Apple first announced its macOS High Sierra update at the World Wide Developers Conference 2017 (WWDC). Back then, it did not seem that Apple's one and only desktop operating system was the focus of the event and even today, with the roll out of the public beta, things feel the same.
Apple announced a few new updates with a refreshed Photos app, a new Safari web browser, a new file system and a focus on Virtual Reality at the WWDC. Indeed, everything looks and feels the same and this was expected, given the growing criticism against Apple for ignoring its laptop and desktop range in favour of iOS and its money-making smartphone range.
But now that the first usable public beta is out, let's take a look at the changes that have popped up. As expected, very little has changed cosmetically with most of the bigger changes taking place under the hood.
A brand new file system
We have been hearing about it for long and now it's finally here! macOS High Sierra gives your files system a complete makeover to the new Apple File System (APFS). The new file system will bring both its mobile devices (like the iPad and the iPhone) on a common plane. APFS is faster, efficient and will allow Apple to make encryption stronger in more ways than one. The HFS+ operating system that Apple currently uses is ancient and held together by bits of string.
An almost professional Photos app
Apple indeed spent most of its time explaining the new Photos app at its WWDC announcement. While earlier versions of Photos aimed at making your photo-organising or photo-editing tasks simpler and easier, the new and refreshed app will now give you the impression that it is more capable.
Indeed, not everyone can afford to install Adobe Lightroom, let alone have the need to use a professional photo editing app on their desktops and laptops. While the Photos app on mobile seems quite capable for a default native app, the macOS addition can now make take that title as well.
The new Photos app finally brings GIF support and you also get a persistent sidebar.
Next up is the edit view that now provides a wider selection of editing tools. In short, it kind of drifts towards the tools that you get on professional photo editing software.
Add to this a handy "Compare" button that makes it easy to check out how each adjustment to your photograph makes a difference.
And if all of the above is just not enough to impress you, you can plug in an external app like Photoshop which will save all the edits without downgrading the quality of your images. By letting you plug in external apps for photo editing, the app will also help you save some space by reducing the need to have multiple copies of the same photo on your machine.
As expected, the new tricks with Live Photos first seen on iOS 11 also come to the macOS Photos app.
With High Sierra, Apple has made Safari smarter when it comes to those annoying auto-play videos and even ad-tracking software.
The updated Safari browser lets you set filters for auto playing ads for all websites or even lets you pick individual websites, if you support ads but just don't like the ones showing up on a particular website. The controls are very detailed and the blocking tool can stop autoplay, or only stop sound depending on what you prefer.
Coming to the ad-tracking bits, the new Safari packs in what Apple calls intelligent tracking prevention. The browser will basically use machine learning to pick advertisers that track your movements on the web. Once that is detected the browser will remove the cross-site linking data that throws all those creepy shopping ads (stuff that you have been browsing for online). This is a gradual process so you will need to give it some time. As for the results, you will gradually stop seeing those product ads that show up on your favorite website, that make you want to click and buy.
A small yet handy change are the highlights when searching for notes. When you search within the Notes app using a search keyword, the app will now highlight that word so that it can be located in a long and lengthy note. Add to this the ability to pin notes, which comes in handy if you always head to the Notes app for that one particular pasted piece of data that you hunt for every single time!
Space-saving Mail client
Indeed, one of the key features of the updated mail app is its ability to compress data and take up less space. Apart from this it also shows you a new 'Top Hits' category while searching. 'Top Hits' are not just frequently accessed emails. The app also takes into consideration if the contact is a favourite or has been added to your VIP list. It also checks into how frequently a contact mails you and more importantly, how frequently you actually respond to his or her emails. Like the intelligent tracking prevention feature in Safari, this one too will gradually learn from your usage, so don't expect the best results to show up on day one.
Siri and Spotlight
While Siri will sound more human, combining her brains with Spotlight will make your searches a bit smarter. For example, Spotlight can now find and track flight status data, giving you live updates.
Yes, we have seen it before, but you can now copy-paste data between Macs. While the Universal Clipboard worked well between iOS and macOS, the new clipboard will let you copy-paste between macOS systems, provided you are logged into both of them using the same profile.
With 4K displays showing up even on smartphones, Apple wants you to shoot and view 4K not just on your phone but on your Mac as well. Yes, HEVC (H.265) software support now comes natively to macOS and that basically translates to smaller 4K file sizes. The new format was also introduced on iOS 11 and is said to deliver 40 percent smaller video files in comparison to the standard recording formats. The new Macs will anyway be running Intel's seventh-generation Kaby Lake chip, which natively decode HEVC at high efficiency. Together with native support for the format on the Mac, 4K HEVC playback should not be so resource intensive.