macOS 14 Sonoma is now live in public beta

Apple has just launched the public beta of macOS 14 Sonoma. Maybe you’ve been swimming in those wine country waters for a long time. After all, at WWDC, the company announced that it was opening up early access to its new operating system to anyone with a developer account — not just those who shelled out $99 for the Developer Program.

Of course, a little caution applies. I’ve been running the beta on all my machines since last month’s developer conference and found 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 drops.

As is the case with all Apple OS drops, there’s a lot of common DNA between the different platforms – it’s something that seems to be getting truer with each subsequent release. There are a number of features shared between macOS 14 and iOS 17. We’ll cover those below, but start with some topline desktop-specific additions.

As always, this is a free update, so we highly recommend those with compatible systems upgrade when the time is right. Of course, if you have multiple older applications and workflows, it’s not a bad idea to wait a few weeks to see if people are throwing red flags in regular forums. Any major operating system upgrade runs the very real risk of breaking something. Updating is easy — the reverse is generally less so.

Here’s what’s compatible with Sonoma:

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

Image Credit: Brian Heater

Biggest update? In short: Widgets. In particular, widgets are no longer the only domain of a sidebar. Now you can drag and drop them onto your desktop — a trick borrowed from previous iOS iterations. This is a dynamic process, and once on the desktop, the widget will be below the open window, turning into a transparent panel when you open the application. Interestingly, if you try to drag them over existing files on the desktop, they will push them out.

Image Credit: Brian Heater

If you hold the associated iPhone nearby, an option will appear below the sidebar that lets you drag that device’s widgets onto the desktop as well.

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

Image Credit: Brian Heater

Joining things like the Center Stage are features like reactions, which deliver animated Messages like confetti, hearts, and fireworks. It can be activated by mouse click or hand gesture. It’s compatible across a variety of teleconferencing apps including Zoom, so you don’t need to operate exclusively within FaceTime to take advantage of it. This is a smart move on Apple’s part, as people frankly don’t use FaceTime for business calls. A new “share in” feature is also available in windows for applications such as Preview, allowing you to share directly to teleconferencing applications.

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

Image Credit: Brian Heater

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

Image Credit: Brian Heater

New to the family is the ability to create shareable password groups that will update dynamically. You can choose to remove people from the list at any time. Safari will also lock private browsing windows when you’re away, obfuscating content and keeping it password protected to protect you from unwanted prying eyes.

As 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 you prefer). Auto-correction is also improved, so you can finally type “fuck” and really mean it.

The final release should arrive at some point later this year (signs point to the September/October time frame). Come on down.

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