Following in the spirit of Mountain Lion and El Capitan, this year’s version of macOS is more of a maintenance release than a full-on new version. Called High Sierra, the new operating system is more about refinements than new features, as it aims to make your Mac more reliable, capable, and responsive, while laying the foundation for future innovations in the worlds of VR and AR.
But of course there will be cool stuff to play with right away. Even if there aren’t any major new features, High Sierra is still packed with a ton of cool stuff we can’t wait to get our hands on when it launches later this fall. Here are six of the best things about the newest version of macOS.
A new file system
Ever since System 8, the Mac has utilized the HFS+ file system to keep our documents and directories running smoothly, but at last year’s WWDC a new Apple File System (APFS) was announced. It made it into iOS with the iOS 10.3 update, and with High Sierra it’s also coming to the Mac. But where the changes to iOS are largely behind the scenes, you’ll really get it see it in action in the new macOS.
One of the main tenets of High Sierra, APFS will be new the new default file system, bringing an advanced 64-bit architecture and a responsive design to cut down on the time it takes to do common tasks. Apple VP Craig Federighi quickly demoed how fast files are copied, and it should save quite a bit of time, even on older Macs. And it also brings some heavy-duty security, including built‑in encryption, crash‑safe protections, and simplified data backup on the go.
Photos is rapidly becoming one of the most used apps on our Macs, and in High Sierra it looks we’ll be spending even more time with it. A slew of new features await us in the new OS, including better organization, looped Live Photos, and new Memories categories. It’ll also be easier to identify who’s in your photos with more accurate People identification and cross-device syncing for albums.
But the coolest feature is the new built-in editing tools. Photos already lets us make some awesome adjustments to our snapshots, but High Sierra seriously ups the game with powerful pro-level tools—like a curves palette for fine-tuning color and contrast, a selective color dropper to home in a specific hue, and new filters that will make your photos fit for an art gallery. And if you think your photos are gallery- or album-worthy, Apple has now partnered with third-party apps to give you more publishing and printing options.
Speedier, smarter Safari
But we’re more interested in two new features that are coming in the new browser. The first will eliminate one of the more annoying features of the modern web: autoplay videos. Where Safari in Sierra tells you which tab is playing audio, in High Sierra, it will shut it down before it can start. A new feature called autoplay blocking will detect which sites that are delivering unwanted videos and presses the pause button for you.
Along with our ears, the new Safari is also protecting our privacy. A new system of intelligent tracking will use machine learning to identify prying advertising trackers who track your online behavior and remove the cross-site tracking data they leave behind. That means you won’t get hit up with three dozen vacuum ads the next time you buy one on Amazon.
We watch a lot of video on our Macs, and High Sierra is making the experience even better. In addition to supporting 4K where available, it’s also upgrading to the new industry standard, High Efficiency Video Coding (or H.265 for short). The new system compresses video up to 40 percent more the H.264, the current video standard. Under the new codec, videos will stream smoother and take up less space, both of which will make experience much more pleasant. And if you’re a video creator, the new standard will also be built into Pro Tools so your projects will be able to take full advantage of it right from the start.
When Metal was introduced in El Capitan, it brought a slew of under-the-hood changes to make games and graphics sing, and now it’s ready to deliver the next generation, appropriately called Metal 2. The new technology will open up games to a whole new world of power, with a new API and powerful tools for developers. Metal 2 will bring 10 times the draw call throughput that Metal delivered, enabling graphics that are far more robust while adding external GPU support for hard-core gamers.
But Metal 2 also brings support for something sorely missing from today’s Macs: virtual reality. High Sierra lets developers create interactive and immersive virtual reality experience on the Mac for the very first time that will work with the HTC Vive and Unreal Engine for VR. And to show how serious it is about VR, Apple is even offering developers an external graphics dev kit to get started, featuring a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure with an AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU. You know, until the iMac Pro arrives in December.
The little things
Since High Sierra is a maintenance release, there will be lots of little improvements all over your desktop that you might not even notice at first. In Mail, Search will now use Spotlight to quickly identify top hits, and you’ll be able to split your inbox and your compose window when in full-screen view. You can add properly formatted tables to Notes and pin your most important ones. Siri has a more natural voice that sounds more like a person rather than a machine. And when you’re in a FaceTime call, you’ll be able to easily turn a special moment into a Live Photo so you can remember it forever.