Mac OS

A Quieter Keyboard on the New MacBook Pros - Sign Me Up!

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As students prepare to head off to college, Apple has updated the Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro line to provide even more powerful options for students and professionals alike. The changes are primarily under the hood, focusing on faster performance, more RAM, and larger SSD-based storage, but there are a few modest physical changes too, including a quieter keyboard and a True Tone display.

 
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Despite these improvements, pricing remains the same as for last year’s models.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro that has function keys instead of a Touch Bar remains the same, as do the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Air.

Performance Boosts

The new MacBook Pros move to Intel’s 8th-generation Core i7 and Core i9 processors. Previously, the 13-inch MacBook Pro used dual-core CPUs, but they now get quad-core chips. And the 15-inch models jump from quad-core chips to processors sporting 6 cores. More cores are better because more tasks can be split up between them, preventing one processor-intensive task from bogging down others.

 
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Processing power is just one aspect of overall performance. If your Mac doesn’t have enough RAM for the apps you’re using, it has to fall back on much slower virtual memory. For those who use memory-intensive apps, the new 15-inch MacBook can now take up to 32 GB of RAM, up from a maximum of 16 GB. RAM in the 15-inch models is also DDR4, which is faster and uses less power than the DDR3 RAM used before.

Finally, if you don’t have enough fast SSD storage in a MacBook Pro, you may be forced to store large items like your Photos library and Parallels Desktop virtual machines on a slow external hard disk. The new MacBook Pros can have a lot more built-in SSD storage, but it’s pricey. The 13-inch models max out at 2 TB, which will add $1400 to your bill, and the 15-inch models can go to 4 TB, assuming you have $3400 to spare. The 512 GB ($200) and 1 TB ($600) upgrades are more reasonably priced.

Physical Changes

Apple continues to tweak the controversial butterfly-switch keyboard. Some people haven’t liked the shallow key travel and how much noise it makes, and its keys have a tendency to stick. The new MacBook Pros feature a keyboard that’s quieter and hopefully more reliable.

You’ll also notice the new Retina displays with True Tone. First introduced with the iPad Pro and added to the iPhone in 2017, True Tone adjusts the white balance of the screen based on ambient light to make the screen more comfortable to view. It should be particularly appreciated by students working late into the night.

 
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Other Improvements

You know how you can issue commands to Apple’s virtual assistant on your iPhone or iPad by saying “Hey Siri”? That’s possible in the new MacBook Pros also, thanks to the inclusion of Apple’s new T2 chip. The T2 also manages the Touch Bar, facilitates a secure boot feature, and encrypts files on the fly to increase security.

These MacBook Pros are the first to support Bluetooth 5.0, which is backward compatible with Bluetooth 4.2. As Bluetooth 5.0 peripherals become more widespread, they’ll be able to communicate with the MacBook Pro at higher data rates and longer ranges—think of Bluetooth working across your entire house, rather than being limited to a single room.

Price and Availability

The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1799, and the 15-inch model at $2399. With both models, you can choose between silver and space gray, and they’re available now.

Our take is that, like most of Apple’s speed-bump upgrades, these new MacBook Pros are simply better than the previous models—who turns down better performance for the same price? The True Tone display is also welcome, as is the quieter keyboard. And it’s nice that we can finally talk to Siri without having to hold down a key or click a button.

It Might Be Time to Change Your iCloud Password

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We’ve been hearing reports from people whose Macs have been locked remotely via Find My Mac, with the criminals responsible holding access to the Mac hostage until they receive a ransom in Bitcoin. First, if this happens to you, do not pay the ransom! Any Apple Authorized Service Provider (like MacExperience) or Apple Store can unlock your Mac for you if you bring it in and provide proof of purchase. Second, if you ever used your iCloud password on another site, change it immediately, since if that site was hacked, your iCloud account is now vulnerable. Unfortunately, Apple’s two-factor authentication, which is otherwise great, does not currently protect against this problem! Learn more at TidBITS.

 
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Here’s Your 30-second Crash Course in Dealing with Broken Web Pages

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We’ve all hit a Web page at some point that doesn’t load fully, looks wrong, or doesn’t work as it should. It’s not your fault, but here are a few things you can try on your Mac. First, press Command-R to reload the page. Second, quit and relaunch Safari. Third and finally, try a different browser, like Google ChromeFirefoxBrave, or Opera. If nothing works, try again later or report the problem to the site’s webmaster.

 
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Spring Cleaning for a Nearly Full iPhone or iPad

Running out of space on an iPhone or iPad is frustrating. You can’t take new photos, some things don’t work, and iOS nags you about “managing” your storage. Thanks, Apple—we know our devices are nearly full, but clearing space isn’t necessarily easy!

 
 

What can you do? You have two options: delete apps and cull data from within apps. Before we start down those paths, let’s figure out where to focus. 

Navigate to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage. In the Storage section, tap Manage Storage. You see a screen that shows how much space you’ve used and how much is available, along with a list of apps and how much space they and their data occupy.

 
 

Tap any app to see more details about how much space it occupies, and, if it’s not a built-in Apple app, an option to delete it. If there are apps in this list that you never use, delete them. Start at the top of the list and work your way down. Remember, you can always re-download apps from the App Store app. 

 
 

For Apple apps that can’t be deleted, and other apps you don’t want to delete, this list is useful for identifying where you can trim data quickly. The most likely culprits are video, audio, and photo apps, including Apple’s TV, Music, Podcasts, and Photos. Messages may also appear here, thanks to photos and videos in your conversations.

How you remove data from within an app varies widely, but here are pointers for common Apple apps:

  • For Apple’s Music, TV, and Podcasts apps (but not iBooks), you can delete data from within the Storage screen. Navigate into that app’s listing, and swipe left on any item to reveal a Delete button. iOS shows the data hierarchically, so in Music you can, for instance, delete All Songs, everything by an artist, a particular album, or just a specific song. (You can also delete data within each app, but it’s easier in the Storage screen.)
 
 

With Photos, what you can do depends on your setup:

  • If you aren’t using iCloud Photo Library, photos go in your Camera Roll album and can build up there. Sync them to Photos on your Mac via iTunes, and then delete them from the iOS device. You can sync an album of favorites back if you have space.
  • If you have subscribed to iCloud Photo Library, make sure to turn on Optimize iPhone/iPad Storage in Settings > Photos & Camera. That stores small thumbnails instead of full-sized images. If you’re low on space, Photos automatically uploads full-resolution originals to iCloud and then replaces them with smaller thumbnails on your device. Even thumbnails take up space, though, and there’s no way to reduce that space further.
 
 

In Messages, you have two choices. You can either delete a conversation wholesale (it’ll remain on your Mac) by swiping left on it in the message list, or you can navigate into a conversation, tap the i button, and scroll down to the list of images and attachments. Tap and hold briefly on an image or attachment to bring up buttons for Copy, Delete, and More. Tap Delete to remove just that file, or tap More to select multiple items (tap each one to give it a blue checkmark) and then tap the trash icon in the lower-right to delete them all.

Some apps may download a lot of media as you watch or listen but not delete it later or give you an interface for doing so. In such a case, your only option is to delete and reinstall the app, which recovers space but may result in the loss of some settings.

As a final note, when you’re ready to replace this iPhone or iPad, come on in to MacExperience and consider getting one with more storage!

Got a Frozen Mac?

The frozen Mac—it shouldn’t happen, but it does. If you should be so unlucky as to find your Mac completely locked up and unresponsive to the mouse or keyboard, you may wonder how you can restart it. The trick is to hold the power button down for 5 seconds, which will force your Mac to turn off. Wait another 5 or 10 seconds, and then press the power button again to restart the Mac. On a desktop Mac, look for the power button on the back of the computer. On a Mac laptop, the power button is near the top-right corner of the keyboard. On a 2016 MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, press down on the blank Touch ID button until you feel and hear a click. Remember that it is always better to restart your Mac gracefully by choosing Restart from the Apple menu—this technique is only for when the Mac is frozen.

 
 

How to Enter Emoji on the Mac

The only characters that are easier to type in iOS than on the Mac are emoji, those cartoon-like pictures that were created in Japan just before the turn of the century as a way of sharing pictures on mobile devices. They caught on in the United States in 2011, after Apple built an emoji keyboard into the iPhone with iOS 5 and added them to OS X 10.7 Lion. They’re most often used to pretty up chat messages, but since they’re actually font characters, you can also increase their size and use them like clip art in any Mac app.

Even though emoji have been readily accessible since 2011, many Mac users have never figured out how to enter them, since you can’t just type them on a keyboard. So, if you want to insert a 😀 in a post in Messages or a note in Mail, you need to use the Characters viewer. To bring it up in most Mac apps, choose Edit > Emoji & Symbols or use its keyboard shortcut: Command-Control-Space. When the Characters viewer first appears, it may be compressed (above left); click the square expansion icon to expand it to its full glory (above right).

The compressed view is fine, but the expanded view makes it easier to browse through the full set of emoji and search for particular emoji—you can also make the expanded version larger and see more emoji at once by dragging a corner. With Emoji chosen in the first column of the enlarged view, the second column lists emoji categories, such as Smileys & People, Animals & Nature, Food & Drink, and so on. In the compressed view, you can see the same categories by clicking the icons at the bottom. If you want a particular emoji, search for it by typing in the Search field—try “fruit” or “apple.”

You can insert an emoji from the Characters viewer in three main ways—if one method doesn’t work in a particular app, try another:

  • While the cursor is active in a text area, double-click a character in the viewer.
  • Drag a character out of the viewer and into a text area.
  • Drag a character out of the viewer to the Desktop to create a text clipping with it. Then drag that text clipping anywhere you can type.

Once you insert a character, it appears in the Frequently Used category; in the expanded version of the Characters viewer, you can also click the Add to Favorites button to add the current emoji to the Favorites category.

With many of the emoji of people, the first time you click the emoji, you’ll see a popover that lets you choose a skin tone other than the default, and macOS remembers your selection. If you wish to change an emoji’s skin tone later, click and hold until its popover appears (or use Force Touch, if you’re working with an appropriate trackpad).

One warning: If you send emoji from an Apple device to someone using a non-Apple device or operating system, they may see slightly different emoji than what you sent. The most notable example of this is Apple’s “pistol” emoji, which now looks like a green squirt gun 🔫; whereas, that emoji on other platforms generally looks like a more realistic handgun. The Unicode Consortium publishes a full list of what each emoji looks like on different platforms.

It’s easy to assume that emoji are a fad, or are used only by the young, but in reality, they’re having a profound effect on written communication. While an octogenarian may not understand that a line of dancers 💃💃💃💃💃 is meant to convey enthusiasm, a teen from China who speaks no English might get it. New York Magazine has covered the topic in depth, so give that article a read if you’re curious.

Stop Unwanted Notifications with Do Not Disturb

If you're not using the wonder that is Do Not Disturb, stop whatever you're doing and read on. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than being woken from a sound sleep by a notification from your iPhone, particularly when it’s something annoying like a robocall. On the Mac, notifications won’t generally wake you up, but they can be distracting when you’re trying to focus. Or, imagine the embarrassment if you get a text message from a snarky buddy while you’re giving a Keynote presentation. Do Not Disturb to the rescue!

In both iOS and macOS, you can engage Do Not Disturb manually at any time. That’s perfect if you want to make sure your iPhone doesn’t make noise in the theater or prevent your Mac from showing notifications while showing your latest work to your boss.

  • In iOS, either go to Settings > Do Not Disturb and toggle the Manual switch, or swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal Control Center and tap the Do Not Disturb button. You can also ask Siri to “Turn on Do Not Disturb.” A crescent moon icon appears in the status bar at the top of the screen when Do Not Disturb is on.

On the Mac, click the Notification Center icon in the top-right corner of the screen, scroll up to reveal the Do Not Disturb controls, and toggle the switch. For a quicker way, Option-click the Notification Center icon. In Sierra, Siri can control Do Not Disturb as well. The Notification Center icon is light gray instead of black when Do No Disturb is on.

You can turn Do Not Disturb off manually (which is a good idea if you’ve disabled it on your iPhone during a doctor’s appointment, for instance). On the Mac, it turns off automatically at midnight.

No one wants to enable Do Not Disturb manually every night. Happily, both iOS and macOS can turn it on automatically on a schedule.

  • In iOS, go to Settings > Do Not Disturb, turn on the Scheduled switch, and tap the From/To times to adjust when it should turn on and off automatically.
  • On the Mac, open System Preferences > Notifications > Do Not Disturb, select the checkbox next to the time fields, and enter from From and To times.

The Mac offers a few welcome options that automatically engage Do Not Disturb when the display is sleeping (usually a no-brainer) and when mirroring the display to a TV or projector (which should prevent notifications during presentations).

In iOS, you can choose which calls can break through Do Not Disturb’s cone of silence. On both platforms, you can allow repeated calls through — if someone wants to get in touch badly enough to try twice in quick succession, it’s probably important.

Nearly everyone should be using Do Not Disturb, so if you haven’t taken advantage of it yet, check it out now, before an errant phone call or iOS notification wakes you in the middle of the night.

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.

 
 

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 re-download 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.

Have Sierra Empty the Trash Automatically

Alas, as advanced as macOS 10.12 Sierra is, it can’t haul your garbage can out to the curb. But if you choose Finder > Preferences > Advanced and select “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days,” it will automatically trim the contents of the Mac’s Trash regularly to ensure that you aren’t wasting space on your drive with gigabytes of files that you trashed months ago. Once selected, deleted files will sit in the Trash for a month, after which Sierra will silently remove them.

New MacBook Pros Sport Dynamic Touch Bar

With the release of the new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros, Apple has rewarded those who have been waiting patiently for new models. They’re smaller, lighter, and faster than the previous MacBook Pros, but what really sets them apart is the new Touch Bar. What’s a Touch Bar, you ask?

It’s a thin, touch-sensitive screen above the keyboard, where the function keys used to be. The Touch Bar displays buttons, sliders, and other tools that change not only with what app you’re using, but also based on what you’re doing in that app. If you’re accustomed to using the function keys, you’ll be relieved to know that pressing the physical Fn key on the keyboard displays F1 through F12 on the Touch Bar. Most of the time, though, you’ll want to let apps customize the Touch Bar for you.

In Photos, for instance, the Touch Bar lets you scrub through your photo collection, mark photos you love, and edit photos. Once you select a photo for editing, the Touch Bar changes to provide editing tools, such as exposure and color sliders and rotation controls. In a video editing app like Final Cut Pro X, the Touch Bar can provide a timeline scrubber along with trimming tools. Plus, you’ll be able to customize the Touch Bar however you like in different apps.

Integrated into the right edge of the Touch Bar is a Touch ID sensor, just like on an iPhone or iPad. Touch it with one finger to log in to the MacBook Pro, or with another to switch to a second account via fast user switching. Other people can use it to log in to their accounts too. The Touch ID sensor also communicates with a new Apple T1 chip in the MacBook Pro to store Apple Pay information for use in Safari when buying stuff on Web sites.

The new MacBook Pro models sport an industrial design that takes cues from the 12-inch MacBook to reduce size and weight. In fact, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is now thinner, narrower, and less deep than the 13-inch MacBook Air and less than an ounce heavier at just over 3 pounds. The new 15-inch model weighs in at 4 pounds.

Those size and weight savings don’t come at the cost of reduced performance or battery life. Battery life is the same as the previous models at up to 10 hours, and performance is notably better, thanks to faster processors, improved graphics chips, and speedier solid-state storage. Speaking of storage, the new Macs generally start at 256 GB, with 512 GB or 1 TB SSD upgrades, and you can opt for 2 TB in the top-of-the-line 15-inch model. 8 GB of RAM is standard, but you can bump that to 16 GB.

You’ll notice that the Force Touch trackpad looks huge. That’s because it’s twice the size of the trackpad in the previous MacBook Pro models, making it easier to move around and use multi-touch gestures.

Both models feature improved screens. The resolutions remain the same as before—2560 by 1600 pixels for the 13-inch model and 2880 by 1800 for the 15-inch—but Apple says the displays are 67 percent brighter, have a 67 percent higher contrast ratio, and show 25 percent more colors, a boon to graphics professionals.

For charging and expansion, Apple learned a lesson from the 12-inch MacBook, which has only a single USB-C port. These new machines feature four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side, and you can use any port for charging, driving an external display (via an adapter for HDMI or VGA), or connecting to storage or other devices. Thunderbolt 3 uses the same physical connector as USB-C and supports older USB devices too. It boasts so much bandwidth—40 Gbps—that it can even drive two additional 5K displays or four 4K displays simultaneously!

Everything else is roughly as you might expect: 802.11ac Wi-Fi for connectivity, Bluetooth 4.2, a more responsive backlit keyboard, 3.5mm headphone jack, louder stereo speakers with greater dynamic range, three built-in microphones, and a 720p FaceTime HD camera.

Prices start at $1799 for the 13-inch model and $2399 for the 15-inch model, and you have a choice of silver or space gray colors. For those who are looking to save some money, Apple also introduced a cheaper version of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro that lacks the Touch Bar, has only two Thunderbolt ports, and uses a slower processor. The previous MacBook Pro models remain available, as do the 13-inch MacBook Air and 12-inch MacBook, so if you’re having trouble figuring out which of Apple’s laptops makes the most sense for your needs and budget, come talk to us!

How to Enable "Hey, Siri" in Sierra

With macOS 10.12 Sierra, Siri has finally come to the Mac, and you can ask Apple’s personal assistant for help with all sorts of tasks, such as finding and opening files, adjusting system preferences, setting reminders, getting directions, looking up words, sending or responding to email, looking for photos, and much, much more. To invoke Siri, click the Siri icon in the Dock, click the Siri icon in the menu bar, or press and hold Command-Space.

Wait! What about the hands-free “Hey, Siri” technique that we’ve become accustomed to on the iPhone and Apple Watch? Strangely, Apple didn’t build “Hey, Siri” into Sierra, perhaps to sidestep privacy concerns that your Mac would constantly be listening to everything around it (not true, regardless). Never fear, though, because there’s a way you can bring “Hey, Siri” to the Mac as well. If you have an iPhone or Apple Watch that might respond to “Hey, Siri” commands directed at your Mac, you can use a different voice trigger, like “Yo, Siri” or a different name, like “Hey, Mac.” Follow these steps:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation. Turn Dictation on, and select the checkbox for Use Enhanced Dictation (which may cause your Mac to download additional data files).

2. Jump to System Preferences > Accessibility, and scroll down to select Dictation in the left-hand column.

3. Select Enable the Dictation Keyword Phrase, and then type your trigger word, like “Hey” or “Yo”  into the text field. 

4. Click the Dictation Commands button, select Enable Advanced Commands at the bottom, and then click the + button.

5. In the controls that appear to the right, enter a name like “Siri” or “Mac” in the When I Say field and leave the While Using pop-up menu set to Any Application.

6. From the Perform pop-up menu, choose Open Finder Items, and in the Open dialog that appears, navigate to the Applications folder, select the Siri app, and click Open.

7. Back in the Dictation Commands dialog, click Done and close System Preferences.

Now give it a try by saying “Hey, Siri” (or whatever you used for your trigger and name) and then asking a question like “What’s the weather forecast for tomorrow?” This trick works best if you pause after saying “Hey, Siri” and wait for Siri to beep encouragingly. If your question follows the “Hey, Siri” prompt too quickly, Siri tends to miss what you’ve said.

Siri is far from perfect, but it’s still pretty astonishing what we can now do with voice commands. This little trick will let you talk more naturally to Siri, without having to fuss with the keyboard or mouse.

What's Hot in macOS 10.12 Sierra

It's already here: macOS Sierra. Some of you have downloaded it already, and some of you are waiting to see what bugs people might be reporting. But, Apple has released the next version of Mac's operating system, now called "macOS" to match iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. As with the last few versions—Mavericks, Yosemite, and El Capitan—the new macOS 10.12 Sierra won’t force you to change how you use your Mac, but it does bring a bunch of features that you might enjoy. 

Most exciting among Sierra’s new capabilities is the addition of Siri—you can finally talk to your Mac just like your iPhone. You can ask Siri to open apps, display certain files in a folder, check how much drive space you have free, and adjust settings, plus carry out tasks with Siri that you already do on the iPhone, such as searching Google, checking the weather, making reminders, and looking up sports scores. Invoke Siri by clicking its Dock icon and wait a moment, and you’ll get a list of fun and serious suggestions for things you can ask. For an organized directory of questions Siri understands, click its Dock icon, and say “What can I ask you?”

iCloud Drive becomes significantly more interesting in Sierra, thanks to an option to sync your Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders to iCloud. Once they’ve uploaded, you can access their contents not just on any other Macs you may have, but also on your iOS devices and the iCloud.com website. Note that the actual Desktop and Documents folders then move from your home folder to the iCloud Drive volume (choose Go > iCloud Drive to open it). Beware that enabling this option may require paying for more space on iCloud Drive.

People who work back and forth across a Mac and iPhone or iPad may also appreciate Universal Clipboard, which synchronizes clipboard contents to all your devices in the background. Copy a phone number from an email message on your Mac and a few seconds later you can paste it into your iPhone’s Phone app (press for a second or two in the white space above the numbers, and then tap the Paste button that appears—useful, eh?).

Being able to open multiple pages in separate tabs is standard fare in every Web browser, and Apple added tab functionality to the Finder several years ago. If you like tabs in Safari and the Finder, you’ll be pleased to hear that Sierra makes it so almost every app that can open multiple document windows can do so in tabs as well. Apps won’t have to change; just look in the File, View, and Window menus for tab-related commands.

Those who have become accustomed to the security of using Apple Pay from an iPhone or Apple Watch to pay for a burger at McDonald’s or groceries at Whole Foods will be able to bring the same level of security to many Web transactions. With Safari in Sierra, on websites that accept Apple Pay (which a lot), you’ll be able to enter your payment info with Touch ID on your iPhone or with a paired Apple Watch. Much as it may seem odd to complete a transaction on your Mac using an iPhone or an Apple Watch, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor is a key aspect of how Apple Pay remains secure.

The final big-deal feature in Sierra, called Optimized Storage, has a number of options that you can enable in the redesigned System Information app—look in Window > Storage Management. Designed to free up space on Macs with relatively small drives, Optimized Storage can remove the local versions of files stored in iCloud (including older files of your Desktop and Documents folders; make sure you have a good backup to be safe!). You can download one if needed by double-clicking its icon. It removes already watched movies and TV shows from iTunes along with email attachments from Mail, all of which you can download again if necessary. It can delete files from your Trash after they’ve composted for 30 days, and it helps you reduce clutter on your Mac by identifying large files so you can consider deleting them manually.

Sierra boasts plenty of other features too, such as Auto Unlock, which eliminates the need to enter a login password if you’re wearing an associated Apple Watch. Then there’s Picture in Picture, which floats a resizable video window from Safari or iTunes in any corner of your screen while you pretend to get work done. Finally, of Sierra’s bundled apps, Photos sees the most changes, with improved automatic recognition of faces, plus object and scenery recognition.

Although Sierra won’t run on every Mac that’s compatible with El Capitan, it will run on MacBook and iMac models released in late 2009 and later, and on MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and Mac Pro models released in 2010 and later. It will be a free upgrade and will be the default on every new Mac sold after its release. We’re looking forward to playing with all the new features and with Siri in particular—tune in for more details in the coming months!

The Age-Old Question: When Should You Do a Software Update?

It’s that time of year again, as the leaves start to turn, the air gets crisp, the grass is covered with frost in the morning, and Apple releases major operating system upgrades. We’ve known this was coming since the company’s announcement in June, but now it’s time to think hard about when you’ll upgrade.

(Note that we say “when” and not “if.” There’s no harm in delaying an upgrade until Apple has had a chance to squash the 1.0 bugs and it’s a convenient time in your schedule. But waiting for too long can put you at risk from security vulnerabilities and prevent you from taking advantage of new integrations between Apple’s devices. Plus, should you have to replace a Mac or iOS device unexpectedly, you may be forced to use the current operating system, which could be awkward if you weren’t ready for the upgrade.)

Let’s dispense with the easiest answer right off. If you have a fourth-generation Apple TV, either let it upgrade itself to tvOS 10 or manually invoke the upgrade from Settings > System > Software Updates. Since tvOS 10 is a relatively minor update and you don’t create work on an Apple TV, upgrading is unlikely to cause any problems. If you’re a major TV junkie and are paranoid about how the upgrade could prevent you from watching your favorite show, just wait a few weeks until other users have reported on their experiences on the Internet.

In some ways, the question of when to upgrade to watchOS 3 has a similar answer. Although watchOS 3 is a major upgrade that radically changes how you interact with the Apple Watch, the improvements are so significant and the downsides so minimal that it’s easy to recommend an immediate upgrade. However, to install watchOS 3, you must have upgraded your iPhone to iOS 10 first. So…

What about iOS 10? Now we need to hedge a little. Although iOS 10 has been getting good reviews from beta testers, if you rely on an app that isn’t compatible, you’ll want to put off your upgrade. Check the App Store listing for your key apps, and if they’ve been updated recently, you’re probably OK. The other thing to remember is that iOS 10 changes the Lock screen behavior, so it may be worth delaying the upgrade until you have some time to poke at the new interface. Messages and Photos also receive a bunch of new features that you may want to play with, but you shouldn’t have any trouble using them before you’ve figured out the new stuff.

As always, the rubber meets the road on the Mac. Like iOS 10, macOS 10.12 Sierra has gotten good reviews from beta testers, but if you rely on your Mac to get your work done, it’s important to ensure that your key apps are compatible. Plus, despite Apple’s public beta, it’s not uncommon for unanticipated problems to surface once the first release of a new operating system for the Mac becomes more broadly available. Unless you’re dying to use the new features in Sierra that integrate with iOS 10 and watchOS 3, we recommend waiting until version 10.12.1 or even 10.12.2 before upgrading. That gives you plenty of time to make sure your apps and workflows will work in Sierra.

Finally, we just want to say that as much as change can be hard, we’re excited about Apple’s new operating systems. Like you, we probably won’t end up using all the new features, but some of them will definitely enhance the experience of being an Apple user.

Share Photos via iCloud Photo Sharing

Thanks to the iPhone, everyone takes photos on vacation these days, and while you probably don’t want to share all of them, friends and relatives might like to see a Best Of collection. Or you might wish to share baby photos with your family, pictures of your new city with friends back home, or shots of the Olympics if you're lucky enough to be there.

With iCloud, it’s easy to create a shared album, invite other iCloud users to subscribe to it (handy for viewing on an iOS device or Apple TV, in particular), and to create a public Web page of the photos that anyone can see, even if they don’t use any Apple devices.

First, some setup:

  • On an iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud > Photos and turn on the iCloud Photo Sharing switch.
  • On a Mac, open System Preferences > iCloud, click the Options button next to Photos, select iCloud Photo Sharing, and click the Done button.

Next, follow these steps, which are similar regardless of the device you’re using:

  1. In the Photos app, select some photos or videos. In iOS, that involves tapping Select before tapping the items to select; on the Mac, just Command-click the items you want, or drag a selection rectangle around them.
  2. Hit the Share  button, and then pick iCloud Photo Sharing.
  3. Select an existing album or create a new shared album.
  4. For a new album, provide a name, enter the names or email addresses of any iCloud users with whom you want to share the album, and add an optional comment.
  5. When you’re done, tap Post in iOS or click Create on the Mac.

To add more photos, repeat those steps to select photos and then add them to a shared album. Alternatively, start with the shared album, though the steps vary slightly between iOS and the Mac:

  • In Photos for iOS, if necessary, back out of the view until you see the Shared button in the toolbar. Tap Shared and select the shared album. Then tap the + button, select the items to add, tap Done, enter an optional comment, and tap Post.
  • In Photos for the Mac, in the sidebar, select the shared album in the Shared category. Then click “Add photos and videos,” select the items to add, and click the Add button.

It’s easy to tweak the options for your shared album or to create a public Web page for it. The process is again similar in both operating systems:

  • In Photos for iOS, tap Shared in the toolbar and select the shared album. Tap People to bring up a screen where you can share the album with more people, control whether subscribers can post their own photos, create a public Web page, enable notifications, and delete the album entirely. To share the URL to the public Web page, tap Share Link and select a sharing method.
  • In Photos for the Mac, select the shared album in the sidebar, and then click the People  button in the toolbar. From the popover that appears, you can do the same things as in iOS, although sharing the link is best done by either clicking it to visit it in a Web browser and then copying from there or Control-clicking it and choosing Copy Link from the contextual menu.

After practicing these steps a few times, you’ll be able to create shared albums in a flash, and share them easily.