December 2016 Issue  Volume 17  Number 12

Product Evaluations and Guides

What's New in MacOS Sierra and the New MacBooks

On September 20, 2016, Apple released macOS Sierra. With this release, the Mac operating system joins the other Apple operating systems, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS in how it is named.

As part of its event on October 27, 2006, Apple introduced its new MacBook Pro lineup. At the time of this writing, the 13-inch MacBook Air is still available, but the 11-inch is not. There was no news about desktop computers.

macOS Sierra

This new operating system has some new features including Siri and Universal Clipboard. There are also some VoiceOver changes.

Not all Macs can use macOS Sierra. The following computers can run it:

  • iMac (Late 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Mid?2010 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)

Before installing Sierra, back up your computer. Install Sierra by going to the Mac App Store and activating the Updates radio button. Sierra is listed as an update. Select it and follow the installation prompts.


Siri is now available on the Mac. Open System Preferences and select the Siri tab. The first control is to enable Siri. This is checked by default, but if not, check the box. Next is a pop-up menu for selecting a language. If you purchased your Mac in the United States, English is selected by default. The next pop-up menu is for selecting Siri's voice. There are many options including American Female, American Male, British Male, British Female, and Irish Female.

Next are two radio buttons labeled "On" and "Off." These control Siri's voice feedback. If you want Siri to speak, make sure the "On" button is checked. Next is the control for choosing an input source. The Mac's internal microphone is selected by default. If you are using an additional microphone, select it from the menu. Next is the menu for choosing a keyboard shortcut to activate Siri. The final control is a checkbox for whether Siri should be shown in the menu bar. It is checked by default.

Universal Clipboard

This new Apple Continuity feature lets you transfer text from your Mac to your iOS device and from your iOS device to your Mac. Sierra needs to be running on your Mac and iOS 10 needs to be running on your iOS device.

The following Macs can use this feature:

  • MacBook (Early 2015 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (2012 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (2012 or newer)
  • Mac mini (2012 or newer)
  • iMac (2012 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

The following iOS devices can use this feature:

  • iPhone 5 or newer
  • iPad Pro
  • iPad (4th generation)
  • iPad Air or newer
  • iPad mini 2 or newer
  • iPod touch (6th generation) or newer

Both devices need to be in Bluetooth range and have Handoff activated. Handoff lets the user start work on one device and continue it on another device. For example, you can start an email on your Mac and finish it on your iPhone. Enable Handoff on the Mac in the General tab of System Preferences. On the iOS device go to Settings/General/Handoff and make sure the "Handoff" button is on.

To copy text from the Mac to an iOS device, select the text to be copied and then type Command + C. It will now be on the Universal Clipboard. Locate where you want to place the text on your device. Go to Edit on the VoiceOver Rotor. Then, select Paste. The text will be copied to the device. Copy text from an iOS device to a Mac by using the Rotor to select and copy the text. Locate where it should be placed on the Mac and type Command + V and text will be pasted. You can also use the Universal Clipboard to copy from one iOS device to another.

Desktop and Documents Folder in iCloud Drive

You can now access your Desktop and Documents folders on your iOS devices through iCloud Drive. Apple automatically gives 5 gigabytes (5GB) of free storage space. Additional space can be purchased through the iCloud tab in System preferences.

If this feature has not been set up during installation, you can still do it. Open System Preferences and activate the iCloud tab. In the iCloud tab, activate the Options button next to iCloud. Activate the Options button next to iCloud Drive. Then check the box for the "Desktop and Documents" folder. If there is insufficient space in iCloud, you will hear an option to purchase more. Activate the "Done" button in the lower right of the window.

On your iOS device, open iCloud Drive. Open the Desktop or Documents folder and select the file.

The syncing of the Desktop and Documents folders can be reversed. Instead of checking the Desktop and Documents folders option, uncheck it.

Unlock Your Mac with Your Apple Watch

This feature only works on Macs made in mid-2013 and later and the Apple Watch must be running watchOS3. You need to be signed into iCloud and both the Mac and Watch need to be on the same Apple ID. In addition, 2-factor identification must be activated for your Apple ID.

Turn on Auto Unlock by going to System Preferences and activating the Security and Privacy tab. Check the box that allows your watch to unlock your Mac. You must be wearing an Apple Watch to unlock the Mac. Press a key or open the lid of your computer. Your Mac should then unlock.

VoiceOver Volume

It is no longer necessary to go into the VoiceOver utility or use Command + Control + Option and arrow keys to change VoiceOver's volume. Control + Option will lower the volume and Control + Option + = (equals) will raise it.

New VoiceOver Verbosity Options

Sometimes a screen reader speaks too much. Apple has added a few options for decreasing VoiceOver's verbosity. VoiceOver speaks less when interacting. When interacting begins, VoiceOver says "In" and whatever you're interacting with. When interacting stops, VoiceOver says, "Out of." For example, interacting with the Messages table in Mail will cause VoiceOver to say, "In Messages." When interacting is stopped VoiceOver says, "Out of Messages." VoiceOver's messages in Safari are also considerably shorter. For example, when a new page loads VoiceOver can say, "In Web content."

You can now stop VoiceOver from saying "One row added" in applications such as Twitter. In the VoiceOver Utility go to the Verbosity category. Once there, locate the Announcements tab. Then find the pop-up menu for when number of rows changes under the VoiceOver Cursor. There are now three options, speak update, do nothing, and play tone.


The Mail app now has a Filter option. It is located to the left of the Inbox.

Also, if using the standard view in Mail, previews of each message are now automatically spoken.

iTunes and Apple Music

The search form for finding music is near the top of the iTunes window. Command + F gets you to it. The first part of the form is an edit box. Next are two radio buttons labeled "In Library?"and "All Apple Music." Search results are in a table to the right of the radio buttons. Make your selection and go to the scroll area. You can get there quickly with Function + Control + Option + Right Arrow (VO + End).

The scroll area will present information on your selection and the option to play it.

There are new radio buttons in iTunes and some have been removed. The first button is set to Music by default. This button is a pop-up menu. Other options include Movies, Apps, and TV Shows. When the "Music" button is selected, the first radio button is "Library". Activating this button will bring up a list of all music in your library. Use the tab key to get to the library contents. Tabbing past the other radio buttons brings you to the sidebar. The sidebar has categories including Songs, Artists, and Recently Added. If you are an Apple Music subscriber, all downloaded playlists will also be listed on the sidebar. Make your selection and tab to the list of songs. If you don't want the side bar, tab to the "Hide" button and select it.

The next button is "For You." When this button is activated, the scroll area will display some recently played songs and also recommendations based on your listening preferences.

The "Browse" button brings up a list of links including "Playlists," "New Music," and "Top Charts." The next two buttons are "Radio" (which controls iTunes Radio) and "Store" which brings you to the iTunes store.

Siri can be used to play iTunes and Apple music. For example, Siri can be asked to play a specific song, playlist, artist or album.


On October 27th, 2016, Apple held a press event called "Hello Again." They began the presentation with a video demonstrating many of Apple's accessibility features. Apple now has an accessibility website, where you can access the video and play it with video description.

Apple is coming out with a new app called TV, which organizes movies and TV shows that you have been watching. It works with a variety of video services and will be available by the end of the 2016.

The main part of the event was Apple introducing the new MacBooks and their new features. One of the biggest changes, which is available on the 15-inch MacBook Pro and one model of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, is a Touch Bar that replaces the top row of keys. It is located above the number keys and acts as a touch screen. What appears on the screen depends on which app is in focus. Given Apple's commitment to accessibility, VoiceOver users will have access to the Touch Bar. VoiceOver can be turned on and off by holding down the Command key and pressing the new "Touch ID" button three times. The Touch Bar will work similarly to an iOS screen.

All new MacBooks will have USB-C Ports. Minimum storage space will be 250GB. The new MacBooks are thinner without decreasing battery power.

The 13-inch basic MacBook Pro still has standard function keys. It does not have Touch ID. The 13-inch MacBook Pro has four USB-C ports, Touch Bar, and Touch ID. The 15-inch MacBook Pro has 4 USB-C ports, Touch Bar, and Touch ID.

Learn more about all the MacBooks at the Apple website.


Sierra has some excellent new features. Siri and Universal Clipboard make the update worthwhile on their own. Also, the new VoiceOver features including new voices and verbosity options are a welcome addition.

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