avatarby A.J. HartlessDecember 21, 20160 comments

5 Best macOS Sierra Features

Apple’s latest operating system for its Mac line, with the newly adopted naming convention, macOS, has been out for a while now and we’ve had some time to really get to know it. Now that we are thoroughly acquainted, we decided to take a look at what we thought are the 5 best macOS Sierra features.

If we’re missing your favorite, let us know in the comments below!

Siri Integration

5 Best macOS Sierra Features

As I’m sure you are well aware, Apple finally brought it’s voice assistant, Siri to the Mac. After years of speculation of what that experience might look like, we now get to see Apple’s vision come to fruition – and honestly, I’m pretty impressed. I’ll admit, I don’t use the feature as often as I should, but that’s because my primary Mac usage is an office filled with people who might look at me funny if I’m talking to my computer. However, the times when I do use it, I find it to be very functional and helpful.

Siri on the Mac really extends the capability of Spotlight. Now, instead of hitting ⌘+Spacebar to start browsing files on your system, you can ask Siri to do it for you. To activate Siri, you can either use the icon found in the dock, or if enabled, use the icon in the menu bar at the top of the screen. In Siri system preferences, you can also define a keyboard shortcut like you would use for spotlight.

Siri also allows you to perform quick web searches for images or general information. I find this especially useful when communicating with colleagues and needing to find quick reference images from the web to share. Being able to populate image results and then drag and drop the images from the Notification Center to either your desktop or directly into an application is probably Siri’s best feature.

At this time, there is no third-party support for Siri on Mac, but I can only imagine how the experience might be escalated when that time arrives.

Optimized Storage

Optimized Storage 5 Best macOS Sierra Features

Next to the new Siri integration, the most useful feature of the macOS update is the storage optimization tools. As it was teased in the announcement keynote, the new storage optimization tools make it a lot easier to reduce clutter and free up disk space. You’ll especially notice a difference if you fire this up on a machine that you’ve been using for a few years.

In the new menu, you have a range of options to free up space, including storing your Desktop and Documents files in iCloud Drive and storing photos and videos in the iCloud Photo Library. The “Optimize Storage” option is great if you have a lot of media stored in iTunes as it will automatically remove movies and TV shows that you have already watched. Speaking of automatically removing unused “stuff” – how often do you empty your computer’s trash? Here, you can set that to happen automatically every 30 days.

Finally, you can use the “Reduce Clutter” option to manually sort through files in various locations to delete them yourself if you determine you no longer need them. This isn’t much different than opening a Finder window, but at least you can sort items by file size to take out the big guys first.

Hands-Free Unlock & Apple Pay


If there’s one thing that I have always admired about Apple is their continuity efforts – trying to make sure all of their products work in sync with one another. For users who have invested in the Apple ecosystem, these two features will come as welcome additions.

If you have an Apple Watch, you can now unlock your Mac by simply setting it up as sort of a “trusted device”. This is similar to what you would find in Android to bypass any passwords on your device when connected to a trusted bluetooth source. So, now you can sit down at your desk, open your laptop and start working without having to log in.

On the same token, with macOS Sierra, you can use Apple Pay for online purchases with the help of your iPhone or Apple Watch. Yes, with the new Macbook Pro, you have a Touch ID sensor built in, but for older machines this is a great addition. When shopping in Safari, look for an Apple Pay option and then use your iPhone’s Touch ID, or double tap the side button of your Apple Watch to complete the checkout.

Picture in Picture

5 Best Features in macOS Sierra

At any given time in the day, I have multiple applications open, a hand full of tabs, music playing, email, videos etc. For this reason, I’m a huge fan of this new picture in picture feature. I love having videos playing while I’m doing work, and now Safari allows you to do this natively within the browser.

With supported video types (HTML5) you can easily locate the picture in picture button to detach the video from the browser, placing it into one of the four corners of your screen. From there, you can move it to the other three corners and can drag the video’s corners to resize the window. You also have play and pause functionality.

Unfortunately, I found this experience to be a little sub-par when compared to Opera’s built-in video pop out feature. In Opera, you can move the video window around freely, you have mute controls, can skip ahead and back freely and it seems to be more widely available. One specific example is YouTube. In order to enable picture in picture for YouTube videos in Safari, you have to right click the video twice and hit “enable picture in picture”. In Opera, the video pop out button immediately appears.

Notes Collaboration

Notes Collaboration 5 Best macOS Sierra Features

Over the past year or so, I’ve grow to become a big fan of using Apple’s Notes app. There are a literal ton of note taking apps that are accessible by web or even applications, but I’ve found Notes to be by far the easiest to access quickly to jot down ideas, meeting notes, lists, etc. Because of this, I was pretty excited to see Apple breathe some new life into the app.

With the macOS Sierra update, Notes now has collaboration capabilities, aimed at people who use apps like Evernote or Google Docs. Even if you don’t use this for work, it can be real handy when collaborating with friends or family members when you’re planning a trip, or piecing together your next project.

This all comes as a welcome addition to the last update to Notes in OS X El Capitan which added capability to include rich media such as videos, photos, PDFs, maps websites and more. With the ability to collaborate with colleagues, friends and family, in combination with the previously released improvements, Notes is on its way to becoming a full-blown productivity tool that I’m thoroughly enjoying using.

Wrap Up

macOS Sierra was really a minor upgrade in the grand scheme of things, but it did bring along a few great additions that I was obviously happy to jump on board with. Some people like to wait out the bugs, or wait for compatibility updates, but as always I took the dive on the first day, and these are what we would consider the 5 best macOS Sierra features.

What are your favorite macOS Sierra features? Let us know in the comments below!