The next version of MacOS is official.
While at its mostly-annual developers conference, Apple announced and previewed MacOS High Sierra, a major update to the MacOS Sierra operating system, which released last year for Macs. Although the update is not yet available for consumers to download and use, developers have access to a beta version now, and the public beta will be available for anyone to try next month.
To help you get acquainted with the software now, we've rounded up everything you need to know about it, including its biggest features.
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What is MacOS High Sierra?
On 5 June, Apple previewed the next version of MacOS. It's called High Sierra. Many of the new features include behind-the-scene updates that will make your Mac seem faster and more secure. For instance, the new OS will allow for VR and AR content. Safari also got a number of improvements, including the ability block autoplay videos and stop advertisers from tracking you, among other things.
What does MacOS High Sierra feature?
VR and AR
High Sierra will support virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
More specifically, High Sierra will support Mac hardware aimed at creative professionals who create VR and AR content. Apple even announced a new platform for developers, called ARkit, which will allow developers to create AR experiences for iOS devices. Furthermore, Apple's API for high-performance graphics, Metal, has been updated to Metal 2, which will give MacOS gaming a big boost.
Metal 2 was described by Apple at WWDC 2017 as "tremendously fast" with "great optimisations and tremendous APIs". It offers up to 10X better draw call throughput. Remember, VR and AR apps need heavy GPU power. So, we're not surprised to hear that Apple is doubling down and also introducing Metal for VR. The Unity and Unreal engines are coming to the Mac as well, Apple said.
And lastly, to complement all these new improvements, Apple confirmed that the HTC Vive will soon be compatible with Mac. The company is adding Steam VR support to High Sierra, making it possible to use a Mac to control virtual reality experiences - something that has been a PC exclusive so far. Now that the HTC Vive is compatible with Mac, we wonder if Oculus will follow suit.
Safari got a number of improvements, including the ability to block autoplay videos. Safari lets you customise preferences for specific websites, so going forward, it will let you turn off autoplay videos for a site. You'll also have the ability to give a site access to your location and set a default page zoom to a level of your choosing. But that's not all: you can stop advertisers from tacking you.
Apple is basically going after the Google Chrome browser and its upcoming ad-blocking features. Apple's browser will have a new feature called Intelligent Tracking Prevention. It uses machine learning to find advertisers that track you, and then it deletes the tracking data they leave behind. So, if you buy a leather couch for your house on a site, you won't see ads for the couch on other sites.
The Photos app on Mac will offer the ability to edit Live photos with new effects that include Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure. Loop is essentially GIFs. With it, you can edit Live photos into a repetitive loop. Long Exposure is a DSLR-like effect for motion blur, while Bounce reminds us of Instagram Boomerange. It lets you edit the action in your Live photos to play it forward and backward in a loop.
Apple said its biggest area of refinement in High Sierra is in Photos. There's now a persistent sidebar and a view that has all of your imports in chronological order. Apple has also improved Faces, so when you put effort into categorising and naming people, that's now synchronised automatically across your devices. You can now open a picture in third-party apps from Photos.
So, you can open a picture in Adobe Photoshop directly from Photos, and your edits save automatically as you go back-and-forth between the apps. But the coolest features are the new built-in editing tools. Photos already lets us make adjustments, but now we get pro-level tools such as a a curves palette for fine-tuning coloyr and contrast, a selective colour dropper, and new filters.
iMessage and iCloud
If you've ever set up a new Mac, you know some steps always have a few kinks. For one, if you don't restore from a backup, your Messages app will be bare. But not anymore. High Sierra is using iCloud to restore your message history so that all your old Messages will be available on your new Mac, meaning conversations sync across devices and only recent ones need to be stored locally.
Speaking of iCloud, in a slide Apple quietly kept in the background of its keynote, we spotted the phrase "iCloud file sharing", which means we may also get Dropbox-type document sharing tool. With it, we could quickly chuck a link to someone. But that's not confirmed.
Apple File System
High Sierra will run Apple File System (APFS), which offers better performance and security than before. First unveiled at WWDC 2016, Apple said it would arrive to all of its products, from Apple TV to iOS. It supports far more files than ever, letting you put nine quintillion of them on a single volume. It also includes multikey encryption, which will also work in a unified way across all of Apple's devices.
APFS is backwardly compatible with all of your HFS formatted drives. It also offers better throughput and faster latency, which is important if you're handling lots of files. The new advanced file system is "optimized for modern storage", Apple said, which includes fast SSDs and flash, Lightning, and USB drives. It will also easily adapt to future types of storage, Apple explained.
APFS matters if you care about data. A file system is what organises all your data into files and folders you can access with a click.
And finally, High Sierra supports a high-efficiency video coding (H.265 for short). So, newer devices will let you capture HD and 4K videos -- without taking up as much room on the device. The new system compresses video up to 40 per cent more the H.264, and it will stream video smoother, which will make the video-binging experience much more enjoyable on a Mac.
When can you get MacOS High Sierra?
A beta of macOS High Sierra is available now for developers. A public beta will be available in late June. Sign up here if you'd like to join and test out the latest features. The finished, consumer version of MacOS High Sierra is due to roll out sometime this autumn.
Which Macs will run MacOS High Sierra?
Check out Pocket-lint's separate guide on that for more information. But, in a nut shell, MacOS High Sierra will run on any Mac that currently runs Sierra, while any Mac made more than seven years ago is obsolete and will no longer be supported.