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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Six Colors Staff

Review: Apple’s 2023 multi-platform features

In recent years, Apple has taken to making more of its new features available across all of its major operating systems. As a result, it’s made less sense for us to cover the same feature in multiple preview articles. Instead, we’ve rolled some of the key improvements you’ll see across macOS Sonoma, iOS 17, and iPadOS 17 into a single article—this one.

The widgets! They move!

interactive widgets

Apple introduced its next-generation widgets three years ago in iOS 14. They were beautiful and interesting and helpful, but what they weren’t was interactive. The previous generation of widgets could have buttons that you could click or tap, and then things would happen!

Fortunately, Apple’s modern widgets have now gotten all touchy-feely. Not only can widgets have buttons, but they can change dynamically based on what buttons you’ve pressed. Imagine a photo widget that lets you cycle through different images or a dice-rolling widget that rolls the dice and gives you the result right in the widget! Yes, all this and more is possible as of the fall of 2023.

Now that you can place widgets in Notification Center and on the Desktop/Home Screen on all three of Apple’s major platforms, it’s going to be interesting to see where this goes. There’s an argument to be made that widgets are the simplest form of an app, and depending on what you want to do, you may find yourself using the widgets more than the apps themselves. (Of course, the widget is an extension of an app, so you really are using the app, sort of.)

But without getting too philosophical, interactive widgets could really be game changers. Having basic information available at a glance was great, but being able to perform tasks—whether it’s playing music, turning off lights, or checking off items on a to-do list—without launching apps is a big deal. Think more widgets on home screens, for starters.

While Apple has generated some interactive widgets on its own (though fewer than I had hoped, to be honest), I’ve seen many third-party app developers embrace this new format over the summer while the operating systems were in beta testing. It makes me optimistic that developers will take advantage of this new functionality to make some fantastic little mini-apps inside a widget frame. I can’t wait for this fall’s big app updates, though it will probably be painful to decide which widgets win the battle for my limited screen space.—Jason Snell

Videoconferencing fireworks—literally

Ever since the days of pandemic lockdowns, Apple has focused on upgrading its webcam video functionality. This year’s updates give users way more control over the video they’re sending to everyone else on the call. (On the Mac, you access video controls from a green camera icon that appears when any app is using a camera. On the iPhone and iPad, you tap on the Video Effects icon in Control Center.)

While you could previously toggle video effects like Portrait Mode and Studio Light on and off, you can now also adjust their intensity. If you never used Studio Light because it was just a bit too much… well, now you can dial it back and actually put it to use. I’m really happy that Apple decided to put some of this control in the hands of Mac users. The same goes for the Portrait effect, where you can dial in just the right level of softness in the background of your shot.

On macOS, you can control the zoom and crop of the camera as well as trigger animated effects.

And Apple has added a bunch of reaction animations that appear when you trigger them. On macOS, you can click on icons in the Video Effects submenu. On all platforms, you can trigger the animations by making physical gestures in the video frame. If you make a thumbs-up gesture, an animated thought bubble containing a thumbs-up icon appears near your head. If you do two thumbs up, there’s a confetti drop. (Yes, you can turn this feature off in the same place where you control Portrait, Studio Light, and Center Stage—Control Center on the iPhone and iPad, and the video camera Menu Bar item on the Mac.)

All that virtual confetti and fireworks are quite technically impressive, and it works in any app, all because Apple’s intercepting the video camera input, analyzing it, modifying it, and then sending it on to whatever app wants it. It’s also using the same foreground and background segmentation that generates Portrait mode to create effects with depth, so the animated balloon release and confetti drop will include objects passing both in front of and behind the subject.

These effects won’t be for everyone, and yes, they’ll also be overused. But at the same time, they’re fun. I’ve been known to send someone an iMessage or two with the Lasers effect, possibly ironically. Making video more playful is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and for those who might disagree, I’ll point out that Apple also added a bunch of practical features in this category. There’s something for everyone here.

Oh, and one other new great video-related feature: You can now leave a voicemail when you’re calling someone via FaceTime video and they don’t answer. Finally, a solution for the moments when I’ve gotten everyone together and crowded them around my phone so we can sing “Happy Birthday” to a loved one, only to be left hanging. Just record that song as a voicemail and take off those scratchy party hats!—JS

Report for duty, Private Safari

safari profiles
Safari Profiles can be color-coded and even use a different set of Favorites.

For one of Apple’s most popular apps, Safari gets fairly little to crow about in this year’s update. What it does get is an even bigger focus on privacy. That’s no surprise in and of itself; Apple has, of course, been banging on the privacy drum1 for many years now, and it’s one of the ways it wages a soft-power war against rivals like Amazon, Meta, and even close frenemy Google.

Most of this year’s updates revolve around Private Browsing mode. Apple’s added a number of handy enhancements, including the ability to protect it with a passcode, biometrics, or (on the Mac) your Apple Watch. Now, when you leave Safari (on iOS or iPad) or lock or put to sleep your Mac, your return will be greeted with a note that Private Browsing is Locked, and you’ll be asked to authenticate. Private things are, after all, private, so this adds a layer of protection, not unlike the additions Apple made to the Hidden and Recently Deleted albums in Photos last year.

Private Browsing also gets two other enhancements: the first is the ability to select a different default search engine than the one you normally use, which you can choose in Settings > Safari on iOS/iPadOS or in Preferences > Search on macOS. Apple has instituted even more aggressive removal of link trackers in Private Browsing mode, removing trackers from URLs by default, as well as protecting you from fingerprinting and other trackers. Why would you not always want the latter on? Good question! Fortunately, you can enable that advanced protection for all browsing modes in Settings > Safari > Advanced > Advanced Tracking and Fingerprinting Protection in iOS/iPadOS and Preferences > Advanced on macOS. Given that people rarely want more tracking, this seems like a winner.

Finally, Apple has also instituted Profiles in Safari, a boon to those who might use their computer for both personal and work use or for, say, web developers who want to test how a site looks when they’re not logged in (instead of having to fall back to Private Browsing).

Think of Profiles like a separate instance of Safari that runs inside Safari: you can choose which extensions are installed, maintain a separate web history, different tab groups and bookmarks, and even distinct cookies/website data. So if you, for example, use different Google accounts for personal and business usage, you can create Personal and Work profiles that are each logged in to the correct account, with no bleed-over. Then, just toggle back and forth using the new dropdown menu on the Mac and iPad or the Profile menu in the tab view on the iPhone. Conveniently, profiles sync between your devices, so you only need to create them once. While this isn’t a feature I necessarily think I’ll use, there’s a certain slice of users for whom this will probably be a godsend.2 I’d like to see Apple institute a similar feature systemwide for those who really want the ability to consolidate their work and personal phones into a single device while keeping their data separate.—Dan Moren

Hey is for horses, Siri

As a frequent user of Siri, I’m always eager to try out Apple’s latest enhancements to the virtual assistant, and in 2023’s software updates, there are definitely a few. Unlike previous years, where improvements have largely focused on the breadth of what Siri can do, this year’s focus is more on how Siri does things.

Let’s take the biggest one first: you can now drop the “Hey” when you want to start a query; Siri will respond to its name alone. Was the “hey” particularly onerous? Maybe not, but it does feel a little less convoluted now—not to mention less rude. My biggest concern is false positives, and while I did notice a few, I can’t say it was that much more frequent than previously.3 During the testing period, it’s certainly been useful to be able to specifically talk to Siri on my devices running the new software by using the new simplified cue. It’s also worth noting that if you’d rather stick to the interjection-preceded phrase, that’s still an option in Settings > Siri & Search > Listen for on iOS/iPadOS and in System Settings > Siri & Spotlight > Listen for on macOS. That could be handy if you’d like to be able to address specific devices.

Apple has also now instituted back-to-back queries, meaning you don’t have to use the wake phrase/word for each subsequent request you want to make. You can even interrupt Siri giving you an answer if you want a different query. In general, this works well, but it does suffer a little bit from the overeager assistant problem: because Siri is still listening, there’s more of a chance that it’ll start picking up your conversation with someone else (or, say, audio from another source) and try to interpret it as a request. However, I’ve also found you can make Siri stop listening with either a “Never mind” or a “Thank you.” Finally, a way to encourage politeness to our robot friends!

Siri can also interpret requests during a call, and the person on the other end won’t be able to hear the responses. (Apple notes this doesn’t work in CarPlay.) I haven’t had a chance to test this out yet—I’m not sure there’s a good reason why I’d interact with Siri while on a call instead of simply typing out my request, but sure.

When it comes to new capabilities, the intelligent agent does get a few. For one, if you open a page in Reader mode in Safari, you can tell Siri to read it aloud by saying, “Siri, read this” (a feature which can also be triggered from the extensions menu in Safari). Doing this in the past was possible but a little trickier; it’s good that Apple surfaced it more easily. And Siri can remember which messaging apps you use to talk to specific contacts—though only for apps that have built-in support for it, so sorry to Slack and Discord users.

Of course, no conversation about Siri is complete without mentioning the 800 lb. gorilla that is ChatGPT. No, Siri isn’t going to give conversational AI a run for its money when it comes to generating answers on the fly, and yes, you’re still going to get kicked to search results for a lot of queries. Siri continues to inch along in improvements, and honestly, I find it to usually be…fine. Not great, but fine. That legacy continues in this year’s updates. —DM

AirPods Pro listen more closely

Along with the new Mac, iPhone, and iPad operating systems comes an upgrade to the firmware in second-generation AirPods Pro. There’s a new listening mode, Adaptive Audio, that sort of sits in between Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes. (There’s even a new sound effect when you enter this mode, distinct from the chimes for the other modes.) According to Apple, when you’re in this mode, noise cancellation is emphasized in noisier environments and Transparency in quieter conditions.

I’ve spent the entire summer walking and running around my neighborhood and taking plane trips using a beta version of this new firmware. It’s basically replaced Transparency mode for me—in fact, I’ve set my AirPods Pro to toggle exclusively between Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Audio. When I’m walking or running with Adaptive Audio turned on, things are quieter than they were with Transparency, but still audible so I don’t feel like I’m cut off from the world. If I’m sitting on an airplane or working outside, I’ll toggle over to Noise Cancellation and push out the world.

Another new feature is Personalized Volume, which supposedly adjusts playback volume as your environment changes as well as based on learning your preferences in various contexts. I’ve kept this feature on all summer, but it never felt like it worked right. Perhaps it was doing some amazing adjustments and I just never noticed, but what it mostly seemed to do was turn down the volume on my podcasts just as I was about to head out the door for a run. I would invariably turn the volume back up, but it never seemed to learn its lesson.

The new Conversational Awareness feature is meant to allow your AirPods to adjust when you’re talking to someone—dipping down the audio and increasing the volume of the person you’re talking to. I love the vision of my AirPods being so smart that they can contextually adjust without my intervention. When I was on an airplane, having conversations with my seatmates and the flight attendants, it worked pretty well. Unfortunately, in other contexts, it failed me. When I’m walking my dog4, I have to give her verbal commands every so often, and every time I did, the audio I was listening to would dip. In an ideal world, the AirPods would realize that I wasn’t talking to anyone—that literally, there was no voice on the other end of the line. In the meantime, though, I just had to turn Conversational Awareness off entirely.

If you frequently take phone calls on your AirPods, this fall’s firmware updates will make your life slightly easier. For all AirPods Pro, the most recent generation of AirPods, and the AirPods Max, when you’re on a call you can click once to mute or unmute your microphone. A double click hangs up the call.—JS

Shopping with Reminders

grocery list in reminders
Grocery Lists section ingredients into different subcategories.

When Reminders launched it was pretty bare-bones, but in recent years, it’s gained a surprising amount of functionality, to the point that it’s no longer a sacrifice to use it instead of some big, powerful to-do app. I rely on Reminders to keep track of all sorts of things, and this year’s platform updates may chip away at one of my last remaining holdouts: the old grocery list. I’d previously relied on AnyList, but its advantages (or, at least, the ones we’ve used it for) have gotten narrower as time has gone by; now Reminders has picked off another with the ability to automatically categorize items added to a grocery list, sorting them into categories like Dairy or Meat, or Pasta, Rice & Beans. It even remembers if you manually change something to another category and put it there in the future. (How does it know if something is a grocery list? Go to the list details screen and choose “Grocery” from List Type).

These culinary improvements go hand in hand with another Reminders addition: sections. You can now add specific categories to your to-do lists if you need a little bit of extra organization. For example, I’ve made sections of my Personal list called Short Term, Medium Term, and Long Term. Not only does this help prioritize the tasks I need to do now, but it also means I can collapse the Long Term list and not have the items there staring at me accusingly.

Which, in turn, works along with another Reminders improvement: columns view. I, personally, find this much more useful on a wider screen device like an iPad or a Mac, but once you’ve added different sections, you can view them as vertical columns and scroll through them horizontally, which is especially handy if you have a lot of items in a category.

If I have a nit to pick here, it’s that I don’t especially love the aesthetics of sections because each one gets a blank to-do item at the bottom—I get it, it’s to make it easier to add something to a specific category. But it’s a bit cluttered and leads to me feeling like I have more items than I really do. It’s a tricky problem to solve, but I hope Apple takes another crack at it.

Two other new features make the process of adding reminders more powerful: suggestions and early reminders. The former remembers reminders you’ve previously added and offers an autocomplete-like feature, though it only fills in the name, not the other details, as far as I can tell. (You can disable this feature if you prefer.)

The second is Early Reminders: when you create a reminder with a date or time attached to it, you’ll also have the ability to set a second reminder in advance, just as in a calendar event. You can choose minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months beforehand.

One feature I am still lacking in Reminders is the ability to add shared lists created by someone else to a group. I like the idea of taming my myriad lists, and I have many of the ones I share with my wife in a single group—but I can’t put the lists she shares with me in the same place. It’s a curious omission that makes my reminders feel more disorganized than it really is.

Overall, while none of this year’s improvements may shake the Earth in and of themselves, they all go towards making Reminders an even more comprehensive and capable application, one that I’ve got no regrets about relying on.—DM

Photos knows your pets

People and pets come together in Photos.

The Photos app has gotten a nice upgrade this year across all of Apple’s platforms. People with furry friends will be delighted to discover that face detection of people has been upgraded to also include pet detection. The old People album is now called People and Pets for this very reason. (Apple says that its recognition engine for people has also been upgraded to identify photos when people’s faces are turned away from the camera.)

A new widget setting allows you to choose specific albums to shuffle through in a Photos widget. Before, users were more or less at the mercy of the Photos app’s suggestion engine. But now you can pick an album (or multiple widgets, each showing different albums!) and the widget will shuffle through just those photos. I set a Photos widget shuffling through my album of photos from my trip to New Zealand earlier this year, and it has been a complete delight.

For a few years now, the best way to share a large number of photos with a friend was to do it on iOS or iPadOS, where the Photos app could generate an iCloud link that provided access to all those photos. Mac users now have access to that same feature, at last.—JS

Passing around passwords

iOS 17's Password sharing feature
A password sharing group in macOS Sonoma

Apple has been improving its password manager a lot over the last few years. Yes, it’s an alternative to third-party password managers like 1Password, but it’s probably more important as an alternative to writing a bunch of passwords down in a notebook or—much worse—using terrible passwords everywhere.

iOS 17's Password sharing feature
Adding a password to a sharing group in iOS 17.

Most users will encounter the password manager inside Safari, but the interface for managing it is located in the Passwords section of the Settings app (System Settings on Mac). And this year, there’s a major new feature to be found there: password sharing. If you happen to share password information with someone else—whether it’s bank information with a partner, the password to a streaming service with one of your kids, or the login to a web tool with a collaborator—you can create a sharing group and share that information with them via the password manager.

Apple has wisely decided that you don’t share individual passwords with arbitrary collections of contacts. Instead, you create a sharing group, give it a name, and add people to it—then you add individual passwords to a particular group. This makes a lot of sense, as you’re likely to be sharing passwords with the same person or collection of people. So, for example, a Six Colors group lets us share logins relevant to this website. After you create a group, you can see a list of all the passwords in that group, manage who is a member of that group, and add passwords or move them in from outside the group. All passwords are synced via iCloud, so if someone changes the password, that change will sync to everyone else in the group.

This feature is a major step forward for Apple because it’s hard to imagine a full-featured password manager without the ability to share and sync passwords among a group. Sure, passkeys are the future (and they’ll be synced among users, too!), but right now, the easier Apple makes cloud-based password sharing, the better.—JS

Fill out the PDF form, please

iOS 17's PDF form-filling
Apple’s platforms are much better at letting you fill out PDF forms.

Even if you had given me 500 chances, I could never have guessed that one of the banner features of Apple’s 2023 software releases would be related to PDFs. But as boring as PDFs are, they’ve fulfilled Adobe’s dream of being the de facto standard for digital paper. PDFs are everywhere, and they matter. And yet Apple’s operating systems have never supported PDF forms as well as they could have.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had to fill out a PDF form and either the form fields are either not visible without downloading an app or simply aren’t there. And how many times I’ve used Apple’s markup feature to float text on top of the page, then export the final file in order to “burn in” my entries so that people can see my text when I send it back. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

Someone at Apple noticed. Apple’s platforms just got a lot smarter about PDFs, using machine-learning algorithms to detect form fields and turn them into fields you can enter yourself—or even have Apple’s autofill technology do it for you. (The autofill feature, which did appear in some beta versions this summer, is forthcoming later this year.)

This summer, a very large corporation (but not the one you’re thinking of) emailed me a multi-page form to fill out. I immediately used it to put Apple’s new functionality to the test—with pretty decent results. Though it recognized most of the fields on the form, a few at the top were uneditable, and a few fields were a bit taller than intended. However, I was able to fill out the important parts of the form, and when an answer of mine was longer than the space provided, Apple’s system shrunk the font size of my answer so that it fit. (Unfortunately, a second PDF form sent by my local humane society didn’t get parsed at all on the Mac and only partially on iOS.)

To top it all off, form entries are automatically saved back to the originating file, so you can quickly fill out a form in Quick Look (or Preview on Mac) and then send the result right back. I know doing paperwork is boring, but any feature that makes it a little less tedious is a winner in my book.—JS

(PDFs are also much better now when inserted into a note in the Notes app. For more about that, read on.)

Messages gets the message

Messages is one of Apple’s most used apps across all its platforms, and it’s upgraded the experience in several ways with these new updates.

Let’s start with the biggest interface change: Apple has ditched the confusing and cluttered Messages App interface for a simple one: there’s a big plus button next to the message-composition field, and if you tap it, you’re prompted with a big, easy to tap list of six common functions, followed by a More button. You can tap and hold any item to drag it between the top list and the “More” drawer so you can choose the functions that work best for you. Camera and Photos are right there at the top, as they should be. (On the Mac, you still need to click an Applications icon to bring up a list.)

tube man sticker

The new Live Stickers feature uses Live Photos and subject-detection technology to let you “peel off” an animated image from a Live Photo and use it as a sticker. (I tried it with a picture of my dog.) You create a Live Sticker by tapping on Stickers and then tapping the plus button, then choosing an eligible Live Photo from your photo library. When you tap on that photo, you’ll see a preview of what the sticker will look like, and you can choose to add it to your sticker gallery. It works pretty well! I was able to find a picture of a flapping AirDancer tube Santa Claus (on my roof—yes, I bought the blower and everything) and turn it into a sticker with a few taps.

Even the most tidy Messages list can get cluttered up with one-time passcodes sent via text message. I hate them—they’re momentarily convenient but then clutter up Messages for days or weeks. Apple is on the case—when you autofill a login with that number, you can choose to have Messages delete that message so you don’t have to ever see it again. During the beta period, I was sometimes repeatedly asked if I wanted to start deleting those messages, but it seems to have settled down now. I auto-fill the code in Safari and boom, the message vanishes from my Messages list. Lovely.

Apple also added this feature to autofill codes sent in email, but it’s a bit more hit-and-miss. The feature only works if you’re using Apple’s Mail app and is only useful if you set your email account to Push. (Apple Mail won’t enable Push for my Gmail account, unfortunately.) Apple also doesn’t provide any sort of API for third-party email apps to recognize that they’ve received an authentication code and provide it to the system.

The new swipe-to-reply feature makes it easier than ever to reply to a particular message in a conversation thread. Just swipe left to right on any message, and Messages will jump you into reply mode. I think this will make replying to Messages a lot easier because once you learn the gesture, it can easily become second nature to you. (Though I find myself swiping accidentally and needing to tap to get out of the reply interface!)

I like the feature conceptually—the problem is how Messages displays those replies. It’s messy. Replies appear with the message they’re attached to, which clutters up the main message thread even more. I know there are no “right” answers to a feature like this—just look at Slack and Discord to see wildly different approaches to creating threads in message chains—but I don’t think Apple’s approach works very well. If people don’t use replies in Messages, it won’t be because the quick swipe-to-reply gesture didn’t take off. It’ll be because they don’t like how replies make their conversations look.

iOS 17's Check In feature
Once you check in via Messages, you’ll see the status on the lock screen (top), and people will be notified when you arrive at your destination (bottom).

I love the idea behind Apple’s new Check In feature, though I’m not sure how much I’ll end up using it. It’s very easy to use: just access it via the apps menu in Messages, and you’re off and running. I do appreciate that it lets you choose whether to only share a limited amount of information with the person or an extensive list of details. Though Apple specifically detailed Check In as something you might want to use when you’re headed to a particular location, it’s worth noting that it can also be simply set to a timer if you’re, for example, at home alone and want somebody else to be in the loop.—JS & DM

Notes takes note

Over the past seventeen years, Notes has gone from being an underpowered skeuomorphic joke (remember lined yellow paper and being stuck in Marker Felt?) to being a powerhouse of an app, and this year’s updates take it even further, with two major new features: embedding PDFs and links between notes.

iOS 17's Notes PDF markup
Multiple people can mark up a PDF in Notes in something approaching real-time.

The former feels very much like the kind of thing that Apple was aiming for but didn’t quite deliver in last year’s Freeform app. Not only can you drop a PDF right into any note and scroll through its pages horizontally, but you can annotate and mark up that PDF as you go. And if it’s a shared note, your collaborators will be able to see your additions as you put them in. In my testing, this works best with the Apple Pencil on an iPad, but it does work on other devices as well—you just need to activate the Markup plugin. (On iPadOS, you can use the Pencil to draw right on the thumbnail images instead of expanding into Quick View.) This is huge for collaboration.

iOS 17's Notes linking
Finally, you can link to other Notes!

Linking between notes is a feature that I’ve wanted for some time. While Apple’s implementation isn’t likely to deal a severe blow to more complex apps like Obsidian, its utility is undeniable. Say you’re working on a review of operating-system software and want to link, as a reference, to some notes you took. Yes, you can control-click or tap-and-hold and select Add Link, or even use the command-K shortcut if you’ve got a keyboard, but best of all, you can type >>, and Notes will offer a pop-up menu of notes you’ve recently edited. You can search that list by typing the first few letters of the note you want or even create a new note right from there.

Notes also adds a handful of smaller features that you might find useful, including formats for Monospaced and Blockquote, as well as an ability to open a note in Pages if it happens to have outgrown Notes. Not that that even seems like a possibility these days, what with everything the app can do.—DM

Textual healing

Like it or not, we’re not going to get away from typing as the main way we interact with our devices anytime soon (heck, even the Vision Pro has an “onscreen” keyboard for text entry). This year, Apple’s made several tweaks to its text entry features across the board, though some will definitely be more useful on specific devices.

First up is a new transformer model for autocorrect. This leverages machine learning to improve accuracy for text entry across English, French, and Spanish; however, improved on-device models should help other languages as well. Among the specific improvements touted by Apple during its WWDC keynote is that a certain expletive will no longer be corrected to “ducking” and in my experience, that’s true. Autocorrect also better understands sentences and can correct words to fit an appropriate context (think “we’ll” versus “will”). But one of the best improvements in this year’s updates is an improved autocorrect interface: corrected words are now underlined briefly, letting you tap or control-click on them in order to revert to whatever you originally typed.

Apple’s also really talked up its improvements to predictive text this year. They now appear inline as you type, showing up as grayed-out letters or words after the cursor. You can hit the spacebar to accept the predictions, and in some cases, it’ll even suggest multiple words to finish the sentence. It’s wild and a little surreal, and while I find it very useful on iOS, retraining myself on the Mac—where I type much faster than with iOS’s onscreen keyboard—has proved to be a more difficult task (and ultimately perhaps less useful). And according to Apple, text predictions will learn from you the more you type, providing suggestions that are tuned to the way you write; in my experience, that’s proved true to an impressive degree. I’ve seen it routinely suggest phrases that feel like something I was about to say…which definitely is a little bit eerie as well.

Even the venerable cursor has gotten an upgrade this year: it can now show a tooltip icon to indicate certain types of state, including when Caps Lock is on, when you switch input languages, and when dictation is active. It’s a little weird after so long, but I quickly got to appreciate this handy little icon—especially the Caps Lock indicator.

Speaking of Dictation, that’s gotten improvements across the board as well. That includes more on-device models for translating speech into text and better accuracy overall, and the Mac gets a feature already on iOS: fluidly switching between dictation and typing. There’s even a cursor upgrade for Dictation as well: a subtle glow in the background that indicates when the feature is active.—DM

  1. It’s a very quiet drum. 
  2. (I set up a YouTube profile specifically to keep my own YouTube use separate from the account I use to post content for Six Colors, The Incomparable, and Upgrade. Useful!—JS) 
  3. Parents of kids named Sierra may differ. 
  4. Her name is Maisy, which has the first two vowel sounds of “Hey Siri,” which has led to some bad activations. Fortunately, now that you can trigger without the “hey,” those activations seem to have gone away. 

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