With High Sierra, version 10.13 of Apple’s macOS operating system, the company added subtle updates to improve the privacy of web browsing in Safari, rolled out its new file system as standard, and introduced updates that would allow for the creation of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) content. While the updates may seem simple, they help set the stage for Apple’s approach to computing in the future.

To help tech leaders and IT pros better understand macOS High Sierra, we’ve put together the most important details and resources in this cheat sheet. This is a “living” article that will be updated and refreshed as new, relevant information becomes public.

SEE: All of TechRepublic’s cheat sheets and smart person’s guides

Executive summary

  • What is macOS High Sierra? macOS High Sierra is version 10.13 of Apple’s desktop operating system (OS) series, macOS. It builds on its predecessor, macOS Sierra, and includes updates to Safari, Mail, Photos, its file system, and more.
  • Why does macOS High Sierra matter? As a version of macOS, High Sierra will define the user experience for Apple computer users across laptops and desktops in terms of featureset and UI.
  • Who does macOS High Sierra affect? The launch of macOS High Sierra affects Mac users and admins who have a compatible system and are planning on upgrading to the OS, or non-Mac users who are planning to purchase an Apple computer in the future.
  • When is macOS High Sierra available? The first macOS High Sierra public beta came out in June 2017, but the public release of High Sierra was made generally available on September 25, 2017.
  • How do I take advantage of macOS High Sierra? High Sierra is available for download through the Mac App Store.

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What is macOS High Sierra?

Apple’s macOS 10.13 High Sierra is the latest Mac operating system, designed for use on iMac desktops and MacBook laptops. It was announced at the 2017 WWDC event in San Jose by Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi.

One of the biggest updates unveiled with the High Sierra macOS version is that the Apple web browser, Safari, will now block AutoPlay videos, so users won’t encounter videos automatically playing when they open a web page. While the feature will improve the browsing experience for many users, it will make it more difficult for Apple to compete with advertising giants Google and Facebook.

High Sierra brings Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari, a new feature that blocks trackers of user data. “Now your privacy, your browsing history is your own,” Federighi said at WWDC.

Mail search on Mac is also improved with High Sierra, while Photos received a new design and layout. Apple is known for its photo features, such as live photos in iOS and content management options in iCloud Drive, and High Sierra offers better facial recognition support for improved organization and more.

High-efficiency video coding (HEVC) H.265 will be supported by macOS High Sierra. H.265 is a next-generation video compression standard that basically allows video files of the same quality to be compressed to a smaller size. The standard is also supported on mobile starting with iOS 11, meaning the videos a user takes on their iPhone or iPad will remain high quality without taking up as much space.

With the announcement of macOS High Sierra, Federighi said that the Apple File System (APFS) would be the default for all Macs moving forward. APFS allows macOS users to more easily manage space between multiple volumes, in that they can easily add and delete volumes on solid-state drives (SSDs) within the Disk Utility.

“APFS-formatted volumes automatically grow and shrink–you never have to repartition an SSD drive again,” an Apple support page said. “To see the format of a volume, select it in the Disk Utility sidebar–its format is displayed underneath the volume name in the middle of the window.”

Metal 2, which makes it easier to leverage GPU computing on a Mac, and will support more VR and AR content, was also announced as part of macOS High Sierra. Metal 2 offers external GPU support as well.

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Why does macOS High Sierra matter?

With an ever-increasing amount of work being done online, the refinements to Safari in High Sierra could help position Macs as a more viable business machine for certain industries. Additionally, Apple boosted the browser’s speed. “Safari is the world’s fastest desktop browser with High Sierra,” Federighi said at WWDC.

The additional privacy measures will help Safari–and, thus, High Sierra–win over some other users as well. New Safari Reader features will improve the readability of some web pages and articles by eliminating ads and unrelated content.

In the Notes app, tables can now be added to make quick graphical representations of something a user is working on. Business travelers can track flights in the Spotlight search window in High Sierra, making for a more efficient and productive process.

In keeping with its reputation as a powerhouse for creatives, Apple added some new features for its Photos app. Improved facial recognition shows that Apple is investing in the underlying technologies–like machine learning–that power artificial intelligence (AI), which is an area it has been lagging behind in relative to competitors like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. In High Sierra, Photos will integrate with other editing tools like Photoshop and Pixelmator, which could help draw more creatives deeper into Apple’s proprietary ecosystem.

High Sierra is Apple’s first major foray into AR and VR technologies. Metal 2 will make it easier for users to utilize GPU compute, but it will also support VR content creation–a first for Macs. Unity, Epic, and SteamVR integrations, along with Final Cut Pro X support for 360 video will help attract the next generation of creatives to Apple machines.

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Who does macOS High Sierra affect?

On a high level, the debut of macOS High Sierra matters to current Mac users and anyone considering a Mac for their next machine. However, it has more specific impacts for certain subsets of users.

Creative professionals can use the H.265 support to stream 4K video, and mobile users can leverage it to save space on their iOS devices, while the new Photos app could help boost efficient editing. Creatives looking to develop VR content could leverage the new OS features to build out their portfolio, too.

Developers will be affected by the the software update, as they can use Metal 2 to improve application development.

Security-conscious users will likely be interested in the new privacy features in Safari, such as AutoPlay blocking and Intelligent Tracking Prevention. And professional users might see slight productivity improvements with the updates to Mail and Notes.

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When is macOS High Sierra available?

On June 5, 2017, Apple unveiled macOS High Sierra for the first time at WWDC. It is only the second instance of Apple’s use of the macOS moniker, which replaced the previous OS X title in 2016 when macOS Sierra was introduced.

At the WWDC event, macOS High Sierra was made available in beta. Apple released macOS High Sierra for general download on September 25, 2017. Various updates and patches have been released since then to address security issues and add feature improvements.

It should be noted that a late 2017 security flaw in macOS High Sierra reportedly gave attackers root user access, unless the user set a root password to protect the machine. A later 2018 bug in the Disk Utility revealed APFS-encrypted drive passwords in plain text, but this was patched in macOS High Sierra version 10.13.4. Apple has since released version 10.13.5 with additional bug fixes and patches. Information on how to upgrade to version 10.13.5 can be found on our sister site ZDNet.

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How do I take advantage of macOS High Sierra?

Currently, macOS High Sierra is available in the Mac App Store, but it will only run on certain Mac computers. Interested users with a compatible machine can download the OS today.

Determining compatibility for the macOS update starts with the model computer a user currently has. According to Apple’s website, the following machines are eligible to run macOS High Sierra:

  • iMac models from late 2009 or later
  • MacBook models from late 2009 or later
  • MacBook Pro models from mid 2010 or later
  • MacBook Air models from late 2010 or later
  • Mac mini models from mid 2010 or later
  • Mac Pro models from mid 2010 or later
  • iMac Pro

If a user has one of the compatible models, they also need to be running one of the following versions of Apple’s operating system software:

  • macOS Sierra
  • OS X El Capitan
  • OS X Yosemite
  • OS X Mavericks
  • OS X Mountain Lion

To install the update, a user will need 2GB of free memory and 14.3GB of storage available on their hard drive space. Overall, macOS High Sierra requires roughly 1.5GB more storage space than macOS Sierra 10.12.6, Apple’s website said. All of the information on a Mac’s model, memory, storage, and OS version can be found under the About This Mac section in the Apple menu.

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