12 best things about macOS 10.13 High Sierra

For Sierra, the only way is up

The macOS High Sierra release date is 25 September and we can't wait for Apple's latest macOS update. 

The new update is, in part, about laying groundwork for the future – or bringing the Mac into line with other platforms, depending on how you look at it. 

Read more: Apple Watch Series 4 review: the best smartwatch takes a leap forward

For starters, it will follow in the footsteps of iOS 10.3 by replacing the Mac’s aging file system with Apple File System (APFS). Apple says this has performance and security benefits, and will enable further innovation for the future.

Like iOS 11, High Sierra adds support for HEVC, enabling up to 40% better compression of video you’re working with. Playback of 4K HEVC video requires at least a sixth-generation (Skylake) Intel Core processor, though.

Apple’s modern graphics API, Metal, reaches version 2, and adds capabilities needed by virtual reality content creators, plus support for external graphics cards on some Macs. There’s more to High Sierra than technological changes behind the scenes, though. Here are our highlights.

1. No more intrusive online audio

Apple’s aware that online video that automatically plays when you land on or scroll down a page is irritating, and sometimes embarrassing. Safari deals with that by stopping videos that include audio from playing in the first place. Of course, you can tell the browser to make exceptions if you want to.

2. Improved privacy from trackers

Apple’s machine learning initiative is applied in Safari to stop your online activity being tracked and used to target you with tailored content that isn’t always beneficial. Time will tell how effective this is; similar initiatives are often circumvented by websites.

3. Custom site settings

Safari has previously provided the ability to adjust the default zoom level for all sites. Apple has recognised that you may want to use different settings for specific sites, so you can tell Safari to automatically use the Reader view for pages that it supports, what a site’s page zoom percentage should be, whether a site can autoplay video, and whether to prompt you or provide automatic access to your cam, mic, and location.

4. Find emails more quickly

Mail’s search feature can feel a little rudimentary at times, so the new version adds an important feature to help you pinpoint an important old message: it highlights likely matches, or Top Hits, above all other search results. These rankings take into account things like messages you’ve read and your designated VIPs, and the algorithm learns as you use it – machine learning once again!

5. Keep important notes in sight

The functionality of the Notes app has grown considerably in recent years, and you may no longer feel the need to use third-party alternatives such as Evernote. But the more you use Notes, the more likely it is that important stuff will get lost among the many items you create – so in High Sierra you can pin those notes to the top of the app.

6. Share files from iCloud drive

We’ve been hoping for this feature ever since Apple discontinued MobileMe and iDisk, the predecessors of iCloud and iCloud Drive. When you share a link with someone, they work on your original copy, which ought to reduce – and perhaps even eliminate – your need to send email attachments.

7. Once more, with feeling, Siri

Both High Sierra and iOS 11 include voices for Siri that sound more natural, with the ability to convey subtle inflection. This news is like music to our ears, and we’re hoping Apple can use this development to similarly enhance the Mac’s Text-to-Speech feature.

8. Tabular data in Notes

Got a few related figures to jot down and thinking Apple’s Numbers spreadsheet is overkill for the job? Or maybe you have other sets of data that are best summed up in a table. You can do all that in Notes now that it supports the creation of tables.

9. Live photos from FaceTime

The FaceTime app can save precious moments in calls as Live Photos, which are stored in your Photos library. Presumably to address privacy concerns, both people on a call receive a notification to tell them this has been done. This all sounds good, though we’re conscious of how short Live Photos are.

10. Share your iCloud storage

If you’re reluctant to pay for more iCloud storage for your family members, there’s great news. Soon you’ll have the ability to share a single plan among multiple people – though only if you choose a 200GB (£2.49/month) or 2TB (£6.99/month) plan. (In case you were wondering, Apple recently discontinued the 1TB plan, and reduced the price of the largest tier.)

11. Advanced photo editing

The Photos app continues to evolve, gaining powerful colour manipulation tools. Firstly, the app now has a Curves tool – as found in many professional image editing apps – enabling subtle contrast adjustments with just the tweak of a few points on a curve. There’s also a new Selective Colour tool for isolating and selecting where you want changes to be applied. But if all you want is to quickly make a picture more striking, colourful, or dramatic, there are new filters for that, too.

12. Third-party photo editors

It seems you’ll no longer be dependent on apps providing an extension in order to access their tools within Photos. When you choose an app from the Edit With menu and make changes to a picture using that app’s tools, your alterations are automatically saved back to your Photos library.