Here’s one for those who use Apple’s Notes app for storing bits of information. By default, Notes in macOS gives you a single window, with each note listed in a sidebar. But what if you want to see two notes at once? Or keep one always available no matter what else you’re doing? Select the desired notes in the sidebar by Command-clicking them, and then choose Window > Float Selected Notes to open them in their own windows. Or, just double-click them in the sidebar! Then, to make sure one or more of those windows is never obscured by another app, make it active and then choose Window > Float on Top. It’s still a normal window that you can move and resize and close, but no other app will appear over it. See how Safari is the frontmost app below, but the Notes window is on top?
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.
Apple has long argued that you can use the iPad for productivity but hasn’t backed that claim up with the necessary features in iOS. Until now, that is, with the new iPad-centric capabilities of iOS 11. These changes mean that an iPad running iOS 11 is more like a Mac, and that’s a good thing for those who want to do real work with their iPads.
Dock and Multitasking
The new iOS 11 Dock is easy to find at the bottom of the Home screen, just like before. But it’s better and more Mac-like than before—the left side shows apps or folders you’ve placed there by dragging them on (no need to touch and hold until icons shake anymore!) while the right side helps you get around more quickly by displaying recently used apps and any Handoff apps from your other Apple devices.
Most importantly, you can now view the Dock within any app, without the contextual shift of returning to the Home screen as in previous iOS versions. Just swipe up slightly from the bottom of the screen in any app, and the Dock appears so you can switch apps with a single tap right away.
Or—this is fabulous!—drag the app where you want to go up from the Dock to open it in Slide Over or Split View. Now you can work back and forth between two apps at once on the same screen.
Control Center and App Switcher
Switching apps with the Dock like you do on the Mac is easy, but when you invoke the App Switcher by swiping up to see the Dock and then continuing to swipe up (or by double-pressing the Home button or swiping up with four fingers), it now shows large thumbnails of the four most recent apps (or Slide Over or Split View screens) and the new Control Center. Tap one to switch to it.
Remember that you can customize the buttons that appear in Control Center—visit Settings > Control Center > Customize to make it look the way you want.
Drag and Drop
With iOS 11, Apple finally brought drag and drop to the iPad! Touch and move text, graphics, or files between apps—you can even pick up an item with a finger and use your other hand to reveal the Dock and switch to your destination app before dropping the data.
Use this maneuver in situations where you would previously have used copy and paste or the awkward Share sheet—or just given up! Practice a few times to accustom yourself to the two-handed process.
Just like the Mac, the iPad now provides a single place to browse and open all your files, and you can open a file with a single tap. All this goodness happens in the new Files app, which replaces the iCloud Drive app with a broader view of your files, providing access not just to iCloud Drive, but also to files on your device and in other cloud sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive. (To add a sharing service whose app you’ve installed, tap Edit in the left-hand Browse panel).
On iPads other than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, iOS 11 simplifies typing on the virtual keyboard. You can now type numbers and many punctuation characters by swiping down on the appropriate key, rather than switching keyboards. Swipe down to see the key turn gray and show only the desired number or character, and then lift your finger.
In iOS 11, the iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil becomes even more useful. Want to start a note? Just tap the Lock screen and start writing. Want to search your handwritten notes? Pull down on the Notes list to type your query, and Notes will find handwritten terms.
A new scanning feature in Notes makes it easy to bring a paper document into the iPad, where you can sign it with the Apple Pencil and send it on its way. We also like the new Instant Markup feature that lets you write on a PDF or screenshot easily—tap the Pencil icon at the upper right of the screen to start writing and to access the controls for color and tip below.
With iOS 11, Apple has finally acknowledged that the iPad needs its own features to be a productivity machine—it’s not just an iPhone with a larger screen. With a little practice, you can be using an iPad, particularly an iPad Pro, for all sorts of serious tasks like email, word processing, Web research, and more.