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macOS High Sierra: Accelerated Graphics, New File System, VR And More

High Sierra

macOS High Sierra

macOS Sierra was a significant upgrade last year. It brought Siri and ApplePay to the Mac. It allows you to save your docs and desktop to the cloud. You could even unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch and more. This time around macOS will be known as High Sierra. As mentioned at WWDC, the focus on High Sierra was on perfecting the OS and related technologies. Let’s take at look at what we can expect from macOS High Sierra.

Deep Technologies

Deep Technologies was the keyword in this presentation. This will lay the groundwork for many future developments on the Mac. There was also attention paid to refinements of the OS. Key apps on the Mac are part of the OS like Safari, Mail, and Photos which have all received improvements and refinements.


Speed tests on both Mac and PC’s running comparable hardware show that Safari is considerably faster. Faster than any of the popular browsers out there running under macOS High Sierra. In benchmark tests, JavaScript performance in Safari is 80% faster than Chrome. AutoPlay Blocking is another new feature brought to Safari. This will silence those unexpected annoying auto-play video clips we come across when browsing. You always have the option to push play if you want to but the choice is now yours. Safari now has your back in regards to privacy with Intelligent Tracking Prevention. It uses machine learning to identify trackers. It then segregates tracking data so you own your browsing history. The sites and your browser behave the same as it did but now your privacy is protected.


Mail search is now using Spotlight to improve search results. In Full-Screen mode, you can now use Split-View when composing an email. Storage has been optimized. Mail now uses 35% less disk space to store your mail.


High SierraPhotos have a lot of refinements in High Sierra. Organization and editing received a lot of attention. There is now a persistent sidebar and a new view that displays your imports in chronological order. In any view, there is improved filtering so you can search by your keywords, favorites, media type, etc. Faces have been improved and it now recognizes more faces automatically using advanced neural networks. When you put in the effort to name people in your photo library, that information is now synced across all of your devices. Editing tools received a lot of attention in this version including the addition of some new ones. Curves allow you to fine tune color and contrast. Selective Color lets you modify colors within a selected range. When you edit using other tools like PhotoShop all your edits sync back to your Photo library.

Printing Services

High SierraApple pioneered desktop publishing which resulted in some awesome books produced on the Mac. I remember attending a publishing event in Miami in the early ’90’s and discovered a beautiful book titled “Whale Song” that was published in 1986. To my recollection, it was the first book to be produced entirely on a Mac. The second edition with additional content was also created entirely on a Mac publishing system. I say this because now 3rd parties like WhiteWall, Shutterfly, Animoto, Wix are offering some awesome printing services. They offer poster size images, coffee table books, and websites all based on projects inside of Photos.


Data, Video, and Graphics are where Apple has gone deep into the OS to produce some significant improvements. Starting with data and the File System. The Mac used HFS which originated over 30 years ago. A lot has changed in 30 years, like Flash Drives, and drives with huge capacities. With that said, Apple is bringing the Apple File System (APFS) to High Sierra as the default file system. This is a 64-bit file system. The reasons behind this decision include crash protection, safe document saves, stable snapshots, and native encryption. APFS is also ultra responsive with modern features like; instant file and directory cloning, fast directory sizing, zero copy snapshots, parallelized metadata operations, frequently used items in inode, and sparse file writes. What this translates to is incredibly fast file duplication.


High SierraThe next area of improvement is in Video. The current standard the Mac uses is H.264 which helps facilitate smooth streaming of video content from the Internet. But now video is moving to 4K and high range video. The new high-efficiency standard is H.265. The file system provides better compression than H.264 with up to 40% better compression. The new system provides built-in software encoding for all Macs and hardware acceleration is being built into all newer Macs. This is also being built into pro tools like Final Cut, Motion, and Compressor.


Graphics is all about the GPU. GPU performance increased significantly over the past ten years. The software API for high-performance graphics on the Mac is Metal. Metal has now been upgraded to Metal 2. It is used for machine learning for identifying photos and improved performance in programs like Da Vinci Resolve.

Metal 2 has driver optimizations, indirect augment buffers, SIMD group data exchange, uniform variables, sampler arrays and resource heaps. When adopted, this translates to 10X better draw call throughput from the first version of Metal and a 100X improvement over OpenGL. Developers now have better debugging and analysis tools like faster frame debugger, improved debugging search, and GPU counters. For machine learning, Metal 2 now provides Metal performance shaders, Recurrent neural network kernels, binary convolution, dilated convolution, L-2 norm pooling, and dilated pooling. Metal 2 has also be updated for external graphics. Developers can order a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, AMD Radeon RX 580, and USB-C hub for optimizing your code on MacBooks using external graphics.


High Sierra

In many cases, today’s high-performance content creation is about creating VR content. Apple is jumping into VR with the creation of Metal for VR. It will provide a VR-optimized display pipeline, Viewport arrays, System trace stereo timelines, GPU queue priorities, frame debugger stereoscopic visualization. The Steam VR SDK is also coming to the Mac along with the Unity and Unreal VR Engines.


There are a lot more refinements in macOS High Sierra. A developer build was made available at WWDC so developers can jump in. It has already been updated several times since the announcement. A public beta will be available soon. macOS High Sierra will be shipping to everyone for free in the fall on all systems that support Sierra.

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Carmine Delligatti-Drummer, former Support Manager for Deneba Software, ACD Systems, Mareware, Inc. and Swiss Made Marketing. Avid technology blogger and Managing Editor of