At this year’s WWDC Apple unveiled an insane amount of new software. We go the first look at iOS 11, a look at watchOS 4, an (albeit brief) look at tvOS 11, and previews of Apple’s new ARKit, which looks set to make augmented reality mainstream as support for AR will now be baked into iOS 11. However, Apple didn’t forget about the Mac either. It’s desktop operating system got some love too. Though macOS isn’t seeing as big an overhaul this year as in year’s past (most of the biggest improvements are under the hood) there is still plenty to love about macOS High Sierra. Here are its biggest features.
Apple File System
The biggest feature in macOS High Sierra is also the least visually noticeable. The new OS will be the first time the Mac features the Apple File System, which came to iOS last year. The AFS is built around 64-bit architecture and it replaces the old 32-bit file system the Mac has used for decades.
There are a ton of behind the scenes improvements with AFS including built‑in encryption, crash‑safe protections, and simplified data backup on the go, but the thing users will see most readily is a massive improvement in the time it takes to duplicate a file or find out the file size of a folder. Under AFS a 4GB file can be duplicated almost instantaneously, whereas under the old 32-bit file system it could take as long as a minute.
HEVC Video Encoding
High Sierra also includes a new video codec called HEVC. This replaces the popular H.264 codec macOS and iOS (and other OSes) have used for years. The benefit of HEVC is that it is 40% smaller in file size than H.264, so it takes up less space on your Mac. Because of its smaller file size HEVC videos also stream with less buffering. And their quality is as good as H.264.
Metal 2 is a background technology for a Mac’s GPU. It allows the GPU to perform some of the tasks usually reserved for the CPU. With Metal 2, the GPU will be able to shoulder tasks including machine learning and virtual reality. This means apps that use those features will run smoother and faster thanks to the GPU now picking up some of the load from the CPU.
An Improved Photos App
Apple continues to improve the Photos app in High Sierra. And now it has almost all the features iPhoto used to have, which will be a very welcome milestone for Photos fans. The new Photos app now includes a new, also-shown sidebar for easy album navigation, the ability to sort and organize your photos by any favorite criteria, new advanced editing tools like Curves for fine‑tuning and Selective Color to make any color more saturated—not to mention new professional filters.
New machine learning in Photos means Memories can now identify pets, babies, outdoor activities, performances, weddings, birthdays, and sporting events. You can also now edit Live Photos and add new filters to them that enable you to loop them or blur motion in them.
Lots Of Safari Improvements
Safari also gets some love. Privacy advocates will love the fact that Safari now blocks cross-site tracking data using machine learning to identify advertisers and others who track your online behavior.
A HUGE new welcome feature is that Safari will now automatically block auto-playing videos so you aren’t inundated with video and audio when you go to a website. And yep, you can whitelist sites so videos will continue to autoplay on them if you wish.
Improvements To Notes, Messages, And Mail
Notes now gains the ability to pin your favorite notes to the top of your list as well as insert tables into Notes. Messages gains the ability to store all your Messages in iCloud so your entire message history is available on any Mac no matter what devices the messages originated on.
And Mail now offers Top Hits, which puts the messages most relevant to your search at the top of the search results, allowing you to find the relevant message faster.
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