Picture in Picture (PiP) is one of the features I’m looking forward to the most in the new version of the Mac operating system, macOS Sierra. PiP displays a small video window that stays on top of the screen and is open at all times. If you switch apps, the video window doesn’t get buried under everything else on your screen.
If you are like me and you like to watch sports events in other parts of the world, PiP is a great way to watch a game while working. Or maybe you want to watch more productive programming, like a TED talk or a training video, while you’re getting stuff done.
In order for PiP to work with web video, the site needs to implement it. Apple provides an API that web developers can use to make PiP available to visitors. This article was written using the macOS Sierra developer preview and PiP wasn’t available on Facebook or YouTube, but it works with Vimeo.
(Since this hands-on was written using pre-release software, it will be updated when macOS Sierra is officially released in the spring.)
Using Picture in Picture
With web video, you’ll see a PiP icon on the video control bar once you start playing the video. When you click on it, a small video window pops up and places itself in a corner of your screen. In case you forget that you are playing the video in PiP, the web page in Safari says, “The video is playing in Picture in Picture.”
You can change the corner placement by dragging the PiP window to the desired corner. The window always has to be in a corner. You can’t place it in, say, the middle of the screen – it will snap to the nearest corner.
You can resize the PiP window by clicking on an edge and dragging. Also, when you click on the window, three buttons appear – a close window button in the upper left, a pause/play button in the lower part of the window, and next to that, a button to switch the video back to Safari.
If you want to scrub through a video, rewind, fast forward or click to a certain point in time, you have to go to the Safari page for the video and use the scrub bar there. The PiP window doesn’t have a way for you do any time shifting.
When you switch apps or desktops, the PiP window stays on top. It also works if you switch to full-screen mode or to split view.
Apple says that PiP will work in iTunes, but it wasn’t available in the pre-released version I used for this article. We’ll update this article with the iTunes experience when it is ready.