Inspect the Tech: macOS Sierra Review

(Apple ditches OS X naming scheme with macOS Sierra. Photo by Allie Gath)

So last month Apple released its latest macOS update, macOS Sierra, highlighting Siri as its most significant new feature.    

Although this update is more evolutionary than revolutionary, it’s still a significant update for the folks over at Cupertino. Siri on the Mac has been a long time coming, and Apple’s new storage control feature-set is a much needed and welcome addition.

I’ve used it for the last couple of weeks, and have some thoughts.

“Hey, Siri”

Introduced as the flagship feature of the iPhone 4s in 2011, Siri was supposed to be the on-the -go assistant for the masses. That didn’t really happen.

Siri has always been good for a few laughs, but it’s never been the productive workhorse Apple had promised it would be, mostly because Apple’s speech processing software can’t keep up 100 percent of time.

It’s quite clear that Apple’s vision for Siri on the iPhone is a little murky. 

But that’s on mobile. Siri on the Mac is supposed to be different.

Yes, Siri can perform many of the same tasks it can on iOS. Ideally, sending a text or email shouldn’t be a problem for the assistant. But on the Mac, Siri is less about being your silly robotic assistant and more about being a legitimate time-saving-tool. 

Siri becomes somewhat of a hybrid of Finder, Spotlight and its own quirky self. 

Instead of typing out that application or file your searching for, you just verbally ask Siri to look for the file or application by name, or to search through your most recent documents.

When it properly recognizes my speech, which it does I’d say about 60 percent of time, Siri is quick, often significantly cutting down the time I spend looking for files.

But here’s the rub, I have the same problem with Siri on Mac that I do with it on iOS. It doesn’t understand my commands as often as I think it should. Every vocal misstep makes me want to use the virtual assistant less and less.    

On top of that, I often forget to even think about using Siri. I’ve become so accustomed to my regular computer workflow that I’ve had to make a concentrated effort to remember to actually use it. So when it can’t reliably do its job correctly, it’s a little hard to argue why someone should change up their workflow and make Siri an integral part of their Mac-owning experience. 

I’m optimistic that one day Siri can actually be the time-saving tool many are yearning for, and its current iteration most certainly gives me hope that day will be soon. But right now, Siri still struggles to keep up.

Optimized Storage:
iCloud and the never
ending computer space war 

To combat the paltry amount of storage most solid-state hard drive equipped Mac laptops come with, Apple has introduced a host of new features to help Mac users free up some storage space. It’s a feature-set Apple calls “Optimized Storage,” and it should have been introduced years ago.

Once enabled, “Optimized Storage” allows your Mac to work in the background and delete excess and unnecessary files, like those old iTunes movie files you’ve already watched or old email attachments.

Chief among Apple’s new storage setting options is iCloud Drive’s ability to take saved files on your Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders and upload them to the cloud. Files that you don’t use regularly will be deleted from your computer and saved onto Apple’s servers. Once you need the file again, you’ll be able to re-download it to your hard drive. It works seamlessly through Finder.   

It’s a smart move on Apple’s part, as it will incentivize users to upgrade from the free 5 gigabyte iCloud plan to its paid subscription options that provides significantly more cloud storage.

Apple’s playground

Many of the other new features, unsurprisingly, only work if you have other Apple products. It’s the kind of ecosystem lock-in Apple has been perfecting for years.

Apple Watch users can now bypass the Mac login screen and jump straight into the desktop. iOS and Mac users now have a seamless  “universal clipboard,” so they can paste from one device to another.

All these new features together help further solidify the case for why you should own other Apple products if you have a Mac and vise versa.

Sierra Succeeds

Taken as a whole, macOS Sierra is a clever refinement of an already great operating system. Although Apple advertised Siri as its most exciting new feature, it didn’t just implement the assistant into the os and call it quits. It also introduced a number of new features that address some users’ biggest concern: storage space.

Sierra is great and if you haven’t already downloaded it, you really should. It’s free!You may come for Siri, but you’ll most definitely want to stay for the useful new storage space features.