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1678: macOS 14 Sonoma available, two portable laptop stands, iPhone Always-On display poll results, which Web browsers do you use?

As promised, Apple has released macOS 14 Sonoma, and while we urge caution for everyday Mac users, eager early adopters are busy installing it and playing with the new features. On the iPhone side of the fence, we report on the results of our poll about what percentage of iPhone 14 Pro users keep the Always-On display enabled. Julio Ojeda-Zapata joins us to review a pair of laptop stands he tested for use with the 15-inch MacBook Air. Finally, this week’s Do You Use It? poll asks which Web browsers you use on your Mac. Notable Mac app releases this week include Safari 17, Mimestream 1.1.2, Acorn 7.4.3, Transmit 5.10.2, Scrivener 3.3.3, DEVONthink 3.9.3, SuperDuper 3.8, Alfred 5.1.3, OmniFocus 3.15 and OmniOutliner 5.12, Quicken 7.3.1, and Fantastical 3.8.4 and Cardhop 2.2.13.

Adam Engst 41 comments

macOS 14 Sonoma Now Available

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.

macOS 14 Sonoma release notes

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.

Turn off desktop-revealing click in Sonoma

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.

Adam Engst 17 comments

Do You Use It? iPhone Always-On Display Popular but Not Universal

One of the innovative bits of technical wizardry in last year’s iPhone 14 Pro was the Always-On display. It’s a marvel, displaying helpful information on a dimmed screen while using minimal extra power. Apple debuted the Always-On display with the Apple Watch four years ago (see “Apple Watch Series 5 Introduces Always-On Display,” 10 September 2019), and the company’s engineers must have thought, “Hey, let’s do that with the iPhone, too.” Unsurprisingly, the new iPhone 15 Pro models retain the Always-On display, and it seems no different than the iPhone 14 Pro’s version.

We have now had a year to live with the Always-On display—enough time for the novelty to have worn off—which caused me to wonder if I am unusual in not liking it. Our poll showed that I’m by no means alone among TidBITS readers. Roughly a third of respondents said they had turned off the Always-On display, but nearly two-thirds keep it on.

Do You Use It? poll results for Always-On display

Always-On fans gave expected reasons for liking it—it provides valuable information at a glance, most notably the date and time. Other Lock Screen information that people like being able to see includes timers, device battery life, and tracking of delivery or ride requests. Most people appreciated seeing Lock Screen photos of loved ones and pets.

Simultaneously, many of the naysayers said they found Lock Screen information distracting, even though Apple provides switches to hide the wallpaper and notifications while keeping the date, time, and widgets visible on an otherwise black screen. Plus, I imagine that some people are like me and find that a completely dark screen doesn’t trigger as much desire to pick up the iPhone as does a visible interface. Of course, putting the iPhone face down on a surface would have much the same effect, although an incoming notification wouldn’t then wake the screen in a helpful way. When I enabled the Always-On display for a while during the poll, just to see if my opinions had changed, I found that I couldn’t stop looking at the iPhone screen when it was within my sight, which wasn’t true when it was dark.

The other common rationale for turning off the Always-On display was to improve battery life. Although Apple says it uses “new technologies that make the display incredibly power efficient,” keeping the Always-On display active does consume some power. How much that affects everyday usage seems to vary, with some people seeing no practical impact and others finding that it makes a real difference. One person reported that Apple support had suggested that he turn off Always-On to help with his iPhone 14 Pro dying after 10–12 hours.

Ultimately, there’s no correct answer here—you should do what you like. If you find the Always-On display distracting or want to make the most of your charge, turn it off in Settings > Display & Brightness. And if you like the idea but find it somewhat distracting, perhaps try turning off the wallpaper and notifications before deactivating it entirely.

Always-On display controls

Julio Ojeda-Zapata 4 comments

Two Laptop Stands Appropriate for a 15-inch MacBook Air

I never used to give much thought to laptop stands. Apple’s recently released 15-inch MacBook Air—an expanded version of the 13-inch model with otherwise comparable specs—changed that.

This is the first MacBook Air I don’t routinely close when connecting it to an external monitor, which is how I mostly use laptops. I like it to stay open and next to the display for a dual-screen setup—the bigger 15-inch MacBook Air display works better than the 13-inch version because it is easier on the eyes.

I’m also using the 15-inch MacBook Air on its own more than I did with smaller Apple laptops. I treat it as a workstation in its own right, where ergonomics are also important. Rather than hunch over the laptop and risk neck strain, I need its screen at eye level while I use external input devices.

So, finding a high-quality laptop stand became a top priority. I needed one sturdy enough to support the 15-inch MacBook Air yet portable enough to tuck into my backpack when leaving my home office for work meetings. Adjustability is a must.

I found two notebook stands that met my requirements—the Roost by the company of the same name and the Curve Flex by familiar accessory manufacturer Twelve South—but do so in different ways. I like both, but only one has earned a regular spot on my desk.

Curve Flex and Roost stands

Curve Flex

Twelve South fans are familiar with the Curve, a $59.99 MacBook stand available in white or black that is stylishly curvy but not adjustable or portable. Twelve South’s $39.99 Curve SE, a budget version of the Curve available in silver, has the same issues.

Enter the Curve Flex, which isn’t cheap at $79.99 but provides adjustability and portability. It consists of three metal parts connected via stiff hinges:

  • The bottom piece, shaped like the letter U, securely plants the stand on a desk or table.
  • The middle piece, shaped a bit like the letter H, attaches to the back of the bottom piece. Its hinge action provides height adjustability up to 22 inches (56 cm).
  • The upper piece, a dead ringer for the bottom component, holds the laptop. Its hinge action enables tilt adjustability up to 45 degrees.

That upper piece tends to vanish from view when the laptop is on it, so the groovy effect is that of a floating spaceship docked to the big H.

Curve Flex laptop stand on the desktop

The Curve Flex, available in matte black or white, collapses into a flattened bundle and comes with a soft case.

Curve Flex in a bag

Getting the hang of using the Curve Flex takes some effort—Twelve South provides a sticker with visual instructions—and the hinges are tight. It’s a good idea to take your MacBook off the stand while making adjustments, lest you damage the laptop by pushing on it too much. You will definitely want to do that when adjusting the hinges’ tension using an Allen wrench.

I find the Curve Flex to be a bit of a hassle. It is not as compact as I would like in my backpack, and manhandling it into position for a work session is a production. But I can’t complain too much because it otherwise meets my needs. I have mostly used it at home, where it moved around infrequently, and only occasionally did I take it on the road.

The Curve Flex is a design triumph in one sense: it can support a laptop in an extremely cramped space. I have used it for work with my employer-issued ThinkPad right up against a wall and tucked between 27-inch displays. And I’ve set it up at a snug computer desk where using a laptop with external input devices would otherwise have been next to impossible.

Roost

You would be forgiven for scoffing at the Roost, which at first glance seems ridiculously flimsy. The plasticky stand, though clever in how it expands from a rod-like bundle, appears too rickety to hold a large laptop securely.

Roost laptop stand

I needed convincing, so I emailed Roost maker James Olander. Here’s a lightly edited part of his response:

The stand is made from glass-filled nylon, which is intentional as it allows the Roost to be as light as it is. The parts are optimized for maximum strength and stiffness (my background is in structural aerospace engineering). We offer a lifetime warranty on the product because we designed it to be incredibly robust. We wouldn’t do that if we had concerns about durability.

The $89.95 Roost has become my default stand because it is super portable. It almost looks like a mini-umbrella when collapsed and tucked into its nylon sleeve, and it’s a cinch to deploy once you get the hang of how to unfold it in a single, smooth motion.

Roost video showing opening and closing

The Roost lacks the Curve Flex’s tilt adjustability and is intended solely to raise and lower a MacBook using sliding tabs that have seven adjustments with entirely reasonable elevations between 6 and 11 inches (15 to 28 cm). The woman in the animation below is making adjustments with her laptop on the stand, which I never figured out how to do without a struggle, but it’s simple to do when the stand is empty.

Roost video showing setup

The laptop fits into pivoting grips that hold it gently but firmly. The Roost’s stability is good; there’s a bit of shake if you prod the computer, but it’s not going anywhere. Nor is the setup tippy—it would take quite a hit to knock over the stand with the laptop in it. Plus, the Roost has non-skid feet, so it won’t slide around on your desk.

Roost video showing the laptop going in and out

My Last Stand

The Curve Flex and the Roost are both pretty portable, but the cleverly collapsible Roost is significantly more so, thanks to its light weight and minimal space requirements. Despite its small size, it’s an impressively adjustable and seemingly durable laptop stand for anyone looking to raise a MacBook off the desk surface.

Watchlist

Safari 17 Agen Schmitz 8 comments

Safari 17

Apple has released Safari 17 for macOS 13 Ventura and macOS 12 Monterey with new features and security updates—it’s the version that ships with macOS 14 Sonoma (see “macOS 14 Sonoma Now Available,” 26 September 2023). The updated Web browser introduces profiles to keep your browsing separate for topics like work and personal, separating your history, cookies, extensions, tab groups, and favorites for each profile. It also brings enhanced private browsing that locks your private browsing windows when you’re not using them and blocks known trackers from loading; a streamlined search that provides more relevant, faster, and easier-to-read results; and support for multiple tab selection. Finally, Safari 17 addresses five security vulnerabilities. You can download Safari 17 only via Software Update. (Free, release notes, macOS 12+)

Mimestream 1.1.2 Agen Schmitz No comments

Mimestream 1.1.2

Mimestream has released version 1.1.2 of its Gmail-specific email app, improving compatibility with macOS 14 Sonoma. With respect to Sonoma, the update fixes a bug that caused tokens not to draw in address fields, puts a stop to the sidebar flashing during syncing activity, and resolves an issue where hovering over labels with colors in the menus could cause them to turn black. The release also resolves a crash loop caused by the Gmail API occasionally not returning the Starred label, fixes a bug where Control-clicking some areas of message list cells failed, ensures text size adjustments via Command-+/- work correctly, and resolves an issue where mentions didn’t appear if typed mid-sentence. ($49.99 annual subscription, 12.1 MB, release notes, macOS 12+)

Acorn 7.4.3 Agen Schmitz No comments

Acorn 7.4.3

Flying Meat has issued Acorn 7.4.3, updating the image editor with new features, improvements, and bug fixes. Acorn now lists the number of pixels you have selected in the selection palette, adds an Auto Level/Straighten action to the command bar, ensures polygon tags are read into bezier shapes when importing SVG files, includes the cursor in layered screenshots, fixes drawing issues that appeared in macOS 14 Sonoma, resolves an issue where the system color picker would try to match color profiles between two different images that didn’t match, and fixes a bug that displayed a warning when trying to save a file in .acorn format that was previously in .webp. ($39.99 new from Flying Meat and the Mac App Store, 20% discount for TidBITS members, 21.1 MB, release notes, macOS 10.14+)

Transmit 5.10.2 Agen Schmitz No comments

Transmit 5.10.2

Panic has published Transmit 5.10.2, adding new AWS S3 storage regions from around the globe (from Hyderabad to Zurich). The file transfer app lets you set and modify special permissions for remote files on SFTP connections, addresses a potential crash when expanding local browser folder contents when using list view, resolves a crash that occurred when stopping uploads after multiple errors, deals with an SFTP authentication issue affecting specific server configurations, fixes an issue with Google Drive folder aliases not resolving as expected, handles an issue that could cause tabs to be displayed at smaller than expected sizes on some versions of macOS, and increases the system requirements to a minimum of macOS 12 Monterey. ($45 new, free update, 35.4 MB, release notes, macOS 12+)

Scrivener 3.3.3 Agen Schmitz No comments

Scrivener 3.3.3

Literature & Latte has issued Scrivener 3.3.3, updating the long-form writing tool with improvements and compatibility with macOS 14 Sonoma. The release increases the minimum system requirements to macOS 10.13 High Sierra or later, requires those using High Sierra to use an external version of MultiMarkdown because the bundled MultiMarkdown converter requires at least 10.14 Mojave, fixes a bug that could cause a first-launch crash, resolves a crash that could occur with comments spanning more than one paragraph in imported Word documents, fixes a bug that failed to import structured document text in DOCX files, ensures the images of certain buttons are displayed in Sonoma, and resolves an issue that could cause third-party tools to report a code-signing error when probing Scrivener’s app bundle. ($49 new, free update, 126 MB, release notes, macOS 10.13+)

DEVONthink 3.9.3 Agen Schmitz No comments

DEVONthink 3.9.3

DEVONtechnologies has released DEVONthink 3.9.3, bringing improvements to quoting, working with custom metadata, and viewing computer code in Markdown. The document and information manager adds Remove Links and Remove Attachments scripts to Scripts > Format, minimizes the potential for text layer corruption in PDFs, improves detection of linked text in PDF documents, ensures the last selected item is selected when navigating back to search results, fixes a bug that caused inspectors of a main window to not update after the selection changes, fixes a bug that caused some documents to be locked or inaccessible, and addresses a memory-related crash when syncing over Bonjour. The Pro edition of DEVONthink also preserves image quality when running PDFs through OCR when Resolution in the OCR preferences is set to As Source and Compression is disabled. ($99 new for DEVONthink, $199 for DEVONthink Pro, and $499 for DEVONthink Server with a 15% discount for TidBITS members; free update; release notes; 134 MB; macOS 10.14+)

SuperDuper 3.8 Agen Schmitz No comments

SuperDuper 3.8

Shirt Pocket has released SuperDuper 3.8 with full support for macOS 14 Sonoma, plus several bug fixes. The update addresses intermittent double-launching during installation from download, resolves a problem saving new schedules under Sonoma, works around issues with Mobile Documents and iCloud Desktop and Documents under Sonoma, fixes a bug that could cause occasional crashes during startup on M-series Macs, and banishes straight quotes “to the land of wind and ghosts.” (Free for basic functionality, $27.95 for additional features, free update, 9.7 MB, release notes, macOS 10.10+)

Alfred 5.1.3 Agen Schmitz No comments

Alfred 5.1.3

Running with Crayons has issued Alfred 5.1.3, updating the keyboard-driven launcher to address issues related to macOS 14 Sonoma. The update adds temporary mitigations to a Sonoma visual glitch until a workaround can be established and adds a Default Results Fixed Size preference for those experiencing rendering bugs in Alfred’s default results in Sonoma. The release also matches Safari’s behavior in defaulting to google.com for Google searches, adds additional countries to “Where are you” for website localization, and ensures using the Escape key within Alfred now closes the app regardless of stacked views. (Free for basic functionality, £34 for Powerpack, 5.3 MB, release notes, macOS 10.14+)

OmniFocus 3.15 and OmniOutliner 5.12 Agen Schmitz No comments

OmniFocus 3.15 and OmniOutliner 5.12

The Omni Group has released version 3.15 of its OmniFocus task management app and version 5.12 of its OmniOutliner outlining and information-organization app with improved compatibility with macOS 14 Sonoma. OmniFocus addresses compatibility issues that could cause window elements to fail to display or close unexpectedly in Sonoma, fixes a bug that could cause iCloud plug-ins to fail to display, and enables server database backup creation to be optionally skipped when manually replacing a server database.

OmniOutliner fixes a crash when using the Help menu search with an empty clipboard in Sonoma and improves compatibility with linked resource folders stored in OneDrive. (OmniFocus: $49.99 new for Standard, $99.99 for Pro, or $9.99 monthly subscription, 67.1 MB release notes; OmniOutliner: $19.99 new for Essentials, $99.99 for Pro, or $4.99 monthly subscription, 37.9 MB, release notes; free updates and macOS 11+ for both apps)

Quicken 7.3.1 Agen Schmitz 3 comments

Quicken 7.3.1

Quicken Inc. has issued version 7.3 of Quicken for Mac, with the Home Dashboard gaining a new Bills & Income card that displays upcoming bills and expected income. Quicken also now enables you to customize your Home Dashboard by hiding or displaying specific cards and adds a warning when editing the category on a transfer transaction (noting the change would delete the other side of the transfer). Version 7.3.1 was subsequently released to address a crash that could occur if Quicken encountered an error while opening a file. ($34.99/$51.99/$77.99 annual subscriptions, free update for subscribers, 3.2 MB installer download, release notes, macOS 10.15+)

Fantastical 3.8.4 and Cardhop 2.2.13 Agen Schmitz No comments

Fantastical 3.8.4 and Cardhop 2.2.13

Flexibits has released the calendar app Fantastical 3.8.4 and contact-management app Cardhop 2.2.13 with bug fixes. Both Fantastical and Cardhop resolve a crash that occurred for some users running macOS 11 Big Sur, and Fantastical eliminates crashes that could occur when dragging items or when running some Shortcuts actions. Fantastical also resolves an issue where Google Workspace resources wouldn’t sync consistently, fixes a bug that caused Migration Assistant to fail to detect a new device, and ensures that switching between calendar sets no longer causes scrolling. ($56.99 annual subscription includes both from Flexibits and the Mac App Store, free updates, 70/30.4 MB, Fantastical release notes/Cardhop release notes, macOS 11+)

ExtraBITS

Adam Engst 1 comment

Do You Use It? Mac Web Browsers

Apple’s Safari Web browser has been a fixture of the Mac experience since 2003, when it debuted with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. Twenty years later, Apple has released Safari 17 alongside macOS 14 Sonoma, also making it available for macOS 13 Ventura and macOS 12 Monterey (see “Safari 17,” 2 October 2023).

However, Safari has long had competition from cross-platform browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox, and more recently, we’ve seen a host of upstarts with alternative visions of what a Web browser should be. Safari is almost certainly the most popular browser among Mac users, but I’m curious how other browsers rank amongst TidBITS readers for at least occasional use. Hence, this week’s poll question: Which Web browsers do you use on your Mac?