What’s new in macOS Sonoma?
macOS Sonoma, named after the famous wine region in California, is the latest version of macOS, due for release in fall 2023. Like most annual updates of macOS, it’s not a huge overhaul but a series of improvements and enhancements that should make macOS look better, work more quickly, and do more. Let’s take a look at all the new features in Sonoma.
macOS Sonoma review
Screensavers on the Mac have changed very little over the years, and Apple decided to fix that in Sonoma. The new screensavers are slow-motion fly-through videos of famous landmarks like the harbor in Hong Kong, Monument Valley, and, naturally, the vineyards of Sonoma. When you log in to your Mac, the screensaver pauses and becomes your desktop background.
Widgets are a fairly recent addition to macOS, so it’s no surprise to see them improved in Sonoma. You can now interact with a Widget by, say, playing or pausing a podcast or turning a device connected to Home on or off. You can now also pull in Widgets from your iPhone and display them on your Mac, even if you don’t have the Mac app installed. And Widgets now fade into the background when you open an app window or use Stage Manager. If you change your desktop wallpaper, Widgets change color to match it.
Video conferencing is another area that Apple, along with much of the tech industry, has focused on in recent years. A new Presenter Overlay feature allows you to place the video of yourself — with the background removed — over the top of your screen when you’re screen sharing. There are two options for overlay, large and small, and they place you on a separate layer over the screen you’re sharing. In the large overlay, you can even walk around in front of the content of the screen you’re sharing while you talk to others on the call. In the small overlay, you appear in a bubble over the top of the screen you’re sharing, and you can move the bubble around to highlight parts of the screen you’re talking about.
If you love sending reactions like fireworks in the Messages app, you’ll love the new reaction feature in video calling. Make a hand gesture in front of the camera, and the screen fills with fireworks, confetti, or hearts. The reactions work on a Mac with Apple silicon when you’re using the built-in camera or when you’re using an iPhone as a webcam. And you can now share one or more apps on a video call using a new Screen Sharing picker.
Finally, on video conferencing, when you use Continuity Camera or the camera on an Apple Studio Display, you can control the composition of the video frame by using pan and zoom controls, and the Recenter feature puts you back in the middle of the frame.
Safari in Sonoma allows you to create profiles, just like you can in Chrome. So you can have one profile for work and one for recreation. Each profile has its own browsing history, favorites, extensions, tab groups, and cookies.
If there are websites you visit often, you’re fed up with having to go to Safari and find your way to them, you can save the website to the Dock as a web app, just using a command in the File menu. When you click the icon in the Dock, the site will launch as if it were an app. You can also choose to receive notifications, just like other apps.
Search in Safari is now faster, and Apple says it provides ‘easier-to-read and more relevant suggestions.’
Passwords and security
If you have a set of passwords you want to share with a group of friends or family members, you can now do that. All you do is set up the group of contacts and select the passwords you want to share. When you update a password, it’s updated in the group. And you can remove anyone from the group at any time.
Private browsing has been improved, and private browsing windows are now locked when you’re not using them. As well as that, private browsing now blocks all unknown trackers and removes tracking from URLs as you browse.
Ever find yourself searching for a message or a photo or URL you shared in the Messages app and being frustrated because you can’t find it? In Sonoma, you can combine search filters to narrow searches, just as you can in Finder windows, which should make it quicker and easier to find what you’re looking for.
If you are involved in lots of different Messages conversations, especially if they’re group conversations, it can be difficult to keep track of where you are in each. In Sonoma, you can just tap on a catch-up arrow to go to the first message you haven’t read in a conversation. And you can swipe right on any message to reply to it.
You can now share your location or request someone you’re messaging share their location with you from the ‘+’ button at the bottom of the Messages window. And there’s a new stickers drawer that keeps all your Memoji and Live Stickers in one place. Stickers sync with all your devices using iCloud.
Notes and PDFs
Notes has had some significant improvements and new features in recent versions of macOS, so it’s no surprise that the changes in Sonoma Notes are more modest. You can now link one note to another, making Notes a more useful tool for planning trips and events or creating a set of instructions or guides. You can start writing a note in Notes and then use the Share button to continue working on it in Pages, so you can customize the layout. Viewing PDFs in Notes is now easier, and you can view a PDF document full width in Notes and easily navigate from page to page. You can even keep more than one PDF in a single note. And there’s a new autofill feature for PDFs that allows you to use information from the Contacts app to fill in forms, just as you can on websites in Safari.
Apple has improved autocorrect in Sonoma so that it can now suggest the rest of a sentence in line as you type. All you have to do is tap the spacebar to accept the suggestion. Autocorrected words are now underlined, and you can revert to the original with a click.
A new Game mode gives priority to games when it comes to CPU and GPU resources, reducing background tasks that might negatively affect game performance. Latency is also reduced when using accessories like AirPods and game controllers.
Privacy and security
Privacy and security have been key parts of most recent macOS updates, and while there are now big announcements for Sonoma, there are a few enhancements. There is greater protection from what Apple terms ‘sensitive’ photos and videos in Messages and third-party apps. So, for example, when someone sends you a message that contains what macOS deems to be a sensitive photo or video, you can choose to have the OS blur it out until you click on Show to view it.
Sonoma gives you greater control over how apps access your photos and calendars. You can now choose to allow an app to share specific photos without giving it access to your library, and you can allow an app to add an event to your calendar without it seeing other events. There’s also a new Lockdown Mode that Apple says gives your Mac greater protection against cyber attacks.
There are lots more new features in Sonoma:
- If you use Live Speech to communicate, you can now create a personal voice that sounds more like you.
- Screen Sharing has been improved for Macs with Apple silicon to make it more responsive when you remotely access your Mac over a high-bandwidth connection.
- Reminders now automatically sorts shopping lists into categories. And there’s a new column view that organizes content into columns across the screen.
- Mail now automatically puts travel-related emails at the top of search results as the travel date approaches.
- Visual Look Up allows you to find similar recipes from a photo of a dish or look up information on an object in a still video frame.
- The People album in Photos has been improved and now includes family cats and dogs.
- You can share AirTag or FindMy accessories’ locations with up to five other people.
- An update to Automatic Switching for AirPods makes switching much faster.
- Activity History in the Home app allows you to see who locked or unlocked a door and when.
- Siri can now be activated by just saying ‘Siri’ instead of ‘Hey, Siri.’
- You can now switch more fluidly between dictation and typing on a keyboard.
macOS Sonoma isn’t the most significant update to Mac in recent years, but it has plenty of new features and improvements to make it worth updating.