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macOS Sierra

On September 20, 2016, Apple released macOS Sierra (version 10.12.x). It is Apple’s first OS release since retiring the OS X nomenclature in favor of “macOS” which is more in alignment with Apple’s naming conventions for other devices.
On the surface, macOS Sierra is more of an incremental upgrade than many previous iterations of macOS. The interface remains largely unchanged and there are no significant overhauls to any major components of the OS.  macOS Sierra does provide many new features to integrate the OS with the rest of Apple’s ecosystem, however.

macOS Sierra is compatible with any Macintosh released in 2010 or later as well as the 2009 iMac and MacBook. As with previous versions of the Macintosh OS, macOS Sierra is a free upgrade for any compatible Mac.

Current known issues

Information Systems & Computing (ISC) has tested macOS Sierra extensively, and has found it to work with many Penn applications and services, including AirPennNet, PennO365, and Penn+Box. Current known issues include:

1)  macOS Sierra version 10.12.1 introduced a bug that breaks functionality of cross-signed 802.1X certificate chains. This bug prevents Sierra from working normally on AirPennNet. Apple addressed and fixed this bug in version 10.12.4.

2) EndNote X7 has compatibility issues with macOS Sierra, specifically the PDF viewer. Endnote X8 is fully macOS Sierra-compatible.

The following updates are among those included in the macOS Sierra update:


The most noticeable new feature in macOS Sierra is the integration of Siri into the OS. This version of Siri provides all the functionality that it does on iOS, with several improvements geared toward a desktop OS environment. For example, Siri can search local documents and provide filtered search results (e.g., "Show me all the spreadsheets I worked on last week.”). Siri in macOS is launched via a new icon available in the Dock or from the menu bar.

Additional integrations with Apple products

macOS Sierra's most extensive updates are those which integrate the OS with other Apple devices.  For example, macOS Sierra can be configured to "auto unlock" in the proximity of an authorized Apple Watch, allowing users to skip entering their password and use their watch to authenticate.  macOS Sierra also includes an option for a "universal clipboard" which will allow users to share the contents of their clipboard across devices, copying from their Mac and pasting to their iPhone or iPad, or vice versa.
macOS Sierra also includes additional integration with iCloud and iCloud Drive. Given that many users leave their most important work on the desktop, macOS Sierra can save the contents of the desktop to iCloud and automatically synchronize it across devices, allowing access to the files via iCloud Drive or on the web at In addition, macOS Sierra offers the option for smarter archiving, detecting infrequently used files and removing them from the Mac's hard drive, backing them up to iCloud instead.
Safari 10 is included with macOS Sierra and will also be available as an upgrade for El Capitan and Yosemite.  The newest version of Apple’s browser now includes support for Apple Pay in conjunction with an iOS device or Apple Watch; sites that support Apple Pay will allow for payment using TouchID on the iPhone or by pressing the Apple Watch side button twice.

Application updates

Several of the macOS bundled applications are getting updates with macOS Sierra. In addition to the aforementioned Safari 10, macOS Sierra offers updates to Messages, Photos, and iTunes.
The updates for Messages on macOS mirror some of the updates that were recently introduced in iOS 10, such as support for the special effects like invisible ink and handwritten notes. It also adds support for rich links and "tapbacks," quick pre-determined messages and replies that work similarly to emojis.
Photos now includes deep-learning algorithms that can identify faces, objects, locations, and expressions, and categorize images accordingly. The new "Memories" tabs utilize these algorithms to group photos based on time and location (e.g., aggregating photos from a trip) and also allows for the creation of short video montages based on the photos. There is also a new "Places" album that organizes photos based on location taken and displays them on a map. Another new album is the "People" album that organizes photos based on people appearing in them, using the facial recognition algorithms within Photos.
ITunes has its Music section redesigned with a simpler interface. The revamp is designed to better facilitate content discovery, and adds a “Search” tabs to make searching for songs and albums easier and faster. The design is very much in line with the Apple Music updates within iOS 10.

Security updates

There are several new added security features and changes to macOS Sierra. First, Safari 10 disables all plugins such as Flash and Java by default. Users must explicitly authorize plugin content on a website before it will play.
Likewise, Gatekeeper has been updated such that Macs can no longer be configured to run unsigned applications automatically. Only App Store purchases and signed applications can run automatically; all other unsigned apps must be given explicit authorization first before they will run.
Lastly, while not contained in the initial macOS Sierra release, Apple's new file system, APFS, is expected to be released in an update early next year. This file system supports native encryption and is especially designed for improved performance on solid state drives.

Compatibility with Penn’s environment 

For more detailed information regarding macOS Sierra's compatibility at Penn, please see the University's supported products page:
For more detailed information about macOS Sierra, see Apple's page at: