During the keynote of Apple’s recent Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, the company unveiled major updates to all four of its operating systems. All the new versions will be free, and they’re slated for release this fall, likely in September or October. What can you look forward to?
macOS 10.12 Sierra: After 15 years of calling it “Mac OS X” and then “OS X,” Apple has simplified the name of its Mac operating system to match iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. As with previous versions of OS X, the new macOS retains both its version number (10.12) and a California-inspired name (Sierra).
First among macOS Sierra’s many changes is the addition of Siri, so you’ll finally be able to talk to your Mac just like you talk to your other Apple devices. To integrate the Mac more deeply into Apple’s ecosystem, you’ll be able to auto-unlock your Mac when you’re wearing an Apple Watch, copy and paste between all your Apple devices, and access everything in your Desktop and Documents folders on any of your Macs or iOS devices via iCloud Drive.
Other new low-level features include the capability to free up space on your Mac automatically by uploading rarely used files to iCloud, support for Safari-like tabs in all window-centric apps, and picture-in-picture for those who like to watch videos while working in other apps. Apple will also bring Apple Pay to the Web, so you should be able to use Apple Pay for some Web purchases in Safari.
The Photos app gains more automatic recognition technologies so it will recognize not just faces, but objects and scenes as well, and it will choose the best of these photos to automatically create slideshows and shareable collections called Memories.
macOS Sierra will work on all MacBook and iMac models released in late 2009 and later, and on MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and Mac Pro models released in 2010 and later. That’s only a bit less broad than the system requirements for OS X 10.11 El Capitan, which worked on a few more models dating back to 2007.
iOS 10: Even more significant changes come to iOS 10. The iPhone’s Lock screen gains “raise to wake,” much like the Apple Watch, and provides easier access to the camera and to the widgets that were previously squirreled away in Notification Center. On devices that support it, you’ll be able to use 3D Touch on notifications to get more info without unlocking the device, clear all notifications with 3D Touch, and use 3D Touch on a Home screen app icon to get a quick hit of information without opening the app.
Siri should become far more useful than in the past because Apple is opening Siri up to developers. That means you’ll be able to control third-party apps via Siri, so you could call a car via Uber or Lyft, make calls with Skype, or send a message with Slack, all without touching the screen.
If you like emoji, you’re going to love the new Messages app, which will let you communicate via larger emoji, handwritten notes, custom message bubbles, and animations. You’ll even be able to add “stickers” to photos. For those who want to use emoji but can never find the right one, iOS 10’s new QuickType keyboard will suggest emoji as you type and even let you tap certain words to replace them with the appropriate emoji. And “invisible ink” will obscure messages until the recipient chooses to reveal them.
Other apps that see notable changes include:
- Photos receives the same face, object, and scene recognition technologies as on the Mac, and it too can create, display, and share Memories.
- Music gets a complete redesign to make it easier to find your tunes, particularly if you subscribe to Apple Music. It will also be able to display song lyrics.
- Maps becomes a location-based hub app that developers will be able to extend to let you find a restaurant, for instance, and then make a reservation via OpenTable.
- News also gets a visual redesign and will support paid subscriptions for newspapers and magazines.
iOS 10 works on all the same devices that iOS 9 did, but drops support for the iPhone 4S, the iPad 2, the third-generation iPad, and the first-generation iPad mini.
watchOS 3: With a year of Apple Watch user experience to draw from, Apple has radically redesigned watchOS 3. The company made it so apps will launch much faster, added more watch faces (including Minnie Mouse!) with more complications, and simplified the process of replying to messages.
In two changes familiar from iOS, the side button will now display the Dock, which you can configure with your most-used apps, and swiping up from the bottom of the watch face shows Control Center instead of glances. Pressing and holding on the side button brings up an SOS screen for making an emergency call.
Regarding improved apps, the popular Timer app makes starting timers faster, and the Activity app now lets you share your rings for a little friendly activity ring competition. Activity also now provides activity tracking for wheelchair users. New in watchOS 3 is the Breath app, which Apple designed to help users relax with deep-breathing exercises.
With no new Apple Watch hardware announced, watchOS 3 will run on every Apple Watch sold so far.
tvOS 10: Those with a fourth-generation Apple TV can look forward to tvOS 10, which boasts enhancements to Siri that will let you search by topic or theme, look for YouTube videos, and take you to live TV playing in apps that support the feature, like ESPN. You’ll also be able to control the Apple TV from a new iOS Remote app that supports Siri, has a touchpad section, and displays a Now Playing screen with playback controls. You can even use the Remote app as a gaming controller!
Logging in to apps that require a paid cable or satellite subscription should be easier with tvOS’s new single sign-on feature. A new “dark mode” will be welcome by those who find the Apple TV’s interface too bright in darkened rooms. When you download an iOS app with an Apple TV companion, automatic app downloading will ensure you get the Apple TV app without extra hassle. Finally, the Photos app will support the photo-related changes coming in iOS 10 and macOS Sierra.
For the next few months, developers will be working to update their apps to be compatible with these operating system releases, and testers will be helping to shake out the bugs. Given how integrated the four operating systems are, it’s likely that Apple will release them all at once, or at least in quick succession. Regardless, there’s a lot to look forward to no matter what Apple devices you use!
When you read an email message on your iPhone and delete it, do you have to trash it again when you check mail on your Mac? Or is your email kept in sync such that if you delete a message on one system, it never even appears on the other?
If you fall into the first camp, your Internet service provider probably has you using an email technology called POP. Conversely, if you’re in the second camp, you’re probably using a different email technology called IMAP. Don’t worry what POP and IMAP stand for—they could be called Fred and Jane for all that it matters. What does matter is that if you’re using POP to read email on more than one device, you’re wasting time and effort.
Put simply, POP was designed in 1984 so that every email message would be downloaded from your mail server and immediately deleted from the server, so the only copy would exist on your Mac. But that made it impossible to check email from more than one computer, so POP’s designers made it possible for a message to be downloaded but not deleted, so it could be retrieved again by another computer. But the POP server has no way of knowing that the message was transferred multiple times, so each computer that gets it sees it as a fresh message, forcing you to delete or file it in each place.
In contrast, IMAP, which came along just a couple of years later in 1986, was designed to keep all your email on the mail server itself so multiple computers could access the same set of messages. And, most important, anything you do to a message—delete, file, or reply—in your email app on one computer also happens on the IMAP server, so if you check email from another computer, your email collection reflects all those previous actions.
Fast forward to today, where you might check email with your Mac at work, with your iPhone while at lunch, and on your iPad at home. If your Internet service provider is using IMAP, anything you do on any of your devices is reflected on all the rest. As an extra bonus, you can search through all your email at any time, from any device, which is great when you realize you need the address for today’s meeting after you’re in the car.
But some ISPs still rely on POP, and for those of you who have had the same email account for many years, even if your ISP supports IMAP, they may not have switched you over. If your email is stuck in the POP past, call your ISP and bring your email into the 21st century. If they aren’t willing to help, remember that you can always use your free iCloud email account instead or sign up for a free account with Gmail or Yahoo.
For those who are shaking your heads because you don’t want some IMAP server in the cloud to hold the only copy of your precious email, rest assured that it doesn’t have to be that way. By default, Apple Mail downloads a copy of every message and keeps it locally on your Mac too, so even if something bad were to happen in the cloud, you’d still have your local copy and your backups of it.
Life is too short to waste time dealing with the same email messages on multiple devices. Computers and smartphones are supposed to make things easier, not harder, so if you’re not already using IMAP for email, do yourself a favor and switch.
iOS 9 offers about 40 top-level categories in its Settings app and seemingly innumerable options in those categories. How can you find a little-used setting, particularly since Apple sometimes moves things between categories during major iOS releases? The solution is the Settings app’s hidden Search field. To reveal it, pull down on the main settings screen (iPhone) or left sidebar (iPad). Tap the Search field, enter text describing the setting you want to find (try typing Fa to find Facebook, FaceTime, and Safari Favorites), and the results appear immediately. Tap a result to jump to it, but also notice that each result shows a path, so you can find that setting manually in the future.
Whether you watch Netflix on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV, the quality of the video—and whether it stutters or skips—is determined by the bandwidth of your Internet connection. Netflix recommends 25 megabits per second (Mbps) of download speed for Ultra HD quality, 5 Mbps for HD, and 3 Mbps for SD. Netflix says that 1.5 Mbps is the lowest recommendation for a broadband connection, and notes that 0.5 Mbps is the minimum required. So how do you tell what your real-world download speed is? Check Netflix’s new fast.com Web site, which is a quick and easy way to determine how much bandwidth you get. And if what you see doesn’t match with what you think you’re paying your Internet service provider for, call the ISP and make sure your connection is working properly.
Let’s say you’re setting up a lunch with a contractor, and you want to make it easy to call them when your iPhone alerts you to the meeting. Or perhaps you want to embed conference call details into an event. A little-known fact about the Calendar app is that you can enter phone numbers into the Location field, and whenever you’re viewing the event later, you can tap a number to dial it directly (if you need a real location in the Location field, use the Notes field for the phone number instead). To add a meeting code to a conference call number, append a semicolon, the meeting code, and the pound symbol—after the iPhone dials the phone number, you can press a button to dial the code at the right moment. The entire thing would look like 518-555-0101;123456#. For a more automated, but potentially error-prone approach, replace the semicolon with one or more commas, each of which causes the iPhone to pause for 2 seconds before dialing the rest of the numbers. Finally, if you seemingly spend your life in conference calls, check out the MeetingMogul app for making dialing in even easier.
One of the most important technologies of the computer age is Copy & Paste. You may not think about the humble clipboard much, but Copy & Paste has saved you incalculable amounts of work by letting you copy something you’ve done previously to the clipboard, paste it into another document or app, and make any necessary changes. Whether you’re updating a monthly report, tweaking graphics for an annual party, or entering sales numbers in a custom database, Copy & Paste ensures that you don’t have to retype data or start from scratch.
What if you could make Copy & Paste even more powerful? With the right clipboard utility installed on your Mac, you gain two major new features:
- Use clipboard history to access previously copied data. By default, every time you copy something to the clipboard, it replaces whatever was there before. With a clipboard utility, though, you can see a list of items you’ve previously copied to the clipboard and paste any one of them, which is way easier than finding and copying the data again. Clipboard utilities even preserve your clipboard history across restarts!
- Edit or filter the data on the clipboard before pasting. This is useful, for instance, if there’s a mistake in the contents of the clipboard, if you copied styled text but want to paste plain text, or if you want to replace all double spaces in the copied text with single spaces.
Which clipboard utility is right for you depends on what else you might want it to do, or you might even have one installed already without realizing. That’s because clipboard enhancements are a bit like blades in a Swiss Army knife: they tend to be bundled into other utilities. You won’t go wrong with any of these clipboard boosters: the macro utility Keyboard Maestro, the launcher LaunchBar, and the dedicated clipboard helper Copy’em Paste.
Keyboard Maestro ($36) is a macro utility, which means that it lets you string together a series of actions—copy this, switch apps, click here, paste, switch back, for instance—and then invoke that series with a trigger such as a hotkey, menu command, timer, or system activity. Keyboard Maestro offers hundreds of actions and numerous triggers, but from the clipboard perspective, it provides a persistent clipboard history, multiple named clipboards, filtering of clipboard contents when pasting, removal of styles from pasted text, and a user-specified hotkey for anything you want to do. You cannot, however, edit clipboard text manually.
LaunchBar ($29) is a launcher, so its primary feature is opening or switching to an application or file by typing a hotkey followed by a few letters from the name of the app or file. That’s hugely useful in its own right, but LaunchBar also maintains a filterable clipboard history across restarts, lets you paste a clipping as plain text, and can merge copied text with whatever is already on the clipboard. Other apps in this category include Alfred (with the optional £17 Powerpack), Butler ($20), and QuickSilver (donationware).
Copy’em Paste ($14.99) focuses on clipboard enhancements, wrapping nearly every clipboard-related feature you could want in an attractive interface. It offers a full clipboard history, makes it easy to paste multiple items quickly or even in a batch, can transform pasted text in a variety of ways, and lets you organize clippings into groups. It also enables you to edit text clippings, search for text in your clippings, and ignore apps whose clipboard changes just clutter your clipboard history. Competitors include CopyPaste Pro ($30) and iClipboard ($9.99).
Regardless of which of these utilities you choose, you’ll soon be juggling the contents of your clipboard like a pro…and wasting a lot less time!