40 Awesome macOS High Sierra Features and Changes

BY Khamosh Pathak

Published 10 Jun 2017

macOS High Sierra Photos app

As the name suggests, macOS High Sierra is a refinement update. It’s on the same lines as Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion. While there are new features and newer technologies, the main focus in on improving performance, fixing bugs and refining features. And right now, that actually sounds like a great thing. The Mac is a professional tool and more stable the OS, the better it is for the pro users.

Still, there’s a lot of new exciting stuff and surely a lot of small changes and improvements!

macOS High Sierra Features and Changes

1. New File System: APFS

High Sierra brings Apple’s APFS file system to the Mac (iOS got it with 10.3 update). It replaces the 20-year-old HFS+ format. APFS runs on a 64-bit architecture, is much faster and far more stable than the outgoing file system. It has built-in encryption, crash-safe protection, and simpler backups thanks to the Snapshot feature.

2. Faster Safari

According to Apple, Safari in High Sierra is 80% faster when it comes to JavaScript performance than Chrome. At what exact tasks? We don’t know yet but Apple made a big splash at the WWDC keynote, making sure to highlight just how much faster Safari was than Chrome. As we get to the final release and benchmarks come out, we’ll have a clearer picture.

3. Autoplay Blocking in Safari

macOS High Sierra Auto Play Videos

Safari will now automatically block those annoying auto-playing videos in websites.

4. Cross Site Tracking Prevention in Safari

macOS High Sierra Safari Ads

Safari in High Sierra also comes with built-in and enabled Cross Site Tracking Prevention feature. This is a privacy feature that stops a website from following you from one page to another. This is not an ad blocker. In fact, it’s not going to block any ads.

The feature uses Machine Learning to intelligently stop trackers behind the ads from following you everywhere. And as the feature itself is intelligent, it should be able to come up with better ways to fight the trackers as they keep getting smarter as well.

If you’ve ever looked at something on Amazon on your Mac, then seen it follow you everywhere from Facebook on your Mac, to Instagram on your iPhone to even in-app ads for other apps on iOS, you’ll be happy to know that this feature will put a stop to it. The same feature is also available in Safari for iOS 11.

5. Personalize Browsing Experience

macOS High Sierra Safari Site Customizations

You’ll now be able to specify display settings on a per-site basis. You can pick the zoom level, location services, notifications, content blockers and more.

6. Automatic Reader Mode

macOS High Sierra Safari Reading List

There’s a new option that lets you automatically open any web article directly in Reader mode, as long as the website supports it.

7. Messages in iCloud

macOS High Sierra Messages iCloud

Finally, the Messages app on your Mac will be in the same state as the one on your iPhone. This might seem like a small thing to cheer for but if you’re like me, using Messages app on the Mac is always a disaster. Messages come in late and are disorganized. But now, because all messages are stored in iCloud, they’ll be the same on all your devices. Plus, this means Apple will be able to intelligently delete old messages to make room on your Mac.

Must read: 100 Awesome iOS 11 Features and Changes

8. Mail App is 35% Lighter

A lot of people still use the default Mail app. In High Sierra, thanks to the new file system, Mail takes up 35% less storage space.

9. Faster Search in Mail

macOS High Sierra Mail Top Hits

The Search feature now uses Spotlight to index the mail and as a result, is noticeably faster compared to Sierra. The new Top Hits section, puts the most relevant searches on the top.

10. Split Screen in Mail app

In Split View, you’ll be able to reply to an email while still continuing to view the inbox.

11. Photos Face Data Sync

macOS High Sierra People Faces

One of the biggest features in Photos is actually not user facing. Photos app will now sync facial recognition data across all your devices using iCloud – securely. What this means is that when you get a new Mac and load up your Library that contains thousands of photos, it won’t spend 3 days spinning the fans trying to run the face recognition software. Now, it can just import all of that data from your other devices — your iPhone for example.

12. New Memories Categories

macOS High Sierra Photos Memories UI

There are now a dozen new categories for auto creating Memories movies – pets, babies, outdoor activities, performances, weddings, birthdays, sporting events and more.

13. Live Photos Editing

macOS High Sierra Live Photos Editing

You can now trim and mute a Live Photo. And choose a new keyframe.

14. Live Photos Effects

You can apply Loop effect to Live Photos for a GIF-like effect. Bounce effect is like Boomerang. Long Exposure adds a DSLR-like blur effect for extending water and light trails.

15. Edit with Pro Apps

macOS High Sierra Edit With Apps

Right click on a photo and share it to a pro editing app like Pixelmator or Photoshop. When you save it, the changes will be synced with Photos app as well.

16. Advanced Editing Tools

macOS High Sierra Pro Editing Tools

You now have access to tools like Curves and Selective Color in photo editing pane.

17. Better Organization Features

macOS High Sierra Photos Organization

There’s a new filtering drop-down in the list view. You can now easily drag and drop photos into an album or just to the desktop to export it.

18. Expandable Sidebar

macOS High Sierra Photos Sidebar

The sidebar is now persistent in the Photos app, expandable from anywhere. This means you’ll be able to drag photos to collections and albums from anywhere.

19. New Imports Section in Sidebar

New Imports section in sidebar gives you quick access for viewing recently imported photos and videos.

20. New Hidden Section in Sidebar

There’s now an easy way to get to your hidden photos (instead of going through the menu bar)

21. GIF Support in Photos app

Just like iOS 11, you can save and play GIFs in the Photos app now.

22. Pin Notes

macOS High Sierra Notes Pine

Swipe left on any note in the list view and click the Pin button to pin a note to the top of the page.

23. Add Tables in Notes

macOS High Sierra Notes Tables

You can now add free forming and customizable tables in the Notes app.


24. Take Live Photos in FaceTime

macOS High Sierra FaceTime Live Photos

There’s a new shutter button when you’re FaceTime-ing. Click it and the app will take a Live Photo. Both parties will get a notification and the Live Photo will be stored in your Photos library.

25. Search for Flights in Spotlight

macOS High Sierra Spotlight Flight

You can now search for flights directly in Spotlight. You’ll see a card with details.

26. Spotlight Shows Multiple Results from Wikipedia

Spotlight now shows multiple results from Wikipedia when you search for something.

27. Ask Longer Questions to Spotlight

You can now type longer questions to Spotlight and ask it to recommend you books and more.

28. Siri Visual Update

macOS High Sierra Siri UI Update

Just like iOS 11, Siri on the Mac gets a visual update as well. The text is left aligned and bolder. Results are on top of a white background and there’s that new Siri animation orb instead of the mic.

29. More Natural Siri Voice

Siri’s voice is more natural now.

30. Type to Siri

From System Preferences, you’ll be able to enable an option that lets you chat with Siri. Once enabled, you can’t use the voice functionality speak to her.

31. iCloud File Sharing

macOS High Sierra iCloud File Sharing

When you have a file saved in Cloud Drive, you’ll now be able to get a shareable web link for it simply by right-clicking.

32. iCloud Family Storage Sharing

If you have more than 200 GB of iCloud storage, you can now share it with your family members. You’ll find the option in the iCloud section in System Preferences.

33. New Wallpaper

Of course, there’s a new wallpaper. This time it’s from the mountains in High Sierra. You can download it here.

34. Arabic System Font

There’s a new San Franciso Arabic system font.

35. New Hindi System Language

macOS High Sierra adds Hindi language support at a system level.

36. HEVC H265 Support

macOS High Sierra HEVC

High Sierra replaces H264 video format with HEVC (H265). This format can compress videos up to 40% smaller than the previous one, without losing the quality. This means that video file sizes, especially 4K, can be much smaller. This is great news for content creators and when it comes to streaming high-quality videos.

37. Japanese Language Improvements

High Sierra supports bilingual English/Japanese inputs. It also improves Japanese video captioning.

38. Improved Family Sharing

The family sharing experience has been improved in High Sierra. The process of setting up a family is now much quicker and smoother.

39. Metal 2 with VR Support

macOS High Sierra Metal 2

Apple’s graphics engine, Metal gets a big update. Metal 2 now has VR development support and in High Sierra, you can also connect eGPUs (external GPUs) to your Mac, using a single Thunderbolt 3 cable. The VR features, right now are focused on creators.

High Sierra supports the two biggest game engines – Unreal Engine and Steam VR. And there’s also support for HTC Vive headset.

40.eGPU Support

macOS High Sierra HTC Vive

Apple is also testing the waters with eGPU by offering their own developer kit enclosure for $599 which contains ADM Radeon RX 580 GPU.

Combine all of this and High Sierra is all set for helping developers create immersive experiences – either in virtual reality or augmented reality.

Hi Sierra!

High Sierra will be a free update for Mac and it will likely be out in late September. The Public beta for macOS High Sierra will be available at the end of June at beta.apple.com.

And of course, there are a lot of little changes. Siri gets a more natural voice and visual update. Notes app has more features and you can share files from iCloud. We’ll be covering the hidden features in more detail in upcoming articles.

But what about the name? I’m still not used to it. What do you think of the improvements in High Sierra? And what do you think of the name? Share with us in the comments below.