Just how great is macOS High Sierra? It’s so great you may not know the difference between this year’s version and last year’s macOS Sierra. On the surface, with what you see each day, the differences are modest at best and require some effort to find.
Under the hood, though, macOS High Sierra is ripe with changes that set the stage for future Macs. Apple upgraded the entire file system. Goodbye, HFS+. Hello APFS, Apple’s new file system which brings a 64-bit architecture which protects files better, and makes some functions faster and more secure. Here’s my list of what I like best.
Under The Hood
My father tinkered with his car. He would open the hood, clean this or that, change the oil, adjust the carburetor, and perform some basic maintenance. I’m certain I’ve never opened my car’s hood at all. Likewise, most Mac users don’t bother with tinkering around but prefer to use the basic apps. Here, macOS High Sierra has a few changes.
Photos – this iconic Mac app is where many of us store the masters to photos we capture on our iPhones and sync between devices using iCloud. People identification is improved but the real fun begins with a few more built-in editing tools which let you fine tune contrast and color, add new filters to photos, and create easy to share albums. iPhones can take photos and videos in the new formats and those work on the Mac, too.
Metal – this is an under-the-hood feature that first popped up in macOS El Capitan but now it’s Metal 2 with better performance. Metal means faster and more impressive graphics, but ready for what is coming. Augmented and virtual reality. This is impressive but it’s also as geeky as it gets.
Siri – the Siri on iOS is the Siri on macOS High Sierra and she sounds great. He sounds great, too, because you can choose from a number of voices. There is much less robot in Siri but still not an Always On option in sight. Roman Loyola has a way to make it happen.
APFS – the aforementioned new file system to replace HFS+, which dates back to the early days of the Mac in the last century, is new and modern, fast and secure, but doesn’t work on all newer Macs. For whatever reason, APFS is not ready to run on iMacs with a Fusion Drive combo of SSD and hard disk drives. It was available during the beta period but Apple pulled it just before macOS High Sierra’s launch last week. APFS and High Sierra set the stage for the death of 32-bit apps. My Mac has half a dozen that have yet to be converted, and some that never will. Apple says this is the last macOS that will support 32-bit applications (with some exceptions).
APFS has all kinds of new functions that most of us will never notice, but they’re in there and working already. Multi-key encryption is supported. So are snapshot backups, cloning, and new data integrity tricks to ensure files don’t get corrupted.
Tips & Tricks – elsewhere you may notice a few improvements and some sad passings. Older versions of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro won’t work. Neither will older Microsoft Office versions but the most recent work OK. FaceTime lets you capture a frame as a Live Photo to be saved in Photos.
Caching Server – I ran into this while upgrading the family iMac and a nearby MacBook Pro. Apple has this new Caching Server feature which lets a Mac that downloaded a new application become the server when another nearby Mac needs the same application update. Instead of downloading it from Apple’s server, Caching Server shares the app update with the nearby Mac that needs it. That saves time and bandwidth.
What Else – other than more details on the above, some new options and capabilities in Spotlight, Mail, Notes, Photos, and a few other apps, macOS High Sierra is the best Mac OS since Snow Leopard (which had fewer user visible changes, but some solid changes to underpinnings to make it more stable and secure).