You undoubtedly know that you can figure out how much disk space a file or folder takes up by selecting it and choosing File > Get Info. But what if you have a bunch of files and/or folders whose sizes you want to add up, perhaps to see if they’ll fit on a USB drive or can be attached to an email message? Select all these items at once (Command-click them, for instance), hold down the Option key, and choose File > Show Inspector (or press Command-Option-I). Instead of a Get Info window, you see a floating Multiple Item Info Inspector that tells you how large the collection is. Better yet, if you add or remove items from the selection by Command-clicking, or make an entirely different selection, the Inspector adjusts to the new selection.
Assuming Apple continues its previous practices, once macOS 10.12 Sierra comes out, it will become impossible to download 10.11 El Capitan for the first time. That could be awkward if you want to upgrade an older Mac running 10.6 Snow Leopard at any point after Sierra ships, since you may not be able to get El Capitan then. To ensure that you can snag a copy of El Capitan in the future, open the App Store app on your Mac, type El Capitan in the Search field, and click the Get button for OS X El Capitan (it’s about 6 GB in size). After it downloads (to your Applications folder), if the installer launches and you don’t want to install El Capitan right away, choose Install OS X > Quit Install OS X to quit it. What’s important is that El Capitan is now registered to your Mac App Store account, and you can get it again from the App Store’s Purchased screen at any time on any of your Macs.
When you want to share a Web page link from Safari to Messages or save a PDF to iBooks, you tap the Share button to bring up iOS’s Share sheet. If a large number of apps can accept the shared item, you might have to scroll to the right quite a bit to get to the icon you want. For occasional use, that’s fine, but there’s no need to scroll each time, since you can rearrange the Share sheet icons. Just press and hold on the one you want to move, and then drag it right or left, lifting your finger to drop it in place. This trick works for each row in the sheet. Next time you’re in a Share sheet, take a moment to customize it the way you want.
Annoyed by having to tap the on-screen Shutter button to take a picture in the Camera app on your iPhone or iPad? Happily, there’s another way—press either of the physical Volume buttons on the side of the device to snap a photo. You can even press and hold a button to take a burst of photos. Be a little careful with an iPhone 6 or later, since it’s easy to press the Sleep/Wake button on the other side of the case accidentally, putting your iPhone to sleep instead of capturing that perfect shot.
This fall, Apple will release the next version of the Mac’s operating system, now called “macOS” to match with iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. As with the last few versions—Mavericks, Yosemite, and El Capitan—the new macOS 10.12 Sierra won’t force you to change how you use your Mac, but it does bring a bunch of features that you might enjoy.
Most exciting among Sierra’s new capabilities is the addition of Siri—you can finally talk to your Mac just like your iPhone. You can ask Siri to open apps, display certain files in a folder, check how much drive space you have free, and adjust settings, plus carry out tasks with Siri that you already do on the iPhone, such as searching Google, checking the weather, making reminders, and looking up sports scores. Invoke Siri by clicking its Dock icon and wait a moment, and you’ll get a list of fun and serious suggestions for things you can ask. For an organized directory of questions Siri understands, click its Dock icon, and say “What can I ask you?”.
iCloud Drive becomes significantly more interesting in Sierra, thanks to an option to sync your Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders to iCloud. Once they’ve uploaded, you can access their contents not just on any other Macs you may have, but also on your iOS devices and the iCloud.com Web site. Note that the actual Desktop and Documents folders then move from your home folder to the iCloud Drive volume (choose Go > iCloud Drive to open it). Beware that enabling this option may require paying for more space on iCloud Drive.
People who work back and forth across a Mac and iPhone or iPad may also appreciate Universal Clipboard, which synchronizes clipboard contents to all your devices in the background. Copy a phone number from an email message on your Mac and a few seconds later you can paste it into your iPhone’s Phone app (press for a second or two in the white space above the numbers, and then tap the Paste button that appears—useful, eh?).
Being able to open multiple pages in separate tabs is standard fare in every Web browser, and Apple added tab functionality to the Finder several years ago. If you like tabs in Safari and the Finder, you’ll be pleased to hear that Sierra makes it so almost every app that can open multiple document windows can do so in tabs as well. Apps won’t have to change; just look in the File, View, and Window menus for tab-related commands.
Those who have become accustomed to the security of using Apple Pay from an iPhone or Apple Watch to pay for a burger at McDonald’s or groceries at Whole Foods will be able to bring the same level of security to many Web transactions. With Safari in Sierra, on Web sites that accept Apple Pay (which will be a lot), you’ll be able to enter your payment info with Touch ID on your iPhone or with a paired Apple Watch. Much as it may seem odd to complete a transaction on your Mac using an iPhone or an Apple Watch, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor is a key aspect of how Apple Pay remains secure.
The final big-deal feature in Sierra, called Optimized Storage, has a number of options that you can enable in the redesigned System Information app—look in Window > Storage Management. Designed to free up space on Macs with relatively small drives, Optimized Storage can remove the local versions of files stored in iCloud (including older files of your Desktop and Documents folders; make sure you have a good backup to be safe!). You can download one if needed by double-clicking its icon. It removes already watched movies and TV shows from iTunes along with email attachments from Mail, all of which you can download again if necessary. It can delete files from your Trash after they’ve composted for 30 days, and it helps you reduce clutter on your Mac by identifying large files so you can consider deleting them manually.
Sierra boasts plenty of other features too, such as Auto Unlock, which eliminates the need to enter a login password if you’re wearing an associated Apple Watch. Then there’s Picture in Picture, which floats a resizable video window from Safari or iTunes in any corner of your screen while you pretend to get work done. Finally, of Sierra’s bundled apps, Photos sees the most changes, with improved automatic recognition of faces, plus object and scenery recognition.
Although Sierra won’t run on every Mac that’s compatible with El Capitan, it will run on 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. It will be a free upgrade and will be the default on every new Mac sold after its release. We’re looking forward to playing with all the new features and with Siri in particular—tune in for more details in the coming months!
iOS 10, the latest version of Apple’s operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, is due this fall. The majority of its changes should improve your overall experience (and the rest you can hopefully ignore or reverse).
Most evident among iOS 10’s modifications is the new behavior of the Lock screen. Previously, you could slide the screen to unlock (and enter your passcode) or merely rest a finger on the Touch ID sensor. But as the Touch ID sensor became faster, it became too easy to unlock before you had a chance to read notifications appearing on the Lock screen. In iOS 10, you must press the Home button to unlock, after which the Touch ID sensor activates or iOS asks you for your passcode. To make it faster and easier to get to the information and tools you want, you can now slide right on the Lock screen to display Notification Center widgets or left to access the camera.
In a long-awaited enhancement, Apple has opened Siri up to developers so you’ll be able to use Siri to control at least some third-party apps. In iOS 10, Siri will initially support six types of activities: audio/video calling, messaging, sending and receiving payments, searching for photos, managing workouts, and booking car-sharing rides. Apple is moving carefully here, and we hope to see the company letting developers do more with Siri in the future.
Apple says that Messages is iOS’s most used app, so it’s not surprising that Messages gains numerous new features in order to compete with apps from Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and others. For those who enjoy emoji but have trouble entering them, the QuickType bar in the Messages keyboard suggests them as you type, and if you switch to the Emoji keyboard in Messages, it highlights words (like airplane or hamburger) that it can convert to the corresponding emoji (✈️ ????). You can send handwritten notes scrawled with your finger, a stylus, or an Apple Pencil. Messages also gains the Apple Watch’s unique Digital Touch features, which let you send a sketch, a fireball, a kiss, and more with particular tap combinations—you can even overlay these animations on a photo or video. For even more pizzazz, bubble and screen effects jazz up your messages or the entire screen when the recipient views them. Finally, the new tapback feature lets you respond quickly to messages with icons without typing.
We all have trouble revisiting photos we’ve taken in the past, so Photos in iOS 10 (and Sierra) introduces Memories, which automatically builds slideshows of existing photos. It assembles collections of photos from the same day in previous years, trips you’ve taken, and more. You can “favorite” a memory if you want to keep it around, or delete it if it doesn’t contain photos you want to see again. Photos also gains facial recognition capabilities and a People album that you can use to pull out pictures of friends and family members, but even more impressive are its object and scenery recognition capabilities that enable you to search for photos that contain, for instance, cats, oak trees, or desert landscapes. Plus, a new Places album lets you browse your collection by location—alas, you can’t add a location to a photo in iOS.
Although those are the major new features in iOS 10, the update abounds with additional improvements. Take Safari. You can now use Apple Pay within Safari to pay for purchases on Web sites, Safari prevents videos with sound from auto-playing, and Split Screen can show two Safari tabs side-by-side.
Elsewhere, Maps now automatically records where you park your car, helps you avoid tolls and highways, and lets you add stops along a route. Control Center gets a redesign and multiple panes to simplify media control. In Notes, multiple people can work on the same note at once. And finally, a new Home app provides a centralized spot to configure and control all sorts of home automation sensors and switches that are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit specification.
As always, iOS 10 will be a free upgrade, but it won’t work on every device. You’ll need an iPhone 5, fourth-generation iPad, second-generation iPad mini, or sixth-generation iPod touch—or anything newer than those models, including any iPad Air or iPad Pro. If your device can run iOS 10, we recommend upgrading when you have a little time to become familiar with the new features, since many of them are welcome improvements.