macOS Sonoma may not have the same buzz as iOS, but there are loads of new features this year to try out on your Mac. You can get beautiful Apple TV-style aerial screensavers, widgets on your desktop, powerful enhancements to Safari and more.
macOS Sonoma will be released at about 10 AM Pacific on Tuesday, September 26. Here are the 36 best features you can look for after you update.
There are a bunch of not-great apps like Spotify and Slack that suck battery life, because they basically run a full copy of Google Chrome inside each window. Chrome is a notorious energy hog, and running multiple copies of its Blink engine inside four different apps can take unnecessary memory and resources.
But you can create your own, much better versions using web apps in the upcoming release of macOS Sonoma.
Web apps in Sonoma are easily made directly in Safari and live in your Mac’s Dock. For apps that you use every day, like Spotify, Discord and Slack, it’s easier to launch them from the Dock and move them around separately from your browser tabs.
Safari web apps won’t drain your battery and they’re incredibly easy to use. Although they can be launched and quit independently from Safari, they share the same system resources, so they barely make a splash on performance.
That’s only part of the disappointment equation, though. Several new features won’t work on older Apple gear, even though the devices can run the new operating systems.
Many of the new features in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 that won’t make it to older iPhones and iPads will go missing primarily because they are very resource-hungry. As for Macs, several macOS Sonoma features won’t come to Intel-based machines. This is sort of a given, since Apple switched to in-house chips that deliver better performance while maintaining ruthless power efficiency. The list of features not available on Intel Macs will only expand over time until Apple eventually drops support for them altogether.
Now that you the reasons for the omissions, here’s a rundown of new features in iOS 17, iPadOS 17 and macOS Sonoma that won’t work on older devices.
A stealth announcement at WWDC23 is that Apple has significantly lowered the barrier of entry to port PC games to the Mac. A new Game Porting Toolkit “provides an emulation environment to run your existing, unmodified Windows game,” says Aiswariya Sreenivassan — a GPU, graphics and displays software engineer at Apple.
It’s a big gap to clear, which is why the Mac has been left behind in recent years. PC games are compiled for the Intel x86 architecture that the Mac just finished moving away from. The unified Apple silicon architecture bears little resemblance to the standard gaming PC with discrete graphics cards and memory. Apple’s Metal 3 library is very different from DirectX, Unity, Unreal and Vulkan — the usual suspects across the computing pond.
Apple’s new tools could open the floodgates for Mac ports of popular PC games. According to a game engine programmer I spoke with, the Game Porting Toolkit demo is “really impressive.” If the tools work as well in practice as in Apple’s demo, they “would be incredibly useful,” said the developer, who works for a major game developer and asked to remain anonymous.
How can you install the macOS 14 Sonoma Developer Beta? While the release is months away, you might want to take it for a test drive or see how your apps work in the new release. Right now, you need to make sure you’re signed into your developer Apple ID and that you have developer betas turned on in the Settings app.
These days, the process is far easier. You no longer need to install a beta profile and reboot your Mac a bunch of times to get it working.
Along with macOS Sonoma and its new features will come Safari 17, the new iteration of Apple’s web browser. It brings an enhanced browsing experience with an even greater emphasis than before on privacy, and most changes will probably apply to iOS and iPadOS, as well.
The changes aren’t terribly glamorous, but beefed-up Private Browsing protects against prying eyes online and off, in addition to some other security enhancements.
And in terms of organization, the new Profiles feature helps you keep separate parts of your life separate and website apps keep your favorite sites at your fingertips.
There are loads of new features that developers will be able to take advantage of that Apple didn’t highlight in the main Keynote. Thus far, they’ve covered improvements to the in-app camera, a standard tips balloon, and an easier way to make animations in SwiftUI.
Apple unveiled macOS 14 — aka macOS Sonoma — at WWDC23 Monday. It brings new gaming functionality, desktop widgets, video screensavers and Safari browser upgrades. That’s in addition to cross-device compatibility reflecting some of the new iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 features.
“Introducing macOS Sonoma a big new release that will make your Mac more delightful and even more productive,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.
“First, many of the features we talked about earlier on iOS and iPad OS are going to be great on the Mac. And macOS Sanoma brings a rich set of features that elevate the experience of macOS,” he added.