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macOS Sonoma – 1st impressions

I took the plunge – was it worth it?

macOS Sonoma best bits

macOS Sonoma became available for everybody last week – so I took the plunge and installed it in both my M2 MacBook Air and also the bread and butter machine – the machine I am working on right now – the M1 MacBook Pro.

You know what they say – in for a penny, in for a pound!

I’ve never had the balls to install betas – there just seem too many risks attached to that. But, in years before this, I have always waited to install the latest macOS – I have never done it on the day of release.

That was in part my being cautious but also out of necessity.

I used to be involved with broadcasting and radio. I relied on a lot of third-party audio plug-ins. They are notorious for being slow to update to macOS releases so I always had to wait for the email letting me know all was good to go.

As I am now free of that and my main powerhouse apps are the Adobe Creative Cloud apps, I figured I was pretty safe to get Sonoma installed early on.

I’ve been using it since the weekend and now that I’ve had some time to play with it here are some of the features that I have stumbled across that I like the most.

macOS Sonoma & wallpapers

The poster boy of any new macOS release tends to always be the signature wallpaper for that year – this year though, they are even more impressive as they come to life!

If you are familiar with the rolling high-def screensavers on Apple TV, well they have now come to your Mac. In system settings, you’ll now find some amazing choices under both wallpaper & screen saver options. You can choose from cityscapes, underwater, earth or even shuffle through aerial rotations.

I wasn’t prepared for how stunning these would look and – they become oddly addictive. I’ve also found a few of them have choices as to how often you want them to refresh – suddenly wallpapers are a ‘thing’!

You’ll have to download the ones you want to use first – but trust me, you are spoiled for choice.

I now find myself wistfully staring at a San Francisco evening just because…actually very calming – if not great for productivity!

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Widgets

I have never really bought into the widget thing, but if they’re the bag you’re into – they are now part of macOS Sonoma.

To add a widget just right-click on your desktop then drag and drop. When you are working in another app, they become transparent and blend in with the wallpaper you’ve just chosen – so are less distracting.

Oddly, having just said that I’m no fan of widgets, having the clock on the view the whole time I’ll admit is kinda neat…I’ve also added the battery charge widget to the desktop now too – what’s become of me?

I don’t know if this was a ‘thing’ before or not, but I’ve also just found that just clicking on your desktop moves all open apps to one side – so if you’re trying to find a particular folder this a super quick way to clear the decks rather than having to physically open another desktop view.

Web apps

I know this has been available in other browsers before but it now comes to Safari which is still the browser I use the most.

Simply put it means you can save any website you are looking at as an app to your dock. As with everything I’ve come across on this release it’s easy to use as well. Say you want to add Twitter (X) to your dock just go to ‘File’ at the top of your screen and there you’ll find the fourth option from the bottom is now ‘add to dock’.

Oh and also Safari now gives you the option to create a separate user profile. Head to Safari > Create Profile > Start Using Profiles. So let’s say you have a personal Twitter profile and a business one you can now start running separate profiles to reflect that.

AirPod switching & Siri

Just a quickie about the fabled AirPods feature that has forever been a pain…it actually seems a bit better now and more reliable – not perfect, but a big improvement. At least most of the time it now seems to detect what device you want to connect to.

As much as that has been improved, the same is not true of Siri.

In theory, we are now meant to be able to use the wake-up command of just one word – ‘Siri’ rather than ‘Hey Siri’ but I’ve had very mixed results when trying it out. And it still gets confused when asking HomePods to add items to Reminders, asking me to turn on Personal Notifications in the Home app, even though they are turned on.

Siri continues to frustrate…

Reminders

This one sounds tiny, but is actually useful.

Hopefully, I am not alone in keeping a running shopping list going during the week adding items as they come to mind (tell me that’s not just my age showing)!

Now if you go to ‘File’ and New List you’ll be given the choice in a drop-down of choosing ‘Shopping’ in the style type. The clever part about is that Reminders will try its best to make categories for you which in theory should make shopping easier. You can even re-order the categories to best suit the layout of your supermarket.

I’ve found I can add items with Siri with my phone reliably enough and it’s actually proven really handy.

Bits and bobs

Filling in editable PDFs is now better in Preview giving you far more options and choices and even letting you add signatures.

In the Photos app, you can now name pets along with people and the Notes app will now let you add links to other notes. The quickest way I found to do that was to double click >> and that will bring up a list of your notes to add saving searching around for the note you wanted.

Suggestive or predictive text has been refined. It works over all apps on your Mac – not just messages. It’s proven super useful with the Mail app and even in Ulysses where I’m writing this.

You’ll see greyed-out suggestions of words that Sonoma thinks you’ll want and you accept them by tapping the space bar. I’ve found it’s starting to learn my way of writing the more I use it – AI at work my friends. Now, rather than being a nuisance, it is actually helpful.

And lastly, in my macOS Sonoma walk-through, FaceTime has now come of age.

Some of the features I was used to in Continuity Camera such as Portrait Mode and Studio Light have now been added to FaceTime and you can add reactions too.

You can now share windows or apps while on a call and overlay yourself with a picture-in-picture effect – so if you are presenting a KeyNote presentation you can now appear in a cutout in the lower part of the screen making it a far more work-like tool.

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