As promised, Apple opened the download floodgates for macOS 14 Sonoma on 26 September 2023, making it available from System Settings > General > Software Update.
Howard Oakley points out that, at least for those in macOS 13 Ventura, Sonoma is delivered as an update rather than a standalone Install macOS Sonoma installer. In other words, you won’t easily be able to back out if you click Upgrade Now. You will need a Mac released in 2018 or later, with the lone exception of the 2017 iMac Pro (see “The Real System Requirements for Apple’s 2023 Operating Systems,” 19 June 2023). Sonoma is a 4.5 GB download on a 2020 iMac; it’s over 7 GB on M-series Macs.
Sonoma boasts numerous new features, though few are likely to be life-changing. I’ve already heard people suggesting that Sonoma may be a Snow Leopard-like release that focuses more on fixes and refinements than deep foundational changes or massive interface redesigns. This initial release also addresses numerous security vulnerabilities, including those Apple fixed last week in other operating systems (see “OS Security Updates Address Three More Exploited Vulnerabilities,” 21 September 2023).
You may appreciate Sonoma’s new desktop widgets, especially as third-party apps add support. The collection of 135 “Aerial” screen savers (some are underwater, others in space) from the Apple TV will spice up your idle time. The more emotive among us may enjoy the reaction effects you can insert into a video call with a gesture; other videoconferencing improvements like Presenter Overlay are also welcome. Safari now provides profiles for separating work and personal logins, and it lets you turn websites into standalone Web apps. Notes lets you add PDFs to notes, and it gains hypertext capabilities with internal note links.
There’s a lot more, of course, and Apple’s most complete list of improvements is a 12-page PDF that’s well worth scanning. Reviews from around the Web have also started to appear, including articles from Ars Technica, MacStories, and Six Colors that offer some context for and evaluation of the new features. I also recommend Joe Kissell’s Take Control of Sonoma.
I’ve been running the betas for some time on my M1 MacBook Air, where it has been working fine. There have been a few hiccups, but app updates have addressed them. Some of my consultant friends suggest they plan to release it to their clients sooner than usual, perhaps within 3–5 weeks if no red flags start going up with early adopters.
The only change in Sonoma that drove me to distraction is a new default option to hide all windows when you click a blank area on the desktop. For decades, I’ve had a macro in Keyboard Maestro that brings the Finder’s windows to the front whenever I switch to it, so having all my windows scurry off the screen on desktop clicks is disconcerting. Luckily, you can turn off this new feature in System Settings > Desktop & Dock, under the Desktop & Stage Manager settings. Or rather, you can restrict it to Stage Manager; that’s the equivalent of turning it off for me, though actual Stage Manager users may have a different opinion.
Should you upgrade to Sonoma? If you’re asking the question, I’d say that you should wait at least 3–5 weeks to see if any unexpected problems crop up. But if you’re tech-savvy, thoroughly backed up, and aware that you could encounter problems, you’re probably already downloading, and that’s fine.
Regardless, as I’ve said many times, you get stuff done on your Mac using apps, not the operating system. If you install Sonoma, you can likely just keep working along as you were before upgrading—I certainly have.