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Apple's macOS High Sierra now available - here's what you need to know

By Julia Gabel
Tue 26 Sep 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Apple has introduced a new version of its desktop operating system – and it's available now, and for free.

With macOS High Sierra, Apple introduces new core technologies and redesigns the way your computer stores its data all with a clear focus on next-generation experiences - think virtual reality and machine learning. 

“macOS High Sierra is an important update that makes the Mac more capable and responsive while laying the foundation for future innovations,” says Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

“High Sierra introduces new technologies for VR, high-efficiency video streaming, advances in storage technology and more, while apps such as Photos, Safari, Mail and Notes are refined to give users even more reasons to love their Mac.”

Here's a breakdown of the features of Apple's macOS High Sierra:

Apple File System 

The capabilities of flash-based Mac systems bring a new potential to the storage game for Apple - the company has rolled out Apple File System (APFS) for Mac with all-flash internal storage. 

Apple's new storage architecture aims to make common operations such as copying files and directories instantaneous.

Security and data backup are improved with built-in encryption, and new data integrity features protect data from power outages and system crashes. 

Apple plans to make APFS support for Fusion and HDD Mac systems available in the future. 

High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) 

HEVC, also known as H.265, is a new industry standard ushered in by the rising popularity of 4K video. 

This new feature compresses video up to 40% more than H.264 - the current standard for video compression. 

This means you can watch 4K video files at full quality while requiring less storage space on your Mac. 

Basically - Apple is enabling high-quality 4K video streaming on networks where only HD streaming was previously possible.

Metal 2

Metal 2 is what Apple calls a graphics game changer, indicative of the company's strong focus on next-generation experiences. 

The company's graphics technology offers support for experiences such as machine learning used in speech recognition, natural language processing, computer vision, virtual reality as well as external GPU support for entertainment and professional creative apps. 

Metal 2 is one for the gamers, content creators and software developers. 

Virtual Reality Support

For the first time, developers can create immersive gaming, 3D and virtual reality content and experiences on the Mac using the new iMac with Retina 5K display, the new iMac Pro coming in late 2017 or any supported Mac paired with an external GPU.

Valve is optimising its SteamVR platform for macOS and enabling connection of the HTC Vive headset, while Unity and Epic are bringing their VR development tools to macOS.

Photos Update

macOS High Sierra features a number of updates to Photos, such as an always-on sidebar, new filtering and selection tools, and a refreshed editing UI that includes new editing tools like Curves, for fine-tuning contrast, and Selective Colour, for making adjustments to a specific colour range.

Live Photos can now be edited with effects like Loop, Bounce and Long Exposure. More than a dozen new Memories categories have been added to Photos in the macOS High Sierra update, including pets, babies, weddings and birthdays. 

Third-party editors like Photoshop, Pixelmator and other apps can be launched from Photos, with edits saved back to the Photos library.

Additional app refinements:
  • Safari stops media with audio from automatically playing in the browser, and Reader can automatically open articles in a clean, uncluttered format.
  • Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari detects and eliminates cookies and other data used by advertisers for cross-site tracking to help keep a user’s browsing private.
  • Siri on the Mac responds with a more natural voice and learns music preferences, creates custom playlists and answers music trivia when using Apple Music.
  • Touch Bar on MacBook Pro gets new Control Strip options plus an improved colour picker and more video controls.
  • Notes adds simple tables, allowing a user to 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.
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