For those who have become accustomed to typing on an iPhone or iPad, macOS 10.12 Sierra has two new options to make the experience similar on the Mac. Open System Preferences > Keyboard > Text and you’ll see two new checkboxes: “Capitalize words automatically” and “Add period with double-space.” The first automatically capitalizes the word that follows sentence-ending punctuation. Happily, it’s smart enough not to capitalize words like iPhone and iPad. The second option inserts a period if you press the Space bar twice after typing a word.
The iPhone’s flashlight is one of its most popular low-tech features, but have you ever wished you could make it brighter or dimmer? Now you can, at least on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 models in iOS 10! Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up Control Center, and then 3D Touch (press hard!) the Flashlight button to reveal Bright, Medium, and Low Light options. Tap the one you want to get that brightness level. iOS 10 remembers your last setting, so if the light isn’t as you want the next time, you may have to adjust it again.
Don’t you hate fine print that’s too small to read comfortably? iOS 10 can turn your iPhone or iPad into a magnifying glass! Press the Home button three times quickly to bring up the Magnifier and then point the camera at what you want to see. The view is zoomed automatically, but you can change the zoom level with the slider, tap the flash icon to turn on the LED light (if one is available on your device), enable a filter to change the color or contrast, or lock the focus by tapping the lock icon. You can also freeze the image by tapping the big round Take Photo button, which is great for grabbing a picture of a tiny serial number on the back of some device (press that button again to resume using the Magnifier). Press the Home button to leave the Magnifier.
Install macOS 10.12 Sierra on your Macs and iOS 10 on your iOS devices and you’ll get a cool new feature: Universal Clipboard. As you’d expect from the name, Universal Clipboard transfers anything you copy to all your devices so you can paste anywhere. Copy some text on your iMac and a few seconds later you can paste it on your MacBook Air, your iPhone, or your iPad. Or copy an incoming phone number in the Phone app and paste into an email message on your iMac. Universal Clipboard even works with graphics and videos.
Neither Sierra nor iOS 10 provides any interface for Universal Clipboard at all. You can’t turn it off or configure it in any way. In other words, it should just work. But what if it doesn’t? It turns out that six things must be true for Universal Clipboard to work. Miss any of these and Universal Clipboard will fail to copy the clipboard contents from device to device without warning. The requirements are as follows:
Any Macs involved must have been introduced in 2012 or later, or, in the case of the Mac Pro, 2013 or later. Choose > About This Mac to check your Mac’s age. Since Sierra runs on most Macs introduced since late 2009, Universal Clipboard won’t work on some older but otherwise Sierra-capable Macs.
All Macs must be running macOS 10.12 Sierra or later, and all iOS devices must be running iOS 10 or later.
All the devices must be on the same Wi-Fi network. This requirement can be tricky since devices might join different Wi-Fi networks if several are available. On a Mac, look in the Wi-Fi menu bar menu, and on an iOS device, check Settings > Wi-Fi.
Each device must have Bluetooth enabled and be within Bluetooth range of the other devices. That’s usually about 30 feet, but it’s safest to assume that both devices need to be in the same room. On a Mac, check in System Preferences > Bluetooth. On an iOS device, open Settings > Bluetooth.
All the devices must be signed in to the same iCloud account, and that account must be the primary iCloud account on each device. To see which account is signed in, on a Mac, look in System Preferences > iCloud. On an iOS device, check Settings > iCloud.
Handoff must be enabled. On Macs, turn it on in System Preferences > General. On iOS devices, the necessary switch is in Settings > General > Handoff.
If you still have trouble after verifying that your setup meets the six requirements above, make sure that your Wi-Fi connection is working well on each device, and that each device can connect to the Internet. If either of those isn’t true, Universal Clipboard may not transfer the clipboard contents.
When it’s working, Universal Clipboard takes just a few seconds to move the contents of the clipboard from device to device, and the transferred item remains available for pasting for about two minutes. It’s a subtle, but welcome addition to the Apple experience.
Between photos, videos, music, and downloads, it’s easy to fill up your Mac’s drive, particularly if it has fast but small flash storage. A MacBook Air might have only 128 GB of drive space, and that goes quickly. Numerous utilities exist to help you find and delete unnecessary files, like GrandPerspective, OmniDiskSweeper, and WhatSize, but in macOS 10.12 Sierra, Apple provides a built-in tool to clean house: the Storage Management window.
Storage Management is hidden inside the System Information app and is most easily accessed by choosing > About This Mac, clicking the Storage button, and then clicking Manage…but wait! Before you click Manage, look at the About This Mac window’s Storage view.
Hover over each colored bar to see how much space is taken up by a particular type of data. The white space at the end of the bar is what’s still available. You can’t do much here, but the view gives you a quick overview of your drive usage.
When you click Manage, System Information launches, and the Storage Management window appears. (You can also open System Information manually and choose Window > Storage Management.) In the sidebar at the left, ignore Recommendations and look at the rest of the categories. They will vary a bit between Macs, depending on what apps you use, but they correspond to the colored bars you saw in the About This Mac window’s Storage view.
For app-specific categories, like GarageBand, Mail, and Photos, Storage Management merely tells you how much space the app’s data occupies and provides a button for opening the app. For those apps, you must delete unnecessary data from within the app itself.
More interesting are the Applications, Documents, and iOS Files categories, all of which may contain gigabytes of unnecessary data. iOS Files, for instance, shows any device backups and software updates that are stored on your Mac’s drive. It’s worth keeping the latest backup of devices you still use, but many people have older backups and unnecessary updates kicking around.
The Applications category shown above lists your apps and is sorted by size by default. But try clicking the column header for Kind and scrolling down. You can probably delete any apps tagged as duplicates or older versions. Similarly, click the Last Accessed column header to see which apps you haven’t launched in years. Many of them can probably go too. Plus, you can redownload anything tagged as coming from the App Store, so you can toss those apps if you want.
In Documents, you’ll see three buttons: Large Files, Downloads, and File Browser. Large Files focuses on files over 50 MB in size, Downloads shows you the contents of your Downloads folder (much of which you probably don’t need to keep), and File Browser gives you a column view that’s sorted by file size and shows sizes next to each item. It’s great for trawling through your drive to find see what’s consuming all that space.
In any of these views other than File Browser, hover over any item and you see an X button for deleting the file and a magnifying glass button that reveals the file in the Finder. To delete multiple files at once, just Command-click or Shift-click to select them and then press the Delete key to remove them all at once. Storage Management gives you the combined size of all the selected files and warns you before deleting the files, so you can use this technique to preview how much space a multi-file deletion will save. In File Browser, select one or more files and either drag them to the Trash icon in the Dock, or press Command-Delete.
If your Mac’s drive has is filling up—if it has less than 10 percent free space—consider using the Storage Management window’s tools to search out and delete files that are just wasting space.
Apple has enhanced the Mail app in macOS 10.12 Sierra and iOS 10 to help you filter your email and focus on what’s important. Mail’s new filters are different from filters in other email programs that move messages between mailboxes—those are equivalent to Mail’s rules. Instead, these new filters are more like searches, in that all they do is show messages in the current mailbox that match the filter, hiding everything else. They don’t move or modify messages in any way.
To start using these filters, on the Mac, click the Filter button at the top of the message list in any mailbox, or in iOS 10, tap the Filter button in the bottom-left corner.
By default, mailboxes are set to show only unread messages. Click or tap Unread to bring up all the preset filter choices, which fall into four categories:
Email Account: This section appears only if Mail checks more than one account. These choices tell Mail to include mail from specific accounts, making it easy to look at only work mail during the day, for instance, or only personal mail when you’re home.
Status: You’ll probably want to keep Unread selected most of the time to show just new messages, but you can also select Flagged to find messages you’ve marked previously.
Addressed: Sometimes it may be helpful to see only messages that have your address in the To line, versus those where the sender CC’d you. These options will also hide most mailing list messages, automated email, and marketing offers.
Attachments and VIPs: These options are great in scenarios where, say, you want to see just messages that contain attachments to find that presentation a colleague sent last week or when you want to focus on mail that comes from the people whom you’ve anointed as VIPs.
Since you can pick more than one of these options, you can tell Mail to display just unread messages sent to your work email account that have attachments and come from the people who are on your VIP list. Imagine the possibilities!
Once you’ve gone through the filtered list of messages, click or tap the Filter button again (Mail fills it with gray or blue) to remove the filters and see all the messages in the mailbox again. Happily, Mail remembers your filter settings, so enabling filters again returns you to the same focused view you had before.