MacOS High Sierra introduces a number of under-the-hood changes — the new Apple File System (APFS) for speedier performance and better security, HVEC for improved video compression and Metal 2 for more powerful graphics — but it also brings improvements and new features to your favorite Mac apps, too, from Siri and Spotlight to Photos, Safari and others. Let’s have a look.
As with iOS 11, Siri has a more natural voice with High Sierra. To my ear, Siri still sounds like a computer but is getting closer to a human voice because the rhythm of her speech is smoother with less staccato.
Apple is also getting Siri ready for its forthcoming HomePod speaker and has added some music smarts to its digital assistant. Siri learns your musical tastes and habits to be able to make better recommendations. And Siri can tell you info about songs, albums and artists. Siri handles music requests with greater skill, but I’ve found her musical knowledge to be hit or miss. Siri was unable to find any of my Apple Music playlists with the word “reggae” in the title when I asked her to play me some reggae or a reggae playlist. She did, however, queue up playlists with the appropriate tempo when I asked her to play something mellow or upbeat. And she was able to tell me that John Bonham was the drummer for Led Zeppelin.
Spotlight search now understands flight numbers and surfaces multiple Wikipedia results should the need arise. In my experience, my Spotlight queries can be answered by a single Wikipedia entry but I like the ability to check on a flight’s status. Just make sure you enter the word “flight” to your search in addition to the airline and flight number.
As with iOS 11, you can edit Live Photos with High Sierra. You can trim and mute a Live Photo, choose a key photo and apply a Loop, Bounce or Long Exposure effect. For a live or still photo, you get two new edit tools: Curves for fine‑tuning contrast and Selective Color for tweaking the hue, saturation and luminance of individual colors.
The sidebar on Photos is now always present, and the Imports view replaces Last Import, which is much more useful because it shows all of your imports in chronological order instead of just the last batch. Apple has also expand the categories for its auto-generated Memories photos albums to include pets, weddings, birthdays, sporting events and others. I, for one, was happy to see my dog finally given her proper due in a Fluffy Friends Over the Years album.
Safari addresses two of the bigger Internet annoyances: auto-play videos and ad trackers — you know, the ones that show you that pair of shoes you looked at on Zappos on every website you visit.
You’ll find both of these new features by right-clicking on a site’s URL bar in Safari and clicking Settings for This Website. On this panel, you can adjust the settings for the current site you are visiting. You’ll see a line for Auto-Play, which you can allow or stop or prevent only videos with sound from playing. You’ll also see a the box checked for Enable content blockers. This is Safari’s new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature that stops those shoes from following you around the Internet and is enabled globally by default. Above the content blocker is a checkbox for Use Reader when available, which is great for sites with poor layouts that you’d much rather view without ads and other page elements cluttering the page.
In addition, you can set a zoom level for a site if, for example, it features text that’s too small to read without squinting. And you can set permissions for a website accessing your computer’s camera, microphone and location.
Notes gets two new features with High Sierra, pinned notes and tables. You can keep your most important and frequently opened notes at the top of your list by pinning them. Just right-click on a note in your list of notes and choose Pin Note to add it to the Pinned section at the top of the list. And by hitting Option-Command-T or by going to Format > Table, you can add a table to a note. By default, the table is two rows by two columns but it’s easy to add more by using the little handles on the top or left of a table.
The Mail app gets smarter with High Sierra with a new Top Hits section for search results. Mail learns your email behaviors — the messages you read, the sender you reply to, your VIPs — and surfaces the most relevant results at the top in the new Top Hits section. I use Web mail instead of the Mail app so I’m a still a stranger to Mail, I guess, and have yet to see a Top Hits section for my searches in Mail. A change I did notice in Mail: when you are in fullscreen mode, the compose windows opens in split-screen mode so you can pen an email and still have full access to your inbox for reference.
You’ll find a new button in MacOS High Sierra when FaceTiming. Click it and you’ll capture a Live Photo of a quick portion of your call. So as to keep all informed that your call is being recorded, both ends of the call will receive a notification that a Live Photo was taken. Also, both devices will need to have Live Photos enabled, so you won’t be able to capture baby’s first steps if Mom or Dad has an old iPhone.