Written by Joshua Hawkins From Lifehacker
Original Article: https://lifehacker.com/the-best-features-of-macos-sonoma-1850879931
The latest version of macOS is now widely available, offering several small changes to the operating system you might miss if you don’t know where to look. It really shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Apple is once again playing things safe, offering what might seem like minor updates to its already solid operating system. Despite how small the changes may seem, though, there’s actually quite a bit to unpack in macOS Sonoma, and it all comes together to create one of the most polished versions of macOS I’ve seen yet.
Finally, widgets worth using
macOS Sonoma finally addresses the ongoing widget problem plaguing both Apple and Microsoft computers for the past several years. Gone are the days of having to open Notification Center to see important information like weather, battery details for your connected Apple devices, and more. Now, you can see all that data directly on your desktop thanks to some really well-crafted widgets.
These widgets are almost exactly like those on iOS 17. To get started, you just right-click (or double-click) on the desktop, select Add Widgets, then select the ones you want. The first widget will determine where the rest of your widgets are set up, which is probably my only dislike here. Of course, the widget quality depends on the app you’re using, too, so keep that in mind.
Ultimately, these widgets make it easy to keep up with important information directly on your Mac’s desktop. That’s made even better with the ability to tap on the desktop to clear all windows, which offers a clean way to check in on things before heading back to work. While it might be easy to clutter up the smaller display of the 13-inch MacBook Air, the 15-inch MacBook Air seems to leave plenty of room to set up multiple widgets without getting in the way of anything.
Web apps, passkey sharing, and more Safari goodies
But the desktop isn’t the only thing Apple has given a small facelift. The company also took the time to renovate how it handles passwords and passkeys, as well ast how websites work on the Mac.
Although Apple first started supporting passkeys with last year’s software updates, the company is really pushing them with the new updates. While passkeys offer a simplified and more secure way to login, you can also now easily share them with other users in both macOS Sonoma and iOS 17.
You can also set up different profiles in Safari, a feature long present in other browsers like Chrome and Edge. These profiles let you separate your various browsing habits, so you can keep work browsing in one profile and personal browsing in another. It’s a nice way to add a little more work/life balance to your Mac, and something I’ve already found myself making use of quite a bit. When I want to take a break from writing, I hop into my personal profile, and vice versa.
Apple has also enhanced private browsing in macOS Sonoma. Now, private browsing locks your windows when you aren’t using them, requiring you to unlock them with a password or Touch ID. In addition, Safari now blocks internet trackers from loading, and even removes tracking that can identify you from URLs.
Perhaps the biggest update to web browsing on Sonoma is the introduction of web apps, which lets you turn any website into an app, complete with its own icon in the Dock. Web apps provide faster access to your favorite and most-used websites, and helps keep the toolbar more streamlined, providing easier browsing access without a slew of bookmarks to sort through.
Video conferencing, messages, and gaming
Of course, you probably use your MacBook for more than just writing emails and browsing the web. Video conferencing is still very much a huge part of our daily lives. With macOS Sonoma, Apple has some new video conferencing features, including the new Presenter Overlay, which allows you to keep yourself front and center during FaceTime and third-party conferencing apps.(This particular feature requires a Mac with Apple silicon.)
Speaking of FaceTime, you now now use hand gestures to trigger 3D effects like balloons, confetti, hearts, and other icons around your video. This is also available on Macs with Apple silicon, and can be used with the iPhone’s Continuity Camera to great effect. It’s a silly feature, but it’s fun nonetheless.
For Messages, Apple has improved how you search for people, keywords, and content types within your messages. You can now swipe to reply to any iMessage bubble, too, just as you can in iOS 17. Live Stickers also sync from iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, letting you access your entire library of Live Stickers no matter which device you’re talking on.
Finally, Apple has a new Gaming Mode on Apple silicon Macs, which gives games the highest priority on the GPU and CPU. This is designed to deliver more consistent frame rates and lower frequency. I tested it out with Baldur’s Gate 3, one of the biggest games of the year, and found that it actually made the experience a lot smoother than I expected. Mind, the M2 chip in the 15-inch MacBook Air certainly does a lot of heavy lifting on its own, but I noticed a nice boost when using Gaming Mode to test out the new feature. Of course, I still recommend leaving gaming to PCs or consoles, as Mac support just isn’t as great as many wish it could be.
Tons of other small improvements
And that’s how macOS Sonoma continues, improving upon the things that Apple introduced macOS Ventura and Big Sur before it. The additions here aren’t mind-blowing by any means, but they also don’t have to be.
It’s still a solid update, and while it might not be as transformative as Big Sur was back when it was released, it brings a ton of small changes that help macOS feel polished and smooth. That polish includes new motion wallpapers and screensavers, featuring beautiful vistas of the world that look especially great when turning on your Mac and logging in. Building off that, Apple also updated the login screen, which now displays a wider view of the wallpaper you’ve selected while providing icons and usernames at the bottom of the screen. Overall, macOS Sonoma feels like a worthy update for the Mac ecosystem.