At the ongoing Worldwide Developers Conference 2016, Apple introduced a new file system, simply named the Apple File System or APFS, which is focused on security.
File systems are mostly out of the general public's eye, with perhaps the only interaction with the average consumer is when new drives are being formatted. For developers though, the introduction of the APFS is a big deal.
The operating systems of Apple for all of its devices, ranging from Mac computers to iPhones to Apple Watches, utilize the Hierarchical File System, or HFS+. The system has been used by Apple for over 18 years, but the company is now replacing it with the APFS.
The APFS is able to offer a unified encryption method for all Apple devices, including multikey encryption which will make breaking into the storage of these devices much harder. Encryption will be among the core foundations of operating systems with the APFS, and not a feature that is added on to them.
According to documentation uploaded on the Developer website of Apple, the APFS makes several improvements upon the HFS+ while supporting almost all of the features of the older file system. Much of the changes focus on the fact that there is an almost two-decade gap between the launch of the HFS+ and the APFS, and so the technology released within that time needed to be taken into consideration. New features for the APFS include flash/SSD storage optimization, fast directory sizing, space sharing, copy-on-write metadata, snapshots, atomic safe-save primitives and files and directories cloning.
Cloning is a particularly useful function as it is able to copy files, directories and hierarchies without taking extra space beyond what the original copy occupies. Snapshots, on the other hand, will allow for easy reversion to an older version of a full volume.
The APFS is currently available to developers in its preview form, with the new file system expected to be launched by next year.
Unlike operating system preview versions, however, the APFS should not be attempted to be tried out by non-developers. This is because the preview version of the file system will not be able to boot up a device and is not yet capable of supporting many Mac apps such as Time Machine and Fusion Drives. In addition, files placed within the APFS may not be able to be accessed properly by later versions of the new file system.
Nevertheless, the APFS signals a new age for Apple and could dictate how the next computers and mobile devices of the company would be developed.
For users looking to watch Apple's other announcements at WWDC 2016, here is how to watch the event on various platforms.