4 New Apple OS Features You Can Use Today

Apple just released new versions of all its operating systems—iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS—fixing bugs, plugging security holes, and, best of all, adding a few new features. Here are four things you can do once you’ve updated. (If you’re concerned that installing the updates may cause other problems, check with us first, but it’s best to stay current.)

1: Sleep better after using your Mac late at night.

macOS 10.12.4 Sierra has gained Night Shift, a feature from iOS that automatically shifts the colors of the screen to the warmer end of the spectrum after dark. Night Shift may help you sleep better by reducing the amount of blue light that tricks your body into thinking it’s earlier than it is.

To set up Night Shift, open System Preferences > Displays > Night Shift and choose Sunset to Sunrise from the Schedule pop-up menu. Night Shift knows when the sun rises and sets wherever you are, but if you prefer, you can also set custom on and off times. (If you don’t see the Night Shift button in the Displays preference pane after upgrading to 10.12.4, your Mac is unfortunately too old to support Night Shift.)

If you’re working with graphics at night, or if video looks odd, you can turn off Night Shift manually. Do that either in the Displays preference pane or by scrolling down in Notification Center (click it in the upper-right corner of the screen) to see the Night Shift switch.

2: Find the AirPod that fell between the couch cushions.

Apple’s wireless AirPods earbuds are cute, but they’re also easy to misplace. If you can’t find yours, iOS 10.3’s Find My iPhone app can help. Bring it up, tap the AirPods icon in the display, and then tap the Play Sound button to make them play a locator sound. If you’ve lost only one AirPod, you can mute the other so it’s easier to hear where the sound is coming from.

Note that Find My AirPods works only when in range of a paired iOS device, so it may not help if you lose an AirPod while running.

3: Don’t be “that person with the Apple Watch” at the theater.

You’re in a darkened theater, at a movie or a play, and when you move in your seat or cover your mouth to cough, your Apple Watch’s screen turns on, annoying the people around you. Even worse is when a notification rolls in, causing the watch to make a sound. Embarrassing, we know. Happily, watchOS 3.2 adds Theater Mode, which turns on Silent mode and keeps the screen dark by disabling its standard “raise to wake” behavior.

To enable Theater mode, open Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Then tap the Theater Mode button, which is emblazoned with theater masks. After the performance, you’ll need to disable Theater mode manually by tapping its button again.

If you do need to check the time surreptitiously (who knew this performance would go so long!), tap your Apple Watch’s screen, or press the Digital Crown or side button.

4: Ask Siri to find your car in a humongous parking lot

We’ve all been there. You parked at the mall, but got turned around while you were inside, and now you can’t find your car in the sea of automobiles. In iOS 10.3, you can now search for “parked car” in Maps, or just ask Siri, “Where did I park?”

And if you ever lose your car at a place like Disney World, this feature alone will be worth the price of the iPhone!

Ease Typing with New Sierra Autocorrect Options

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.

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Universal Clipboard’s Six Requirements

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. All Macs must be running macOS 10.12 Sierra or later, and all iOS devices must be running iOS 10 or later.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Find Wasted Space with Storage Management

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Filter Mailboxes in Mail in Sierra and iOS 10

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.

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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:

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  • 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.

Use Tabs in Apps in Sierra

We’ve all become accustomed to opening Web pages in separate tabs in Safari, Google Chrome, and Firefox. And in OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple gave us the capability to open different folders in tabs in Finder windows, making it easy to work in multiple folders with limited screen real estate.

In macOS 10.12 Sierra, Apple has gone one step further, building tab support in system-wide so you can open windows in tabs in most Mac apps. Tab support is “free” for apps; developers don’t need to do anything to support it and you won’t need to download an update to take advantage of it in most of your apps. (Some apps based on older code don’t support tabs at all, but those will be few and far between.)

So how do you get started with tabs and how can you use them in your everyday work?

First, to determine whether Sierra was able to add tab support to a particular app, look in that app’s View and Window menus. If you see View > Show Tab Bar and tab-related commands in the Window menu, you’re good to go.

Next, if Show Tab Bar doesn’t have a checkmark on the View menu, choose it to reveal the tab bar, which appears between the app’s main toolbar and the document itself. You’ll see a tab for the current document or window, and (in most apps) a + button at the right side of the tab bar. Here we’re showing three tabs in Maps.

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One final setup step: By default, documents open in separate windows. To make them open in tabs, open System Preferences > Dock, and choose Always from the “Prefer tabs when opening documents” pop-up menu. This setting applies both to existing documents and those you create by choosing File > New.

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Now that everything is configured, here’s what you can do:

  • Create a new, empty tab: Click the + button in the tab bar.
  • Move between tabs:
    • Click the desired tab.
    • Choose Window > Show Next Tab (to the right) or Show Previous Tab (to the left).
    • Press the Control-Tab (next) and Control-Shift-Tab (previous) keyboard shortcuts.
    • Choose Window > Tab Name.
  • Merge multiple windows into tabs in one window:
    • Drag a document’s tab from one window’s tab bar to the tab bar in another window.
    • Choose Window > Merge All Windows.
  • Move a tab to its own window:
    • Drag the tab out of its tab bar until it becomes a thumbnail of the document.
    • Choose Window > Move Tab to New Window.
  • Rearrange the order of tabs: Drag a tab to the desired position in the tab bar.
  • Close a tab:
    • Hover over the tab to see the X button at the left side of the tab. Click the X.
    • Choose File > Close Tab.
    • Press Command-W.

Getting used to tabs may require a little adjustment, but if you configure your Mac to always prefer tabs when opening documents, using tabs will quickly become second nature, just as it is in Web browsers.

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