How to master... macOS Sierra

Upgraded your Mac? Wondering what’s next? Here's all you need to know to make the most of Apple's latest OS

It’s that time of year again when Apple stuffs a new operating system inside your Mac, and you need to figure out what it can do.

Although the OS X name has been consigned to history (we’re now in the era of macOS), your Mac will seem broadly familiar on installing macOS Sierra. But there are new features – big and small – from Siri integration and iCloud Desktop sync through to handy tweaks to Photos and the means to nuke vom-inducing animations.

Our guide gets you up to speed in double-quick time, so you can argue with Siri, open countless tabs, copy and paste between Mac and iPhone, and be baffled at what Photos considers important recent snaps.

The Basics

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Sierra now lets you copy and paste text directly between your iOS device and Mac.You can activate the feature in System Preferences > General (macOS) and Settings > General > Handoff (iOS). If the devices are signed into the same iCloud account, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on, and are near to each other, you can copy and paste text, images or even videos back and forth, like some kind of tech magician. Be quickish, though – the cross-device clipboard clears itself after a couple of minutes.

Lock up your Flash

Ever since former Apple CEO Steve Jobs bellyached all over the internet about Flash in 2010, it’s been on borrowed time. Truth be told, the technology was never suited to mobile and remains a security nightmare on desktop platforms. Apple’s clearly had enough and as of macOS, Safari routinely blocks Flash by default. You can click to play specific pieces of Flash content, or, if you’re foolhardy, turn the plug-in back on in Safari’s preferences.

Manage the menu bar

Presumably because it wants to be in control of absolutely everything, Apple never let you fiddle about with third-party menu-bar icons in OS X. As of macOS, this has changed. Rejoice as you Command-drag Dropbox or Moom and place their icons precisely where you want them. Move Spotlight between two third-party icons, just because you can. Also, the Sound menu bar item’s been improved – you no longer have to Alt-click to get at output settings.

Give a thumbs up

Or, indeed, one of five other tapbacks, which can now be used directly inside Messages when you’re too lazy to type out some actual words. Messages on macOS now also embeds rich previews for things like videos, and will render special effects, stickers and whatever else you’ve messed up your threads with on iOS 10. Sadly (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), macOS remains a boring grown-up, not being able to send such things itself.

Use picture-in-picture

If you’ve got work to do but absolutely must watch that hilarious online video of a toddler very slowly tipping over, macOS enables your ongoing procrastination through Safari’s picture-in-picture mode. Standard video embeds and Vimeo have a PiP button; YouTube requires two right-clicks on a video and a menu option to be selected. But then you have a little window you can drag about that sits above all the stuff you should actually be paying attention to.

Go maximum Apple

So you’re tapping away on your Mac and your other Apple devices feel left out. But now they can also be useful, merely by being nearby. In Safari, you can use Apple Pay on supported websites and use your Apple Watch or iPhone to confirm the payment. And if your Mac supports it, the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences houses an option to allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac when they’re in close proximity.