Apple took to the stage at WWDC 2017 in June to unveil a host of hardware and software, from iOS 11 to the iMac Pro and, of course, macOS 10.13 ‘High Sierra’. It’s available in developer beta right now and will be available as a public beta in a matter of weeks before general release later this year (you can find out all the latest macOS High Sierra news here).
As was the case with the upgrade from OS X Lion to OS X Mountain Lion, High Sierra doesn’t introduce a host of features. Instead, it looks to improve the existing operating system (although there are a few little surprises hidden in the OS!).
Here, we outline a handful of the best new features in macOS High Sierra that’ll get Mac fans excited when it lands later on this year.
Smart muting in Safari
One of the biggest improvements to Apple’s Safari web browser is that it now knows when to keep quiet. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve been listening to music on iTunes before being interrupted by an annoying auto-playing, audio-on video advert, right?
In macOS High Sierra, Safari automatically blocks audio and video on every site visited unless you specifically tell Safari that you want to hear the audio/video playback. Once you’ve ‘told’ Safari that a certain website can play audio and video, it should remember that the next time you visit the site (because who wants to enable it for every YouTube video they watch?).
Safari Privacy Protection
Another huge improvement to Safari is the introduction of privacy protection, a feature that’ll stop those annoying Amazon adverts showing you products after you’ve bought them.
How? In macOS High Sierra, Safari actively tries to block the cross-site tracking data that powers those targeted adverts. While it won’t completely stop it, it should have a noticeable effect when using the browser.
APFS File System
While it may not be the most attractive feature of macOS High Sierra at a glance, Apple is bringing its new APFS file system to Mac.
Why is this so exciting for Mac users? In addition to offering increased security when compared to the standard HPF system and built-in drive encryption, it offers a dramatic speed bump in file transfer speeds – ideal for those that move/copy/duplicate large files.
The introduction of APFS may even free up a bit of storage like it did for iOS users when Apple introduced it in iOS 10.3!
Improved graphics and VR support
One of the biggest shocks at WWDC 2017 when Apple introduced macOS High Sierra was the announcement of VR support, namely in the form of SteamVR support with the HTC Vive.
This is in part thanks to the new Metal 2 technology introduced as part of the update that’ll give the existing Mac range a hefty boost in terms of graphical power, and signifies a huge step in the VR world; only months ago, Oculus claimed its Mac support was on hold due to the power required to use the headset.
Will this change now? Only time will tell, but we imagine it will be the case.
Read next: Can you use Oculus Rift with Mac?
Advanced navigation and editing in Photos
Photos got a bit of an upgrade in macOS High Sierra too. First up is the new sidebar: it lists albums sorted according to the type of media (photo, video, etc) and provides quick access to older files in your library.
However, it’s the photo editing features that are most impressive: the Photos app now features colour curves and new filters to help you achieve the desired look, along with the ability to edit Live Photos. It doesn’t stop at editing Live Photos though, as you can also turn the photo into a repeating loop (like a GIF) or a long-exposure shot if you’ve taken a photo of a river or a waterfall, for example.
And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll also be able to edit a photo in third-party apps from inside the Photos app, while any changes to the image will be reflected instantly within the app.
Multi-panel support in Mail
Apple’s built-in Mail app hasn’t had a huge upgrade compared to other parts of macOS High Sierra, but it now offers a long-requested feature; split-screen view when running the app full-screen.
Essentially, if you’ve got the Mail app open full-screen in macOS High Sierra and you want to send a new email, the composition window will open on the right-hand side of the screen instead of a new window, as currently it does in macOS Sierra.
Improvements to Notes
There is also a range of improvements to Notes, although not all will be obvious at first glance. You can pin important notes in macOS High Sierra, allowing quick access to your most important notes. There’s also support for tables within notes too.
Spotlight has had a number of enhancements in recent years, and that continues with macOS High Sierra. Essentially, Spotlight can do much more than in previous iterations of macOS and acts a bit more like Google Now.
For example, you can search for flights by flight number in Spotlight and relevant information will be displayed without having to open Safari. If it still can’t handle your request, it’ll offer relevant online searches available at the click of a button.
The good news is that macOS High Sierra doesn’t drop support for any additional Macs, meaning that those with late-2009 MacBooks or iMacs, or any other Mac from 2010 onwards, can download and install the latest update. Essentially, if you’re able to download macOS Sierra then you’ll be able to download macOS High Sierra once it comes out later this year.
Read next: macOS High Sierra preview