macOS Sonoma includes hundreds of additions, improvements, tweaks, and quality-of-life changes. Features range from simplified Siri activation that lets you ditch the "Hey," to interactive desktop widgets, and several accessibility improvements. There's even more you should know about.
Widgets are already available in the Notification Center, but Sonoma brings them directly to the desktop. These desktop widgets are interactive, just like iPhone and iPad widgets, so you can mark off tasks and perform other useful functions directly from a widget instead of opening the corresponding app. Desktop widgets also have a transparency effect in Sonoma, allowing them to fade into the background when you aren’t using them.
In addition to those tweaks, Sonoma also allows for a high level of interactivity between the widgets on your desktop and the widgets on your iPhone. If you have your iPhone handy when you’re using your Mac, and they’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network, widgets you have previously set up on your iPhone will be available on your Mac.
To add desktop widgets: right-click the desktop > edit widgets, then choose the widgets you want.
Safari received several useful tweaks in Sonoma, including enhancements to the private browsing feature and the addition of profiles.
The private browsing enhancements add some extra protection to private browsing sessions. If you step away from your Mac with a private browsing session active, Safari will automatically lock your private tabs to protect them from prying eyes. To unlock the private tabs, you need to use Touch ID or enter your password.
Profiles make using one Mac easier for business and personal activities. Each profile can have its own set of bookmarks, favorites, and extensions. You aren’t limited to just one work profile and one personal profile either, so you can feel free to make as many as you need for whatever purpose you need them for.
To access Safari Profiles, open Safari and navigate to Safari > Settings > Profiles. You can switch between profiles manually, and they can also be used in conjunction with Focus modes to switch automatically. For example, your Work Focus Mode could automatically switch to your work profile.
Safari Web Apps
Web Apps is a new feature in Sonoma that lets you turn any website into a desktop app. This feature creates a shortcut link on the Dock that opens a specific website in a modified Safari window that’s just the website without an address bar, tabs, or any other distractions.
To create a Safari Web App, navigate to a website using the Safari browser. Then click the Share button > Add to Dock. This will create an icon on your Dock that you can click to launch the website as a Web App in the future.
If you remove a Web App from the Dock, you can still access it in the future by navigating to the Applications folder. From there, you can drag a Web App to the Desktop. You can also access these Web Apps through LaunchPad and Spotlight.
Enhanced Video Conferencing
Presenter Overlay is the most important videoconferencing improvement in Sonoma. This feature is available in FaceTime and several other video conferencing apps, including Skype and Zoom. This feature is useful when you’re making a presentation in a video call, as it allows you to show yourself while sharing your screen simultaneously. You can appear either superimposed over the shared screen or in a circle that floats over the screen.
Sonoma also includes a Screen Sharing picker, making sharing an app easier during a video call. To use this feature, click the green button that appears in the upper left corner of the app you want to share, and then choose to share it in the call.
The inclusion of new reactions is slightly less helpful but potentially more fun. You can choose from adding hearts, confetti, and other reaction images to the screen during video calls.
This is for Silicon-based Macs only. If you enjoy gaming on your Mac, you'll appreciate Sonoma's new Game Mode feature. This feature reduces the activity of background tasks and gives CPU and GPU priority to any currently active game when the mode is enabled. It also helps minimize controllers' lag and AirPods latency to improve your gaming experience further.
Improved Autocorrect and Predictive Text
Autocorrect and predictive text are notorious for providing unexpected and unintended results, but these quality-of-life features are better in Sonoma than before. One improvement underlines corrected words briefly, providing you with a visual cue and an opportunity to roll back unwanted corrections.
Predictive text appears right in line with whatever you happen to be typing, with the suggestion appearing in a lighter shade of gray. If the feature has gotten it right, and it’s suggesting the word you were typing, you can press the spacebar to autocomplete the word and save time.
Improvements to speech recognition in Sonoma yield improved dictation results, so you’ll spend less time going back and fixing mistakes. Dictation also works with simultaneous text entry, so you don’t need to switch back and forth between typing and dictation. This works the same way as iPadOS and iOS, where you can type and dictate at the same time, making it easier to switch between the two modes of text entry and faster to go back and fix any mistakes that do crop up.
Privacy and Safety Adjustments
Sonoma brings several adjustments and improvements to privacy and safety features by bringing Communication Safety to AirDrop, the Photos picker, and FaceTime. This opt-in feature is designed to protect children, so it’s good to see it expanded to cover additional apps.
A new Sensitive Content Warning provides additional protection by warning before potentially sensitive images or videos are displayed through AirDrop, Messages, calls, and Facetime messages. In addition to blocking sensitive content, the feature allows blocking the sender.
Better PDF Support
Sonoma includes improved PDF support in a few ways, including enhanced functionality for filling forms with AutoFill, smart recipient recommendations, and displaying PDFs inline in Notes. This update allows Notes to display PDFs and document scans in full width. Also, it lets you link related notes together for improved organization and easier access to specific information.
Sonoma brings several accessibility features to your Mac, including improved support for accessibility devices. If you use a Made for iPhone hearing device, you’ll find that you can now connect such devices directly to your Mac for voice and video calls, listening to music, and watching videos.
Live Speech and Personal Voice
Live Speech is a feature aimed at those who can’t speak or have difficulties speaking. This text-to-speech feature allows a user to communicate by typing during a voice or video call, and the iPhone version also supports in-person conversations. In addition to the text-to-speech functionality, it also includes several common phrases that allow the user to jump in with a quick comment without needing to type at all.
For those who can speak but are at risk of losing that ability, Sonoma also includes Personal Voice. This feature lets you create a custom text-to-speech voice that sounds like you by reading several text prompts. Once you’ve set up this feature, Live Speech can use your Personal Voice.
Will macOS Sonoma Work on Intel?
Yes, macOS Sonoma is compatible with some Intel-based Macs. Compatible models include:
- iMac 2019 or later
- iMac Pro (2017)
- MacBook Air 2018 or later
- MacBook Pro 2018 or later
- Mac Pro 2019 or later
- Mac Studio 2022 and later
- Mac mini 2018 or later
For more compatibility information, check Apple's list of Sonoma-compatible hardware.
If your Intel Mac isn't supported, you'll have to stick with macOS Monterey. If supported, Sonoma is available as a free upgrade, just like it is with Apple Silicon Macs. However, some Sonoma features only work on Apple Silicon.
If you have an Intel Mac, you won't have access to these features:
- Presenter Overlay. This feature displays the user over whatever content they share during video conferencing; it doesn't work on Intel Macs.
- Game Mode. This feature, which limits background tasks to boost performance when you're gaming, isn't available on Intel Macs.
- Screen Sharing. The high-performance mode introduced in macOS Sonoma doesn't work on Intel Macs.
- Made for iPhone compatibility. Intel Macs can't pair made-for-iPhone hearing devices.