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Apple A-Z » Apple Software

macOS Sonoma

macOS Sonoma

macOS Sonoma is a modest update with a few quality-of-life updates paired with ecosystem upgrades also announced for iOS 17. Users can add widgets to their desktops and activate Apple TV-like screensavers in this release.

● New screensavers
● Widgets on the desktop
● Game Mode
● Video conferencing updates
● Several features from iOS 17
● Released September 26, 2023

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Apple updates macOS each year with a handful of user-facing features. Since it is such a mature operating system, significant changes to the system are rare, and macOS Sonoma doesn't push the envelope.

Performance enhancements and APIs for gaming, personalization, and improved video features headline this release. A lot of macOS Sonoma relies on the power of Apple Silicon and the Neural Engine.

Apple continued its theme of naming macOS after locations in California. Sonoma is one of the principal cities of wine country.

macOS Sonoma features

When Apple opened up the macOS section of its WWDC keynotes with new screen savers, it was clear this would be a more minor update. However, the updates that were made are enough of a change to impact daily use.

Widgets on the desktop

In an unexpected move, Apple brought widgets to the macOS desktop. These widgets are identical to the ones found in the Today View on Mac and the Home Screen on iPhone and iPad.

Add widgets to the desktop Add widgets to the desktop

Some widgets can be powered by updates from your nearby iPhone if it is on the same network as your Mac. These widgets can be operated without installing an app.

Widgets can be placed anywhere and can adapt to the wallpaper's color. They are visible behind windows even when using Stage Manager, though they fade out when the desktop isn't in the foreground.

Developers don't need to do much to adopt widgets for desktop use. They are essentially the iPad app widgets, just shown on the desktop and with more space for organization.

New Screensavers

Apple is bringing its slow-motion screensavers to Mac. They appear to be the same screensavers available on Apple TV. Some examples shown during the keynote were identical to the tvOS ones.

Users can set up the new screensavers to act as a wallpaper once logged in. The moving image will settle into a still wallpaper.

Video Conferencing

Several updates are available in FaceTime and other video conferencing apps like Zoom. Users have access to too several new controls for sharing and video framing.

New screensavers and video conferencing updates New screensavers and video conferencing updates

A hand gesture can activate a 3D effect like fireworks or confetti. For example, a thumbs up will start fireworks.

Video effects were enabled by default for third-party apps, but Apple has given developers an option to disable the feature and alert users to its existence. This was due to too many accidental inappropriate effect activations during serious calls like meetings.

New framing controls are also available for Center Stage. Users can select if they'd like to be centered or leave more space with a less cropped zoom.

Presenter Overlay is a machine learning-powered tool that lets users float over their content. They can appear as a small bubble or a full head-and-shoulders cutout.

Web apps in the dock

It is now possible to add web apps to the dock and open them as if they were full apps. This is similar to a feature that has been on iPhone and iPad for years, which lets users add websites to their Home Screen.

The web app will open in a window with a simplified toolbar. Users can even set up notifications from the web app.

Game Mode

The most processor-intensive feature in macOS Sonoma is Game Mode. It gives games priority access to the CPU and GPU and lowers usage for background tasks.

Game Mode enhances gaming on the Mac Game Mode enhances gaming on the Mac

Bluetooth latency is also reduced for controllers and headphones. This enables a more lag-free experience while gaming.

Apple is attempting to entice more game developers to port their games to Metal. That, plus Game Mode, shows that the company is increasingly interested in AAA experiences on Mac.

Inherited iOS 17 features

  • Autocorrect gets transformer language model
  • Temporary codes sent via Mail app show up as a suggestion (similar to Messages)
  • Live Photo Stickers and animated stickers can be created and used across the system
  • PDFs can now be edited in Notes or in place across the system
  • Settings app toggle enables automatic deletion of messages with temporary codes in Mail and Messages after the code is used
  • Reminders gains a grocery sorting feature, new sorting methods
  • Photos is better at recognizing people, now lets users tag their pets
  • Set up Safari Profiles to provide more separation from work and personal browsing.
  • Share passwords and passkeys with friends or family
  • Podcasts now have transcripts of episodes
What's new in macOS Sonoma What's new in macOS Sonoma

Apple released the Journal app with iOS 17.2, but it is only available on iPhone. The new app will likely remain exclusive to iPhone until macOS 15 is announced in 2024.

macOS Sonoma Compatibility

Apple didn't cut many Macs from its support list for this update. Only the 12-inch MacBook, 2017 iMac, and 2017 MacBook Pro lost compatibility.

  • iMac 2019 or later
  • iMac Pro
  • MacBook Air 2018 or later
  • MacBook Pro 2018 or later
  • Mac Pro 2019 or later
  • Mac Studio
  • Mac mini 2018 or later

It may not be many more updates until Intel Macs are cut out entirely. Apple Silicon was introduced in 2020, and no other Intel model has been released since.

macOS Sonoma release date

Apple released macOS Sonoma earlier than previous macOS releases. The Mac operating system generally releases in October or November, but it was ready in September.

After a relatively stable beta cycle, Apple released macOS Sonoma on September 26, 2023.