlock Via Apple Watch
Sierra brings the functionality to unlock your mac via your paired Apple watch because Continuity, right?
MacID is a third-party app which can bring this functionality to your mac right now, and it is compatible all the way back to Yosemite. Android Wear users, we’ve got you covered as well. Umwelt allows you to unlock your mac via your Android wear device, say Moto 360 for instance. Both the apps work over Bluetooth Low-energy and thereby, have minimum battery drain.
Improved Storage management
Apple has always been stingy about adding more storage in MacBooks. So in Sierra, Apple tries to solve this problem by the other way around — Better storage management options. It allows you to store your files in iCloud to free up local space, delete application caches, temporary files, empty trash automatically after 30 days, amongst other things.
Some great third-party apps have been available for quite some time now. Personally, I recommend using minimal tools for that purpose like:
DaisyDisk — Visualise your disk space
CCleaner — Removes temporary files and application caches
Gemini 2 — For finding duplicate files
Of course, as you upgrade to Sierra, many of these options will be inbuilt and tied in a unified way, rendering installing of these other third-party apps less important.
Siri on mac
The biggest eyeball grabbing feature of macOS Sierra— Siri comes to mac after almost 5 years after it’s debut on iPhone. This would be one of those features tough to replicate, but the inbuilt dictation commands in mac which can be accessed through ‘System Preferences’ does a decent job for voice commands. It’s nowhere as functionally rich as Siri but voice dictation along with natural language queries introduced in El Capitan for Spotlight could help you get a Siri-like functionality.
Re-arrange 3rd Party Menu Bar Icons
Before Sierra, Apple users could re-arrange only system apps in the menu bar by holding down the command button and then dragging the menu bar item to the desired place. In Sierra, Apple extends this functionality to other installed third-party Apps.
If you’ve an eye for an uncluttered menu bar, you need Bartender 2. Bartender 2 lets you organise your menu bar apps, by hiding them or rearranging them and requires Yosemite or El Capitan.
Show Folders First in Finder
This may be a small change, but Apple finally adds the functionality of showing folders first and then sort files alphabetically in Finder. This shouldn’t have taken this long, so to get this ‘Show folders first’ functionality in previous mac versions, I will tell you a small trick. Just add a space before the folder name so that it is at the top of the finder, before all files. Renaming all your folders could get tedious, so here’s where XtraFinder comes in. This free app adds useful functionality like ‘Folders on top and Cut command to the Stock Apple finder (Though it’d require disabling of SIP in El Capitan).
And of course, if you don’t mind deviating from stock Apps, you could install a whole new finder replacement like Path Finder which has tons of features.
Double Space To Insert a Period
Double tapping a Spacebar in iOS adds a period and if you’ve been spoiled by this functionality, Apple is adding this small yet convenient feature in Sierra. Older mac version users, I’d recommend you to download a text expander service like Typinator and set it up properly to add a period whenever a double space in inserted.
If something’s troubling you, feel free to shout-out and I’ll gladly detail the procedure in a separate post.
So, When Will I Get Sierra?
If you’ve any MacBook after 2010, chances are that you’ll be eligible for a free upgrade to Sierra. Check with the above image to see if your mac is compatible with Sierra. A Developer Preview is available right now for download, although you’ll require a paid Apple Developer account. A public beta will be available as a free upgrade from the App Store in July as slowly it will graduate to a stable release to the public somewhere in October. For all other ineligible macs, I hope this guide helps you experience many of the Sierra features on old-macs.