With all the months of beta testing in anticipation for the latest Apple desktop OS to come out of Cupertino, now is the time that all the promises and hype has come to fruition with the official release of macOS High Sierra. This year’s major update to Apple’s flagship operating system is the last in the line of updates from WatchOS 4 to iOS 11.
Apple promises that High Sierra will elevate your currently supported computer with a wealth of new features that seek to improve productivity and security for the end user.
What’s New with High Sierra?
Much like previous updates to macOS, High Sierra’s changes occur at a system level with features like the new Apple File System, updates to the Photos interface, Safari 11, iCloud file sharing, and architecture improvements. along with others.
Apple File System
For the last 20 years or so Apple has relied on HFS+ as the default system format for system drives. Developed with modern SSD wielding Macs in mind, Apple File System (APFS) features enhanced performance, security, and reliability of data.
With High Sierra, Apple will automatically update Macs with flash SSD storage drives to the new APFS. Users upgrading to the latest OS will notice faster boot times, improved file size calculations in Finder, and much faster day to day operations.
It is important to note that High Sierra will maintain read-write compatibility with previously formatted HFS drives, but any device that is running OSX 10.11 Yosemite and earlier will not recognize the new file format.
Apple’s new version of its graphics framework, Metal 2, is built into the core of High Sierra. Offering developers a new API that allows them to accelerate their applications, Metal 2 adds support for machine learning used in speech recognition, natural language processing, and computer vision. What this translates to is faster rendering in video editors like DaVinci Resolve or increase performance photo-centric apps like Capture One. Future updates will allow access to external GPUs via Thunderbolt 3 for graphics-intensive applications like virtual reality.
Support for HEVC and HEIF
Much like the latest iOS, High Sierra adds support industry-standard media formats based on the H.265 codec – HEVC and HEIF. The new standards offer up to 40 percent smaller file size than traditional methods without a loss in quality.
As big companies and consumers demand 4K content the new codecs will become more mainstream. Netflix and Amazon will be able to provide higher-resolution on the latest AppleTVs without increasing their costs. HEVC also supports up to 8K video, paving the way for future improvements.
Only the latest Macs with Sky Lake and Kaby Lake processors support hardware-accelerated encoding and decoding of the new standard, allowing for smooth playback for the files without a huge impact on battery life.
Improved Photos App
The Photo application is one of the major improvements in High Sierra. Including a support of HEVC and HEIF files, Photos has a refreshed UI with persistent sidebar, new filtering options, and new editing tools. Photo taken in portrait mode on with a compatible iOS 11 devices, can be edited after the fact.
The biggest change for photographers is a new edit mode. Adjustments are directly controlled by the persistent sidebar and new controls like Curves and Selective Color offer much better control of your images than the previously basic app.
Photos offers much-improved integration with third-party applications like Affinity and Photoshop, with edits saved back to the Photos library.
Photographers beware, however, that at this point there is some incompatibility reported with Wacom tablets, so if you rely on them, perhaps you should hold off on the update for now.
Other improvements from macOS Sierra include:
- Safari can automatically use Reader to open articles in a clean, uncluttered format, while Autoplay Blocking stops media with audio from automatically playing in the browser.
- Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari uses machine learning to identify and remove the tracking data that advertisers employ to follow users’ web activity.
- Mail search gets faster and easier with Top Hits, which puts the most relevant results at the top of a user’s message list.
- Siri on the Mac responds with a natural and more expressive voice, and when using Apple Music, it learns music preferences, creates custom playlists and answers music trivia.
- Notes adds simple tables, where a user can type in cells, make edits and move rows and columns.
- Spotlight provides flight status information, including departure and arrival times, delays, gates, terminals and even a map of the flight path.
- iCloud File Sharing lets users share any file stored in iCloud Drive and collaborate with other people.
MacOS High Sierra is available for free update from the App Store. Due to its 64-bit only software, some applications may not work right away, so it is recommended that you backup before you start the update process.