Although macOS 10.13 High Sierra was light on new features, it did bring one welcome addition to Safari—site-specific settings. Imagine that you regularly visit a blog that you prefer to read using Safari’s Reader view. Rather than invoke it each time you visit, you can now set Safari to use Reader automatically on that site. Similarly, if there’s a site whose text is too small, Safari can remember your page zoom setting for that site. Neat, eh?
Here’s how to make the most of Safari’s site-specific settings. First, load a site whose settings you’d like to customize. Then, choose Safari > Preferences and click Websites in the toolbar. You see a list of general settings in the sidebar at the left, followed by any plug-ins you’ve installed. For each setting or plug-in, you can set what happens when you visit the site you just loaded—or, if you have a bunch of sites open in different tabs, you can customize the behavior for any open site. Here are your options.
Reader view displays an article as a single page that’s formatted for easy reading, without ads, navigation, or other distractions. It’s such a significant change that it’s off by default—you enable it by clicking the Reader button to the left of the URL in the address bar. To turn it on for all of a site’s articles, in Safari’s Websites preferences, select Reader and choose On from the pop-up menu next to the site name.
Another way of seeing fewer Web ads is to install a Safari content blocker. Choose Safari > Safari Extensions to open Safari’s Extension Gallery, and then scroll down slightly to find the page’s Search field, where you can search for blocker. There are lots—look for one like Adguard AdBlocker that supports Safari’s content blocking API. Once you’ve installed one, select Content Blockers in the Websites preferences. By default, Safari blocks ads on all sites, so choose Off from the pop-up menus for sites whose ad content you want to see.
Little is more annoying than sites that play a video when a page loads, distracting you from the text you want to read. Even worse are those sites—Macworld, we’re looking at you—that auto-play videos that aren’t even related to the page. Safari squelches auto-playing videos by default, but for sites like YouTube, you might want to allow videos to play. You can also choose to stop only videos that have sound.
It’s easy to hit Command-Plus to zoom in on a page, increasing the text and graphics proportionally, but who wants to do that every time you visit a page sporting barely readable words? With the Page Zoom setting, Safari will use your preferred zoom every time you visit a particular site. In fact, you don’t have to do anything other than set a zoom level with Command-Plus when you’re viewing a site because Safari remembers it automatically, as you can see in the Configured Websites section for Page Zoom. To tweak it manually, choose a zoom level from the site’s pop-up menu.
Camera & Microphone
Apart from Web conferencing services, you’re unlikely to run across many sites that want to access your Mac’s camera and microphone. That’s why the Camera and Microphone settings default to asking you whenever a site wants permission to record you. If you find it irritating to be asked constantly by a site you use often, choose Allow from the pop-up menu for that site. And if a site asks repeatedly but you never want to allow it, choose Deny to stop the prompts.
Most Web sites that ask for your location want to determine how close you are to particular stores. If that’s information you’re interested in sharing, let them see where you are, by all means. And if you’re using a mapping service that wants your location, it’s entirely reasonable to set its pop-up menu to Allow. But if a site keeps asking and it feels creepy, set it to Deny.
Are there sites whose new posts you’d like to know about right away? If they support Web notifications and you give them permission, they can post push notifications that appear on-screen and in Notification Center, just your other notifications.
The Notifications preferences look different from the others because they show only sites that have asked for permission in the past. Safari remembers your choice, and if the site gets annoying later, you can always take back permission by changing the Allow pop-up menu to Deny. And if you never want to be prompted for push notifications—they can be distracting—uncheck the “Allow websites to ask for permission to send push notifications” checkbox at the bottom of the pane.
It’s impossible to know what plug-ins you’ve installed, but Safari is configured to make sites ask for permission to use a plug-in each time you visit. That’s the safest setting, but for any given site and plug-in, you can use the pop-up menu to give the site access (choose On) or not (choose Off). And if you can’t even remember what a plug-in does, you can deselect its checkbox to disable it.
That’s it! Some of Safari’s site-specific settings work without any interaction from you, such as your page zoom and notification preferences. Others require a tiny bit of configuration, but that’s a small price to pay for the Web working more the way you want.
In macOS 10.13 High Sierra, Apple significantly enhanced the photo editing capabilities of Photos, adding tools for adjusting specific colors, fine-tuning color and contrast via curves, and even focusing an image with vignetting. But it still lacks many features found in other image editors, including applying a filter to an arbitrary portion of an image and adding text to an image. Happily, the latest version of Photos brings back a feature from iPhoto that lets you edit any image with any editor on your Mac. Just Control- or right-click a photo and choose Edit With > YourFavoriteImageEditor, and the photo opens in that app. Make your changes, and when you save, those changes are reflected in the version in Photos.
Apple gives iCloud users 5 GB of free storage, but that fills up fast with iCloud Photo Library, iOS backups, iBooks, and more. Until iOS 11 and macOS 10.13 High Sierra, each person in a family had to buy extra iCloud space separately. Happily, Apple has now made it so everyone in a Family Sharing group can share a single 200 GB ($2.99 per month) or 2 TB ($9.99 per month) plan. The family organizer can start sharing storage in High Sierra or iOS 11 as follows: on the Mac, go to System Preferences > iCloud > Manage Family > My Apps & Services > iCloud Storage; in iOS, go to Settings > Your Name > Family Sharing > iCloud Storage. Any other family member can then cancel their paid plan and join the Family Sharing plan using their iCloud Storage screen.
An extremely welcome under-the-hood change in iOS 11 and macOS 10.13 High Sierra is that Photos facial recognition syncs across iCloud Photo Library. Previously, people you identified on one of your devices remained unidentified on others. But what if Photos now identifies the same person twice, such that they have two separate entries in the People album? Just drag one entry on top of the other, in either the Mac or iOS version of Photos, and agree that they’re the same person when Photos asks.
Although Apple’s eye-catching Desktop image of the High Sierra mountains makes it easy to confirm that your Mac is running High Sierra, the most noteworthy new features are invisible! These changes are aimed at improving your Mac’s performance. But, don’t worry that there’s nothing new in High Sierra to play with—you’ll find plenty to do in Apple’s apps, and we’ll share our favorite features below.
Apple’s invisible, under-the-hood changes modernize the Mac. The new APFS file system significantly improves how data is stored on your disk. It replaces the HFS+ file system, which dates from the previous century. You’ll notice the switch to APFS when you look up the size of a selected folder or duplicate a large file because the operation should run much more quickly. APFS also provides better FileVault encryption and reduces the chance of file corruption.
Also new is HEVC, a new video compression standard that will let videos stream better and take up less space on your drive, and HEIF, an image format that boasts significantly better compression to keep photos from overwhelming your drive. HEVC and HEIF have other advantages too, but they’re so embedded into High Sierra (and iOS 11) that all you’ll notice is more space. When you drag images and videos out of Photos, they’ll come out in familiar formats suitable for sharing.
In Photos, it’s now easier to browse your photos from the always-on sidebar on the left side of the window. Photo editing is also more streamlined, with the Edit screen now separated into three tabs: Adjust, Filters, and Crop.
You can now edit Live Photos! Look at the bottom of the Adjust tab for controls for picking any frame as the static “key” frame, trimming the video, and applying special effects. The most interesting effect blurs the Live Photo by turning the 3-second mini-movie into a single long exposure.
Those who are into tweaking photos by hand should check out the new Curves and Selective Color options on the Adjust tab. Or, if you’d prefer that your Mac do the heavy lifting, try the new filters on the Filters tab.
Our favorite new feature is more of a fix—when you train Photos to match faces with names, that training will now sync through iCloud Photo Library to your other Apple devices. About time!
Finally, for serious photographers, Apple has at long last brought back round-trip editing of a photo in an external app, like Pixelmator or Photoshop.
A new Websites tab in Safari’s preferences lets you specify Web sites that should always open in Safari’s clutter-reducing Reader View, blocks some ads and auto-play videos, lets you set the zoom level on a per-site basis, and more. We like to tweak these options for the current Web page by choosing Safari > Settings for This Website to open a popover with the necessary controls.
And in the “Thank you, Apple!” category, Safari now offers Intelligent Tracking Protection (ITP), which limits advertisers’ cross-site tracking of where you’ve been online.
Notes now offers a capable Table feature and a handy File > Pin Note command that puts the selected note at the top of its list rather than listing it by order last edited. Neither feature is earth shattering, but we’re enjoying both already.
Behind the scenes, Mail gets a welcome change you probably won’t notice—according to Apple, message storage now takes 35% less space.
More obvious is how Mail revamped its behavior in full-screen view. Instead of the message-composition area overlapping most of the Mail window, the screen splits, and your new message appears at the right. This layout simplifies viewing an older message while drafting a new one.
A fun new FaceTime option is taking a Live Photo of your call. It’s a perfect way to record mini-movies of far-away relatives. If the person you’re chatting with allows Live Photos in FaceTime’s preferences, hover over the FaceTime window to see and then click the round Shutter button.
Spotlight isn’t exactly an app, but it lets you search for anything on or off your Mac. Click the magnifying glass icon at the right of your menu bar—or press Command-Space bar—to start, and then enter your search terms. New in High Sierra, you can enter an airline flight number to see oodles of flight-related info.
High Sierra won’t radically change how you use your Mac, but we’re in favor of anything that makes our Macs run faster and keeps our drives from filling up so fast. Should you upgrade? Yes. When? That’s another story.
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