Every fall Apple releases big updates to all of their system software. About a week after releasing iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, they are releasing macOS 14 Sonoma for Macintosh computers.
As you may know, Apple previously named their Mac software for big cats, but beginning with Mavericks in 2013 Apple has been naming their software for places in California. Sonoma is a county to the north of San Francisco known for its agriculture, dairy, farm-to-table movement, and wine production. It was home to Charles Schultz, creator of The Peanuts. And of course, Williams Sonoma began in Sonoma in 1947 when Chuck Williams opened a little hardware store that quickly discovered a niche market of high-end kitchenware and appliances. Even if you have not heard of Sonoma, if you ever buy fancy food or wine there is a very good chance some of it comes from here. While Napa County just to the east is probably more well-known worldwide and is comparable in many ways, I think Sonoma is just as well-known to Californians.
This year’s updates are pretty useful, especially in regard to passwords. Here are some of my favorite new features you can expect to see when you update:
- Desktop Widgets allow you to add app widgets to your desktop, just as you can on your iPhone and iPad. And you aren’t limited to just widgets from your Mac apps; if you have upgraded to iOS 17 you can add any widgets from your iPhone. I have my upcoming appointments, weather, news, tide charts, and (because I live in San Francisco) a fog map.
- Upgraded iCloud Keychain has a lot of new features and finally makes it a full-featured password manager. You can share items with other people so that you can update your password and don’t have to give the new password to them. Third-party apps can now access passwords and passkeys just as they already can on iPhone and iPad, and Chrome and Chrome-based browsers (such as Brave, Edge, and Opera) can now access the iCloud Keychain using a new plugin (or use this one for Edge). Unfortunately, Firefox does not yet have a plugin to add support.
- Web Apps allow you to add any website to your Dock as a standalone app. Ever wish there was a Gmail app? Now you can have one.
- New Screensavers and Wallpapers have many new drone flyover videos just like Apple TV. If set up as a pair, your screensaver will flow into your wallpaper when you wake your computer up.
- Safari Profiles allows you to segregate your browsing with different cookies, plugins, and histories for each profile.
- And much much more!
Software compatibility is pretty easy this year. Apple has not made any underlying structural changes that widespread broke apps since macOS Catalina dropped support for 32-bit apps in 2019. The latest version of Microsoft Office officially supports Sonoma. While I don’t expect any software to break if you update, you may want to check with the makers of any software apps you rely on before you take the plunge. Most software developers should have official statements in the coming days. That said, the beta (prerelease) versions have gone very well so most people are safe to upgrade right away if you have pretty basic needs and mostly use your computer for the web, email, standard office work, and the built-in apps.
For hardware compatibility, any Mac released in 2018 or later supports Sonoma, as well as the iMac Pro which was released in 2017. To see what your Mac model is go to the Apple menu > About this Mac.
How to upgrade
Please back up your computer before you upgrade your Mac, especially if you are installing the upgrade within the first couple of months. Having a Time Machine backup allows you to roll back the update if it causes any major problems or in case the update fails partway through.
Click the menu, then
- If you see System Settings, click that and go to General > Software Update
- If you see System Preferences, click that and then Software Update
If you upgrade your Mac I also recommend upgrading any iPads and iPhones to iOS 17 since many of the latest features work best when you are running the same generation of software. Go to the Settings app > General > Software Update. If you have not yet upgraded to iOS 17 you should see an iOS 17 banner at the bottom of the screen.
If you are an existing customer who needs help with this or if you have other questions, or if you are in San Francisco and interested in becoming a client I invite you to book an appointment with me. Otherwise, you may wish to contact Apple Support or find a local Apple consultant.
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