Ahhh, fall ... apple cider with a little cinnamon, weird flavored lattes, and new operating system updates with curious names. Over the last several weeks both Microsoft and Apple have released new versions of their operating systems. I dropped fresh installations of Windows 10 Creators Edition and macOS High Sierra into VMWare Fusion to see what's new, what's great, and whether or not you should upgrade.
It's important to note some key information about operating systems and updates: Microsoft and Apple are two different companies with different priorities for what's important in their operating systems. There is no way to do a one-to-one comparison of each of these updates as there is no one-to-one relationship between what these updates offer. While there is some correlation of features (I'm looking at you OneDrive Files On-Demand and Photos), what we're doing here is taking a broad view of what's on offer. It's up to you to make sense of what's best for you.
And, yeah, sometimes Windows is the only way to go if you're trying to get a specific job done. It's all good. We'll still love you.
If you're looking for a list of what's new in each of these updates, you can read Rene Ritchie's review of High Sierra and Zack Bowden's review of the Fall Creators update to get the juicy details. What can you take away from these pages? Microsoft's Fall Creators update is largely about changes to features you can feel, see and touch, while Apple's High Sierra update is more about what's under the hood of the OS.
What's under the hood in Apple's new OS?
At the top of the under-the-hood heap for High Sierra are changes to the the underlying file system used to store data on your hard drive. APFS, aka Apple File System, is designed to work better with the solid state drives found in most Apple devices and provides better encryption options for keeping your data safe. If you want to dig deep on Apple's new file system, trip over to Rene Ritchie's excellent, Apple File System (APFS): What you need to know!
In addition to Apple's new file system you'll also find changes to the way the macOS handles video and graphics. High Sierra uses a new video standard called High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). HEVC provides better quality video with much higher compression, so movies should look even better on your Mac and they should take up less space on your hard drive. (Note that that video quality and video compression depends on both your Mac's hardware and they type of video being compressed).
Apple has also updated their core graphic rendering technology, Metal. The new version, Metal 2, now uses machine learning capabilities and takes better advantage of your Mac's graphics processor (GPU), making what you see on your screen more gorgeous than ever.
What can you touch and feel in the new Windows 10?
If you've been using a Mac for awhile, you already know how great Handoff, also known as Continuity, is. Windows Fall Creators now adds a feature called Continue on PC that proves functionality similar to Handoff, allowing you to open a document or web site on your Windows Phone and send it to any PC that's nearby. You can also link your iPhone or Android device to Windows 10 and enjoy some of the same functionality.
One of my favorite new features in Windows Fall Creators is My People. My People let's you pin your favorite contacts to the taskbar. Once there, you can use the pinned contact to quickly send an email message, drag a file you want to send to the contact via email or some other connected app.
Microsoft has also added a number of new security features to Windows 10 Fall Creators, including built-in ransomware protection that keeps you free from WannaCry and other ransomeware attacks, automatically updated threat protection, and virus protection, all of which is included as a part of Windows Defender Antivirus.
There's also another great new RE-addition to Windows 10: OneDrive On-demand.
Microsoft included OneDrive On-demand in an earlier version of Windows then dropped it. It's back again and that's good news. OneDrive On-demand works much like Apple's iCloud Drive in that it lets you store all of your files using OneDrive. And, similar to iCloud's Store in iCloud feature, only downloads files to your local hard drive when you need them. This is particularly useful when you have portable devices with SSDs that have less storage space than you may have had on traditional rotational media. The upside is that you're only synchronizing the files you want and not all the files you may have stored in OneDrive.
What can you touch and feel in macOS
Yeah, I now I said most of what's new in macOS is under the covers, but there are a few things you can touch in macOS too. First up, better search options in Mail, which brings more relevant search results to the top of your search list, without hiding results that Mail thinks are less relevant.
Notes, one of my favorite apps, now lets you add tables to any note and you can pin important notes to the top of your list.
iCloud Drive now lets your share files directly from your iCloud Drive, so you no longer need to open a document and use an app's sharing menu.
Windows Mixed Reality and VR for Mac
VR it is, boys and girls! Both Microsoft and Apple have added tools that make it possible for you to get a full-on headset enabled VR experience.
Windows 10 Fall Creators offers Windows Mixed Reality, a VR environment with features in place allowing you to don a headset and start playing in VR worlds as you have the appropriate hardware and the OS installed. There are already several VR games and applications you can begin playing with now on Microsoft's App Store.
Apple's VR for Mac is, at present, a development environment that game developers and content creators can use to begin creating VR content for Apple's new iMac Pro and, next spring, any Mac paired with an external GPU.
Photos, photos, photos
Both Apple and Microsoft have made major updates to their built-in photo management and editing applications.
Apple's updated Photos app on Mac includes better editing tools, including features that let you turn your Live Photos into looped and long exposure images and tools that are as powerful and easy to use as . You'll also find better ways to find and organize your images.
Microsoft's new 3D Builder creation tool lets you take existing photos and other images and create your own multidimensional images, which you can share, animate, and remix with others. Anything you create can 3D Builder can be used in the Windows Mixed Reality Viewer, mentioned earlier.
Apple and Microsoft have both made changes to their built-in web browsers.
With Safari in High Sierra, Apple is all about making your browsing experience better. Safari now keeps track of those who track you so you won't get the sense that you're being followed every time you search for something on the Web. Safari also lets you turn off auto-play videos, but lets you change these settings on a site-by-site basis. You'll also find options that automatically set certain sites to use to use Safari Reader. In short, Safari makes the web great again.
Microsoft Edge in Windows Creators Edition adds two new features. The first is notes in your eBooks. Books purchased from Microsoft's store can be opened directly in Edge and you now have the ability to add annotations, highlight text, and create other notes without having to open a separate eBook reader.
Edge also adds a new feature that lets you pin specific web pages to the taskbar. So Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, or any of your favorites can be as close as a click away.
Should you upgrade
Windows 10? You bet. Even if the new 3D and VR tools don't make you want to jump and shout, the new security features in Windows 10 Creators Edition should be enough to make you take the plunge.
How about macOS High Sierra? I've been using this version of macOS since before it was released to the public and I've found it to be rock solid for everything I do on a day-to-day basis. While it's unlikely that you'll notice changes to the underlying file system or be aware of just how magical Metal 2 is, updates to key applications such as Notes and Photos will make all that you do so much better.
What'd we miss?
We've covered most of the major features, but is there something we missed that you've found essential to the work you do in Windows or on your Mac? Let us know.