Apple's MacOS High Sierra update offers lots of behind-the-scenes changes that should make the Apple's desktop OS easy to use. High Sierra might disappoint those looking for whizzy new features, but Apple's focus on core improvements will make for a more responsive and more secure OS.
Flashy file system: With High Sierra, Apple switches to a new file system for MacOS flash storage. Called Apple File System, MacOS's new file system is now used across all Apple platforms -- from the Apple Watch and Apple TV to the iPhone and Macs -- to organize storage. Apple File System is tailored for flash storage and solid state drives and replaces HFS+, the hard-disk-drive file system Apple rolled out in 1998. The Mac's new file system will also focus on privacy and security, Apple said, and embrace full disk encryption. And because the new file system is designed for SSDs, the system and apps should feel more responsive.
Be aware that just Macs with SSD drives will get the new file system. If you have a Mac with a hard-disk drive or hybrid Fusion drive, you will stay on HFS+.
And a note of caution: Because High Sierra incorporates a new file system, make sure you've got a complete and current backup of the contents of your storage device before upgrading to High Sierra in case the upgrade goes south. And unless you absolutely have to run High Sierra, consider holding off on moving to the new OS until Apple and early adopters have had a good chance to test it out.
Photos gets more organized, with more powerful editing tools: Photos for MacOS High Sierra has an improved sidebar designed to let you more easily organize and access photos, including letting you reorder sections by dragging them around. Apple also tweaked the toolbar so you can easily navigate to photos, Moments, Collections, and Years. And Photos gains a powerful collection of editing tools, including new filters, a new curves tool for tuning color and contrast, and a selective color tool for making changes to a specific color in an image. And you can add effects to Live Photos. And if you have a favorite non-Photos editor, High Sierra lets you edit images in Photos in a third-party app; Photos saves your edits in a layer.
Snappier browsing: Apple said it's made improvements under Safari's hood that will result in the fastest browser experience. Safari will also give you better control over website tracking on autoplay videos.
Better video: Apple is incorporating H.265 into High Sierra. That's High Efficiency Video Coding, a new video compression standard that should produce better-looking video and take up less space. More broadly, Apple is reworking how the OS handles graphics for high-performance games and VR.
Nice changes throughout: High Sierra includes a basketful of updates to the standard collection of Mac apps: You can now check flight status in Spotlight; Siri gets a more natural sounding voice; you add tables to Notes; iCloud gains improved file sharing; you can capture Live Photos in FaceTime; and you have finer control over Family Sharing.
Still free: It's easy to overlook now, but Apple used to charge for its OS. The first wobbly public beta of Mac OS X, for example, cost $29.95 17 years ago. Apple can give away its OS by making money on its hardware and services and taking a cut of third-party app sales.
Same system requirements as Sierra: You should be able to run High Sierra on the same Macs as its predecessor ran on: iMacs and MacBooks from late 2009 and later; and MacBook Airs, the MacBook Pros, Mac Minis, and Mac Pros from 2010 and later.
iTunes frustration: From selling movies to managing your music, iTunes tries to do it all. But having one app manage your songs, TV shows, movies, and podcasts can make you crazy. (At least Apple removed iOS app purchases.) iOS takes a more sensible approach, splitting iTunes into individual apps for music, video, and store purchases, so you know where exactly to look for your items.
Limited iCloud backup: To make a local backup, Mac users have the handy Time Machine utility. But simple backup to the cloud -- like what iOS offers through iCloud Backup -- is lacking. While Mac users can use third-party tools for remote backup, a built-in method from Apple that uses iCloud would be welcome.
Apple continues to perfect its desktop OS with High Sierra. Many of the improvements are under the hood, so the new OS may not look much different, but users will get a more stable, more secure, and more responsive MacOS.