macOS 14 Sonoma is now live in public beta

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Apple just dropped a public beta of macOS 14 Sonoma. Perhaps you’ve been swimming in those wine country waters for a while now. After all, back at WWDC, the company announced that it was opening up early access to its new operating systems to anyone with a developer account — not just those shelling out the $99 for the Developer Program.

Of course, the regular bit of caution applies. I’ve been running betas on all my machines since last month’s developer conference and have encountered a few bugs here and there. Nothing major, but enough to suggest people hold off on installing on their day drivers until the final version has dropped.

As is the case with all Apple OS drops, there’s a lot of common DNA between the different platforms — that’s something that seems to be truer and truer with each subsequent release. There are a number of shared features between macOS 14 and iOS 17. We’ll be hitting on those below, but kicking things off with some of the topline desktop-only additions.

As ever, it’s a free update, so we largely recommend those with compatible systems upgrade when the time is right. Of course, if you’ve got some older apps and workflows, it’s never a bad idea to wait a few weeks to see if folks are throwing up any red flags on the usual forums. Any major operating system upgrade runs the very real risk of breaking things. Updating is easy — reverse is generally less so.

Here’s what’s compatible with Sonoma:

• iMac: 2019 and later
• Mac Pro: 2019 and later
• iMac Pro: 2017
• Mac Studio: 2022 and later
• MacBook Air: 2018 and later
• Mac mini: 2018 and later
• MacBook Pro: 2018 and later

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The biggest update? In a word: Widgets. Specifically, widgets are no longer the sole domain of the sidebar. Now you can drag and drop them onto the desktop — a trick borrowed from earlier iterations of iOS. It’s a dynamic process, and once on the desktop, the widgets will sit beneath open windows, turning into a translucent pane when you’ve got an app open. Interestingly, if you attempt to drag them on top of files sitting on the desktop, they’ll push them out of the way.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

If you hold an associated iPhone nearby, an option will populate beneath the sidebar that lets you pull that device’s widgets to the desktop, as well.

The last few macOS updates have, thankfully, had a much greater focus on video conferencing. Along with improved webcam hardware and features like Continuity Camera (which lets you use a connected iPhone as a webcam), it’s good to see the company focused on this aspect of work and life that hasn’t faded even as COVID restrictions have loosened.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Joining things like Center Stage are features like reactions, which bring Messages animations like confetti, hearts and fireworks. These can be activated with a mouse click or hand gesture. Those are compatible across various teleconferencing apps including Zoom, so you don’t have to operate exclusively inside of FaceTime to take advantage. It’s a smart move on Apple’s part, as people frankly don’t use FaceTime for business calls. A new “share on” feature is also available in windows for apps like Preview, allowing you to share directly to a teleconferencing app.

There’s also Presenter Overly, which turns your presentation into a background like a virtual whiteboard. Or you can turn your head into a bubble inset and let the presentation monopolize the screen.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Safari’s filing system gets another upgrade, with the addition of Profiles. You can split them into different places like “Home,” “Work” and “School” to make sure you don’t cross the streams bookmarks, tab groups, history and cookies. The browser also now lets you save “web apps” to the Dock. Visit a site in Safari, go to File > Add to Dock and it will save the site’s favicon below for easy access.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

New for families is the ability to create a group of shareable passwords that will dynamically update. You can choose to remove people from the list whenever. Safari will also lock private browsing windows when you’re away, obscuring the content and making them password protected to protect you from unwanted snooping.

As per usual, Messages is getting some cross-OS updates. That includes the ability to add multiple search filters, swipe to replay and the ability to share your location via Apple Maps (if so inclined). Autocorrect is getting upgraded, too, so you can finally type “fuck” and really mean it.

The final release is due to arrive at some point later this year (signs point to a September/October time frame). Let’s ducking go.

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