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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Sierra tips and tricks

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IT’S been a few weeks since I upgraded my MacBook Air to macOS Sierra, and the instability I experienced with the open source Gimp image editing program seems to have gone away with the 10.12.1 update released by Apple last month.

I’ve begun to explore some of the neat features that were unavailable in Sierra’s predecessor, El Capitan. I’ve already written about Siri, the voice-activated digital assistant, that has finally made its way from the iPhone to the Mac, so these tips cover other aspects of Apple’s latest operating system.

Some of these new features, such as the Universal Clipboard that lets you cut and paste to and from multiple Apple devices, sound really nifty, except that the MacBook Air is my only Apple device, so I can’t really take advantage of this ability.

Similarly, the Auto Unlock feature that lets you unlock the Mac with an Apple Watch sounds pretty cool, but it’s useless if you don’t own an Apple Watch.

What follows, then, are tips that any Mac user on Sierra can use—with or without any other Apple devices.

Take advantage of the improved Finder.

Finder, the Mac’s file manager, hasn’t changed much over the last few OS releases, but it does get two tweaks in Sierra. First, you can make folders appear together above files in Finder windows that use column or list view. To do this, open Finder preferences, go to the Advanced tab and check “Keep folders on top when sorting by name.

As a way of optimizing storage, you can also have Finder automatically delete items in Trash after 30 days. That’s available in the same preferences tab.

Also on Finder, you can override the Mac’s Security & Privacy system preferences, which only allow you to run programs downloaded from the App Store or identified developers. Simply right-click on a program that won’t otherwise run in Finder and choose Open to run it.

Clear out some junk.

Optimized storage lets you keep less often used documents in your iCloud account but Sierra offers you another way to reclaim hard disk space. Go to the Apple logo at the top right of the screen and click on About This Mac. Click on the Storage tab to get a graphical representation of how much of your drive is already being used, and how much space you have free, breaking this up into system files, apps and what’s in your Documents folder. You can click on the new Manage button to gain finer control over how space is used. Here, you can choose to store files and photos in iCloud to save space on your local drive; choose Optimize Storage to automatically remove iTunes movies and TV shows that you’ve already watched and keep only recent e-mail attachments when storage is needed; and Reduce Clutter by sorting through documents and other content that is no longer needed. Click on Review Files to see which large files are taking space on your Mac.

Take command of the menu bar.

Apple has long prevented users from moving icons of third-party applications around on its menu bar. The Dropbox icon or the MagiCal icon was wherever the OS told you it would go. This niggling limitation is now gone in macOS Sierra. To move a menu bar icon wherever you want, just Command-drag it to where you think it should be. It’s as simple as that.

If you want to work uninterrupted, you can turn off notifications right from the menu bar, too. Simply hold down the Option key and click on the Notifications icon, which grays out to indicate it’s inactive. Option-click on the icon again to resume notifications.

Monitor that video.

Safari in Sierra now supports picture-in-picture, which lets you play a streaming video in a small screen that you can position anywhere on the screen, enabling you to follow what’s happening, say, in that Ateneo de Manila vs. De La Salle University basketball game, while continuing to work on other applications. To view a YouTube video in a small window, simply right-click on it twice, and choose “Enter Picture-in-Picture.” To move the window around, Command-drag it to wherever you want. Chin Wong

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