macOS Sierra UK release date, price, features: Night Shift mode returns with macOS Sierra 10.12.4 beta 8


Apple unveiled its thirteenth major desktop operating system, Sierra, at WWDC in June 2016, surprising some by ditching the OS X naming convention in favour of a return to Mac OS, or, rather macOS as it is now.

The OS was made generally available as a free upgrade in September 2016.

Here you can find out everything you need to know about the new operating system and its latest updates.

macOS Sierra: latest news

23/03/2017: Night Shift mode has made in appearance on Macs in macOS Sierra 10.12.4 beta 8, which has started rolling out to developers and public beta users.

Night Shift mode, which first appeared on iOS 9.3 reduces the blue light coming from Macs, which means your sleep will hopefully not be disturbed by the blue spectrums radiating from your device.

"Night Shift adjusts the color of your display after sunset," Apple's Night Shift blurb explained. "Many studies show that exposure to bright-blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep. After sunset, Night Shift will shift your display colors to the warmer end of the spectrum, making the display easier on your eyes. In the morning, your display returns to its regular settings."

Those testing out Apple's newest OS can enable Night Shift mode by heading to the Display settings from Preferences. If you don't want to enable it forevermore, but just for the time being, you can do this from the Notifications Centre or Siri.

Other new features in the beta include updates to Siri, with a wider range of sports updates such as Indian Premier League or the International Cricket Council.

MacRumors also revealed Apple has released new languages to its dictation tool, better support for PDFs with its PDFKit API and iCloud Analytics options.

macOS Sierra: name

It was widely rumoured beforehand, and those rumours proved accurate - Apple has changed the naming convention of its desktop operating system. Ditching the 'OS X' label, the company has instead reverted back to the name used in its first products: macOS.

This brings the desktop software back into line with the rest of Apple's 'xOS' family, such as iOS, tvOS and watchOS. However, Apple is still naming the different iterations after areas of California, with the first edition of the new macOS labelled 'macOS Sierra'.

macOS Sierra: features

MacOS Sierra introduces a raft of new features for desktop users, including new functionality through Siri. Apple's virtual assistant now lives in an icon in the app dock and can also be launched via keyboard shortcut.

As expected, Siri can perform all the functions available to iOS users, such as web searching and messaging. This will also include any functionality introduced by developers making use of the new open Siri SDK.

In addition, users can take advantage of Siri to perform complex file queries, including multiple criteria, all using conversational language.

There are also numerous productivity features introduced in macOS Sierra too. Macs now support automatic unlocking, using your Apple Watch to verify your identity and unlock your Mac.

The Universal Clipboard function is cross-device compatible, meaning that users can access data they've copied on any of their Apple devices. iCloud Drive also lets users access all their files from any of their Mac devices, including files stored on the desktop.

Optimised storage allows users to free up space on a hard drive by moving older or less used files to iCloud.

The OS also supports Apple Pay, although you will need to have a paired iPhone or Apple Watch to actually authorise the payment. Apple Pay buttons will appear on supported sites and will prompt you to authorise purchases by scanning your fingerprint on your connected device, or on the touchbar of the new MacBook Pro.

There is also a picture-in-picture mode that will display a small window running a video that stays on top of the screen and is open at all times. Picture-in-picture works with web vide and Apple will provide an API to developers to make this feature available to visitors.

Finally, third-party apps and programs will now support browser-style tabs, allowing you to group multiple instances of the same program into one window.

macOS Sierra: price & release date

For the past several years, the latest version of Mac OS X has been available as a free upgrade to users of the previous version of the operating system and the latest macOS release isn't any different.

MacOS Sierra arrived to Apple users on 20 September 2016. Prior to this, Apple released a public beta available to anyone on 7 July. The golden master version for developers - approximately the same OS that released on 20 September, was released on 9 September.

macOS Sierra: previous news

17/02/2017: Microsoft has added support for the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar to its Office for Mac software, allowing users to take advantage of touch-based shortcuts.

In Word, the Touch Bar hosts a variety of shortcuts, including the ability to change paragraph and text formatting, insert objects and hyperlinks, and copy and paste. It can also launch 'Word Focus Mode', a new mode that makes your document full-screen and removes all ribbons and toolbars.

In Excel, users can access the most recently used functions via the Touch Bar, as well as borders, cell colours and recommended charts, for easy formatting and layout.

The new shortcuts for PowerPoint users are built predominantly around managing the graphical elements of a presentation, including the ability to reorder and rotate objects. When in presentation mode, the Touch Bar can also be used to control your slides, and features a timer to make sure you stay on schedule.

Finally, Outlook has been updated to feature the most frequently-used email and calendar commands. Not only that, but it will also display a list of recent documents when composing an email, allowing you to include them as an attachment or link. The Touch Bar will display your daily schedule too, from where you can join a Skype for Business meeting.

The update adds a greater level of business functionality to the Touch Bar, increasing the utility of a feature that was initially in danger of being little more than a gimmick.

21/09/2016: MacOS Sierra is finally available to Mac users via the Mac App Store.

The update brings with it a slew of iOS-like features. Among the highlights are Auto Unlock with Apple Watch, Universal Clipboard, Desktop and Documents Sync, Picture in Picture mode, a customised version of Siri (voice assistant) for Mac and many others.

The update also brings Apple Pay to the Mac. You will still need an iPhone or iPad with Touch ID to complete a transaction but it now means that websites can offer the payment method for online shopping via the Safari browser.

The Photos app also gets new search and highlights options to match updates in iOS 10. iMessage on the Mac also gets larger emojis and web page previews.

The latest version of Apple's desktop operating system is the firm's first rebrand of operating system since Mac OS 9.

The following Macs will be able to download and install MacOS Sierra: MacBook (late 2009 and later), iMac (late 2009 and later), MacBook Air (2010 and later), MacBook Pro (2010 and later), Mac Mini (2010 and later) and Mac Pro (2010 and later).

The update is available from the Mac App Store.

Jane McCallion
Deputy Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's deputy editor, specializing in cloud computing, cyber security, data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Deputy Editor, she held the role of Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialise in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.