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The macOS Sierra public beta will be available later today

The macOS Sierra public beta will be available later today


Siri, iCloud, and Continuity

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Vjeran Pavic

The next version of macOS, Sierra, will be made available in a public beta sometime today. We previewed it here, and though the headline feature that most people will be talking about is Siri on the desktop, the fact that it can also automatically back up your most important files to iCloud is a big deal too.

Apple has been more open with its software in recent years, and this beta for Sierra continues that trend. Even so, Apple isn’t recommending that users install this on their primary computers yet — and neither are we. Though we found the earlier beta to be relatively stable, there are still going to be some rough edges that make it a bad choice if you depend on your computer.

There are a few changes in this beta as compared to the original one. The most important one is that Siri now has a new keyboard combination. Before, in the developer-only beta, you triggered Siri by hitting Fn-Space. Now, Siri will be trigged by hitting CMD-Space and holding it for a tic. The change is both good and bad.

It’s good because it means you can use the same combination to launch the two different ways that the Mac allows you to search files: Spotlight and now Siri. It’s bad because both Siri and Spotlight do similar things and it’s not at all clear which one you should use at any given moment — and now you’ll be using nearly the same keyboard combo while you try to choose which one you want.

This beta also enables the feature that lets you unlock your Mac with an Apple Watch running watchOS 3 in lieu of typing in your password. However, watchOS 3 requires iOS 10 — and both are still in developer beta, not public beta, so you probably won’t be able to test that out just yet.

There are a few other features that will only really work when you have iOS 10 on your iPhone — the most important of which is a shared clipboard for copy and paste. But you don't need iOS 10 to take advantage of the new iCloud file syncing features, which automatically sync your Desktop and Documents folder into the cloud and to your iOS devices in a special iCloud app. Photos and Messages have also received big updates in Sierra.

Sierra, along with iOS 10 and watchOS 3, is expected to be released in the fall.