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article imageApple's macOS 'High Sierra' update focuses on the future

By James Walker     Jun 6, 2017 in Technology
Apple has officially announced macOS High Sierra, the next version of its desktop operating system that'll be available on Mac PCs later this year. The company has refined existing apps and introduced new forward-looking technologies.
The substantial update was announced during the keynote of Apple's WWDC 2017 developers conference yesterday. Although it's not a complete overhaul of the operating system, the update includes significant changes to Apple's stock apps and improved support for high-end hardware.
On the surface, Apple is debuting improvements across its range of pre-installed apps. In Safari, there's a built-in reading mode to strip pages of clutter. The browser is also getting an "Autoplay Blocking" feature that prevents audio and video ads from distracting you on webpages.
There's also options to resist digital tracking too. The new Intelligent Tracking Prevention setting will proactively find and remove tracking data that advertisers use to monitor you across the web, keeping you safer online.
Apple has made extensive changes to the Photos app that make it simultaneously simpler and more powerful. The company has progressed the app towards being a complete photo editing solution. The Edit view includes new tools to fine-tune the colour and contrast of photos, including the option to make precise adjustments within a defined colour range.
macOS High Sierra
macOS High Sierra
Apple
The app's organisation features have also been upgraded and Apple has added integrations with third-party editors. This lets you open an image in programs like Photoshop without leaving your library, cutting down the time needed to launch an external editor and find a file to open.
Additional improvements across High Sierra include a "more expressive" voice for Siri, improved performance and searching in Mail and the option to view flight status information in Spotlight search. Notes users can now create basic tables and iCloud has gained support for online file sharing, enabling seamless collaboration.
macOS High Sierra
macOS High Sierra
Apple
While the changes are useful and likely to be welcomed by users, they aren't as obvious as those launched with last year's Sierra. Sierra introduced a major rethinking of the Mac desktop, including the release of Siri outside of iOS and enhanced cross-device tools. This time, Apple has focused its work under the hood, making macOS into a better platform for professionals.
At the heart of the platform, Apple has launched a new file system that's optimised for "massive storage technologies." Called Apple File System, it features improved performance, native encryption and protection against common data-loss scenarios. If the power goes out or the system crashes, data stored in Apple File System shouldn't be affected. The technology will be enabled by default on High Sierra but the operating system will be fully compatible with existing HFS-formatted drives.
macOS High Sierra
macOS High Sierra
Apple
Apple has also debuted support for the industry-standard HEVC (H.265) video codec which delivers native streaming and playback of 4K content. The files created by H.265 are around 40 percent smaller than current H.264 output, reducing 4K's cost on storage capacity. For developers looking to create 4K video or build demanding games, Apple's Mantle 2 API unlocks the full power of Mac graphics processors and includes new support for machine learning technologies.
In the final major change, Apple also announced the launch of its own virtual reality platform. The awaited debut will allay the fears of investors that Apple has been losing its place as an innovative leader in emerging technologies. For the first time, macOS will support the toolchain required to build VR content. Later this year, SteamVR will launch on the platform with the HTC Vive headset, letting gamers choose Mac without losing access to VR.
macOS High Sierra
macOS High Sierra
Apple
"macOS High Sierra delivers important forward-looking technologies and new opportunities for developers wanting to tap into the power of machine learning and create immersive VR content on the Mac," said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. "The core technology innovations in macOS High Sierra, combined with our advances in hardware, will continue to push the Mac forward in exciting new ways."
macOS High Sierra is a major step forward for the Mac. While user-facing changes are relatively slim this year, the groundwork is now set for Apple to launch new features based on next-gen tech going forward.
The High Sierra update is available in developer preview form today from Apple's website. A public beta will launch later this month before High Sierra is released publicly this fall. All currently supported Macs running macOS Sierra will be offered High Sierra.
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