Three weeks after Apple introduced developers to the beta version of its new macOS High Sierra, the company opened it up to the public in general. As of yesterday, non-developers can download the not-yet-ready for primetime version of High Sierra onto their machines to get a sneak peek at all the bells and whistles that will be included in the official update set to be released later this year.
But while those improvements are likely to please developers and other hardcore techies, there are few changes in High Sierra obvious enough to excite the average user. The biggest improvements in the latest version of the macOS relate to highly technical issues such as High Efficiency Video Encoding and a new file system.
While the words "new file system" are unlikely to quicken the pulses of most Mac users, the development is nevertheless one of the most dramatic changes the operating system has seen in a very long time. The new architecture, dubbed the Apple File System, replaces a system originally designed for the earliest Macintosh hardware. The new system is optimized to take advantage of modern elements such as flash-based memory, and is configured for better security and responsiveness, the company said.
The operating system also introduced High Efficiency Video Coding, a new industry standard for graphics that allows for up to 40 percent greater compression of video data. That means video files will take up significantly less storage space, something that will become increasingly important for users as 4K video becomes more popular.
High Sierra also updates the operating system’s Metal graphics technology with Metal 2. Metal 2 adds new capabilities to the way the system manages the graphics processor, allowing it to take advantage of machine learning, external GPU support, and virtual reality (VR).
New Photos App
VR appears to be something that the developers of High Sierra had in the front of their minds. The new OS includes optimized support for VR system, such as Valve’s SteamVR and the HTC Vive VR headset, along with support for VR content creation applications, such as Final Cut Pro X, Epic Unreal 4 Editor, and Unity Editor, which should please developers.
But while the most important developments in High Sierra are happening behind the scenes, users should nonetheless notice several new features. The Photos app, for example, is getting a significant upgrade that will include support for GIFs and several new tools that will make it easier for people to edit and organize their images.
And Apple's Web browser, Safari, will get a few small, but potentially game-changing, improvements. The most significant of which is probably the ability to block videos from auto-playing when you open a new window as well as prevent sites from tracking your Web-viewing habits as you flit across the Web. That means no more sudden ads blaring into your headphones when you click on a news story or worries that advertisers are tracking your every move.