Mac: Apple's new desktop operating system, High Sierra, is officially available for your downloading pleasure. Compared to Apple's iOS 11 update, which added a host of new features such as augmented reality, a new dock on the iPad, and improved multitasking support, High Sierra's improvements are mostly under the hood. You won't find many flashy additions, but you will notice upgrades to a variety of services you employ on a daily basis, upgrades that should make your experience with macOS snappier and more secure.
Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty
A Flash-Friendly Filesystem
If you're fortunate enough to have a Mac that ditches the slower, spinning hard disk drives and relies exclusively on flash-based storage, Apple's new APFS filesystem will bring a few welcome changes that take advantage of all the extra speed that comes with a solid-state drive (or SSD). Improvements include better data protection during system crashes or power outages, faster boot times, and space-saving features such as Trim and sparse file support, which boosts storage efficiency by wiping segments of unused data. Actions such as copying files happen almost instantly thanks to the improved SSD support. APFS' built-in encryption support lets you encrypt individual files, folders or your whole disk, and allows for both single-key and multi-key encryption for increased data security.
Photos Brings Editing Improvements
The Photos app's improvements make it easier to manage and modify your images, and support the new HEIF and HEVC formats for images and videos, respectively. Photos can convert the new image format into the more common JPEG file should you choose to share the image. Most of the changes are cosmetic ones that make cataloging and editing photos more intuitive, but a few new feature additions give you more control over certain images. You can modify Live Photos, either by choosing a new still as the main image, adding effects like long exposure, or editing the Live Photo video itself. You can even use the app to manage photos you'd like to edit using other applications. All the changes you make in the third-party app will be saved to the image in Photos, where you can make additional changes (or revert the image to its original version).
VR and External GPU Support
High Sierra's most exciting improvement is probably its official support for VR headsets using its Metal 2 graphics processing. In the past, Macs were not able to run VR applications due to a lack of support. Now, thanks to improved support from both Apple and third-party companies such as Unreal and Unity, you'll be able to use a VR headset on your Mac. Unfortunately, nearly every Mac lacks the right amount of processing power to handle VR headsets. That's where an external graphics card comes into play.
iOS 11 was released last week, and with it your iPhone and iPad (as long as its one of these models) got a ton of new features. There are so many, that navigating through them all can end up being a pretty daunting, and let's face it, confusing, task. Not sure how to learn it all? We've got your back. A bunch of us at Lifehacker have been putting the operating system through its paces, and have written a ton of great guides to some of the most interesting new stuff.
High Sierra features support for external graphics card via a Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 3 connection. That lets users with a compatible graphics card and enclosure boost their Mac's performance when editing high-definition video or playing video games. It's a pretty sweet feature, and means you can use your MacBook as a dedicated editing or gaming machine without sacrificing portability. It won't replace your dedicated game console, and isn't suited for fast-paced action, but the improved support makes Macs more receptive to some occasional XCOM 2 action.
Safari 11 Beefs Up Browsing Privacy
Safari's updates make it both easier to read articles on the web and to browse freely without being tracked. You can configure sites to always open in the simplified Reader View if you want to ditch the site's formatting and replace it with a simplified interface that lets you read the content without distraction. It also stops auto-playing video, a true blessing (and an improvement that finally brings it up to speed with Chrome's own tab muting features).