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High Sierra and iOS 11

The release dates are here for some major updates to Mac OS, iOS 11 and watchOS 4. I have been playing with these throughout the beta period, and I think you’re going to like the new features and changes!

What’s New in macOS 10.13 High Sierra and Its Main Apps

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 — 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.

Photos 3
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.

Safari 11
A new Websites tab in Safari’s preferences lets you specify Web sites that should always open in Safari’s clutter-reducing Reader View. This lets you block some ads and auto-play videos, 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. We applaud Apple’s continued commitment to privacy protection.

Notes 4.5
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.

Mail 11
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.

FaceTime 4
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
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.

Moving on to watchOS 4…

7 Great New Features in watchOS 4

With watchOS 4 now arriving on Apple Watch users’ wrists, it’s time to make sure you aren’t missing out on any of the important features—and to share a few tips for how to use them. watchOS 4 works on all Apple Watch models, even the original Apple Watch! It does require iOS 11, so if you’ve been using your Apple Watch with an iPhone 5 or 5c, you’ll need to stick with watchOS 3 until you get a new iPhone.

#1: Dock Scrolls Vertically instead of Horizontally
Press the side button to see the Dock, and you’ll notice that it now scrolls vertically—this makes sense since one of the ways to scroll it is by turning the digital crown. You can now arrange Dock items (using the Watch app on your iPhone) based on either your favorites or which Dock items were used most recently.

#2: Useful and Fun Watch Faces
The new Siri watch face doesn’t add new speech capabilities, but it does show timely information, pulling in personal details and suggestions from apps such as Calendar, Reminders, and Photos. It also shows Now Playing controls when you’re playing audio on your iPhone, along with Apple News headlines and stock tickers. We liked it more after customizing its Data Sources in the iOS Watch app.

When you want something whimsical on your wrist, there’s now a Toy Story face! Or, try the trippy new Kaleidoscope face that changes slowly as time goes by—you can speed it up by turning the digital crown!

#3: App List Supplements Icon Cloud
The App screen’s icon cloud looks impressive, but it can be challenging to locate and tap a specific app. We’re appreciating the new List view, accessed by force-pressing the App screen, which displays apps alphabetically.

#4: Flashlight on Your Wrist
Swipe up to find and tap the new Flashlight button in Control Center, which turns the screen bright white. Swipe left to access a flashing option, designed to make you more visible at night while walking or running. Press the side button or digital crown to turn the flashlight off. I have found this new flashlight feature very useful so far!

#5: More Fitness Encouragement and Options
The Activity app is now more chatty and will make suggestions in the morning to inspire you. It will also remind you at night if you are close to closing a ring.

Apple gave the Workout app some attention, too. Starting a workout is easier than before; it now requires only one tap, Do Not Disturb turns on automatically, and your default playlist can even start playing. With the workout underway, you can now switch easily to a different workout type (swipe right and tap the + button), and see a multi-workout analysis at the end of the entire session.

Swimmers using an Apple Watch Series 2 or 3 can now track sets and rests, pace for each set, and distance for each stroke type. Apple also has added a High Intensity Interval Training workout type.

Finally, your Apple Watch can connect with some gym equipment, like ellipticals and indoor bikes, allowing it and the machine to share data. Look for an NFC label on your machine, and tap it with your watch.

#6: Multiple Playlists On the Go
The Apple Watch is great for playing tunes to AirPods while you work out, but with watchOS 3 you were limited to just one playlist. With watchOS 4, you can sync multiple playlists and albums via the Music settings in the iOS Watch app. Plus, for Apple Music subscribers, your automatically generated favorites mixes can sync automatically!

#7: More App Enhancements: Phone, Timer, and Camera
Other apps also receive improvements in watchOS 4. You can dial phone numbers manually with a new keypad in the Phone app. Timer now has a Repeat button, so you can repeat a timer with a single tap. And the Camera app offers some new remote options, including support for starting and stopping videos.

All-in-all, watchOS 4 is a solid upgrade, and the changes will make your Apple Watch both more useful and easier to use!

The Top Features You’ll Want to Try in iOS 11

Even if you’re not buying a new iPhone this year, you can still enjoy a hefty dose of “New and Improved!” with Apple’s iOS 11, which provides a host of new capabilities. Hold on tight, there’s a lot to cover, and we have even more below about the iPad-specific changes in iOS 11.

Getting Started
After you install iOS 11, you’ll notice a few things right off. Dock icons no longer have names, and many Apple apps now have the bold text design Apple brought to the Music and News apps in iOS 10.

Although the new Automatic Setup feature won’t help you today, when you next get a new iOS device, it can transfer many settings from an older iOS 11 device automatically. Similarly, the new Share Your Wi-Fi feature lets you send your Wi-Fi network’s password to another iOS 11 device that tries to connect.

You may not need a new iPhone or iPad anyway, since iOS 11 can help you recover precious space! Choose Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage and you can offload unused apps (while keeping their settings and data), delete old Messages conversations automatically, and see how much space each app consumes. Deleting music from the Music sub-screen (tap Edit) will help too.

Special Screens
Apple redesigned Control Center, which most people still get to by swiping up from the bottom of the screen (iPad users keep swiping up after the Dock appears, and iPhone X users will have to swipe down from the right-hand top of the screen). It’s back to a single page of icons, and you can access additional options by pressing and holding on any set of controls. Even better, you can add (and remove) controls in Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls. I have added handy things like HomeKit, Hearing and Magnification to my Control Center.

The Lock screen is all you’ll see while in the car by default now, thanks to the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. It blocks notifications and prevents you from using your iPhone while at the wheel, all while auto-replying to people who text you. Calls still come through to your car’s Bluetooth system, and texts from people designated as favorites can break through the texting cone of silence. Passengers can disable Do Not Disturb While Driving easily from a notification on the Lock screen. This is a great safety feature! I cannot tell you how many times I have passed a car on my motorcycle that is acting erratically only to glance in to see the driver texting.

Smaller Changes and App Updates

A few smaller changes that you’ll appreciate include:

Siri sounds more natural, can do translations, and uses on-device learning to understand you better and provide more useful results.
On an iPhone, a new Emergency SOS feature will call 911 and notify your emergency contacts of your location after you press the Sleep/Wake button five times quickly and swipe the Emergency SOS button. Tap Settings > Emergency SOS to set this up.
The password auto-fill feature now suggests stored login information for many apps right from the QuickType bar above the keyboard—manage this in Settings > Accounts & Passwords > App & Website Passwords.

Many of iOS 11’s built-in apps receive significant changes as well:

Camera: New file formats will make your videos and photos take up less space. There are a few new filters, and Camera can finally scan QR codes, which simplify loading Web sites, getting contact info, and connecting to Wi-Fi networks.
Photos: You can now edit the video in a Live Photo and apply looping, bouncing, and long exposure effects. Photos can at long last play animated GIFs and has a new Animated smart album to hold them.
Files: This major new app replaces the iCloud Drive app. Look in Files for access not just to iCloud Drive, but also to files on your device and in other cloud sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive.
Messages: A new app drawer at the bottom of the screen tries to entice you to use iMessage apps. Most are just stickers, but some are useful and Apple provides a new Apple Pay app here that lets you make person-to-person payments.
Maps: Apple has added indoor maps of some airports and malls to Maps. Maps also now provides lane guidance on more complicated roads.
Notes: The new Instant Notes feature make starting a note as simple as tapping the Lock screen of an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, or the optional Notes button in Control Center. A note can now look like lined paper or graph paper (tap the Share button, then tap Lines & Grids). You can also now scan a document. The idea is that you then sign it with the Apple Pencil and send it on its way. Notes can also now find text in Apple Pencil handwriting.

Take some time to explore—we’re liking these new features and we think you will too!

Why iOS 11 Is the Most Important Version Yet for iPad Users

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.

Files
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).

Keyboard Flick
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.

Apple Pencil
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.

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