What Is macOS?

Everything you should be aware of regarding updates for macOS.


macos sonoma

Apple’s macOS is the software platform utilized by various Apple devices, such as the MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac mini. The most recent iteration of this operating system is macOS 14, also known as Sonoma.

macOS 14 Sonoma

Release date: TBD; likely October 2023

macos sonoma wallpaper

MacOS 14 Sonoma, which takes its name from the renowned vineyard region in northern California, represents the 20th major release of the Mac operating system. It introduces numerous enhancements compared to its predecessor, Ventura.

One notable improvement is the ability to easily add and manage widgets on your desktop. Additionally, when your iPhone is in proximity, you can seamlessly transfer widgets from your phone to your Mac.

The introduction of Game Mode is another significant update, allowing for the prioritization of system resources for the game you are playing by minimizing other processes. Sonoma also enhances the gaming experience by optimizing compatibility with game controllers and AirPods, reducing latency.

Safari introduces the concept of profiles, enabling users to separate their work-related activities from personal ones. Moreover, private browsing receives a boost with enhanced tracker blocking capabilities, and the option to securely share login credentials via iCloud is now available.

macOS 13 Ventura

Release date: October 24, 2022

macOS 13 Ventura

MacOS 13 Ventura, named after the renowned coastal city in California famous for its stunning beaches, surfers, and windsurfers, represents the 19th major release of the Mac operating system. This new version introduces enhanced continuity features and powerful productivity tools, elevating the Mac experience to unprecedented levels of performance.

One notable addition is the Stage Manager, a cutting-edge feature designed to automatically organize open files and applications on the desktop. By doing so, users can maintain their focus on the main window they are actively working on without being overwhelmed by numerous open windows vying for attention. The Stage Manager ensures that the main window remains front and center on the screen while grouping other open files and apps into compact icons positioned on the left side.

The Mac Mail application undergoes a significant overhaul in Ventura, bringing about substantial improvements. With this update, senders gain the ability to schedule emails and even cancel their delivery if necessary. Additionally, users can conveniently mark a specific date and time to return to a message and receive prompts to follow up on emails that have not received a response.

Continuity lies at the core of macOS, expanding the options for seamless interaction between multiple Apple devices whenever it is convenient for users. For instance, if you receive a call on your iPhone, when you come within proximity of your Mac, you will be prompted to switch to the larger screen. Moreover, a new feature called Handoff simplifies the process of transferring a FaceTime call from an iPhone to an iPad or Mac. Furthermore, the Continuity Camera feature allows users to utilize their iPhone as a webcam for their Macs, providing enhanced functionality.

macOS 12 Monterey

Release date: October 25, 2021

macOS 12 Monterey

macOS Monterey, the 18th major release of the Mac operating system, takes its name from the city of Monterey, located on California’s rugged central coast. It builds upon the solid foundation established by Big Sur and incorporates numerous enhancements.

One highly anticipated feature, Universal Control, allows users to control multiple Macs and iPads placed side by side using a single mouse, trackpad, and keyboard.

Significant improvements can be seen in the Mac’s core applications. Messages now includes a convenient Save button for Photos, while Apple Books has been upgraded with Reading Goals, Reading Now, and Want to Read features. Safari has undergone a major redesign, featuring a more streamlined tab bar, tab groups, and the introduction of iCloud Private Relay. This service ensures that outgoing Mac traffic is encrypted, providing protection against interception and misuse.

FaceTime audio and video have received extensive updates. During group FaceTime calls, participants can enjoy synchronized activities such as watching TV shows or movies together as well as listening to music. Playback controls, such as pause, fast-forward, or changing screens, are synchronized in real-time across all participants’ screens.

Certain new features require a Mac equipped with Apple’s M1 chip. These include portrait mode on FaceTime, on-device dictation without any time limitations, spatial audio, an interactive globe, and new city experiences within the Maps app.

macOS 11 Big Sur

Release date: November 12, 2020

macOS 11 Big Sur

Renowned for its picturesque mountainous region in central California, macOS 11 Big Sur stands as the 17th major release of Apple’s Mac operating system. Unveiled at WWDC20, this latest iteration showcases a breathtakingly beautiful design reminiscent of iOS.

In contrast to the incremental improvements seen in Catalina compared to Mojave, macOS Big Sur introduces the most substantial changes to the Apple operating system in years. Notably, it empowers the new M1-chip Macs to seamlessly run iPad and iPhone apps directly on the Mac platform.

Here are some other notable modifications you will encounter:

  • The introduction of iOS Control Center on Macs with Big Sur.
  • Long-awaited redesigns of the Calendar, Mail, Photos, and Messages apps.
  • Enhanced privacy measures in Safari, including the provision of privacy reports through its Intelligent Tracking feature and password monitoring to prevent data breaches.
  • Maps introduces new functionalities such as Look Around, offering an alternative to Google’s Street View, and Guides from trusted sources.

The major highlights of macOS Big Sur encompass:

  • Safari boasts a 50 percent faster performance compared to Chrome.
  • The addition of the Control Center.
  • Customizable widgets in the notification menu.
  • Compatibility with iOS apps on M1 chip Macs.
  • Spatial audio support for AirPods Pro.
  • Look Around feature in the Maps app.
  • Improved group messaging capabilities in Messages.

macOS 10.15 Catalina

Released: October 7, 2019

macOS 10.15 Catalina

Introduced at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2019, macOS 10.15 Catalina, named after the island near California, represents the 16th major release of Apple’s computer operating system. Notably, it is the first macOS version to exclusively support 64-bit applications, and it became available as a free update for all Mac users in September 2019.

One prominent addition is the introduction of Catalyst, a new development system that enables developers to create apps that target both macOS Catalina and iPadOS. Additionally, Apple further advances its voice control capabilities, allowing users to control their Mac using voice commands.

Here are several other notable changes implemented in Catalina:

  • Sidecar: This feature allows users to utilize an iPad as a secondary screen using either AirDisplay or AirParrot.
  • iTunes Split: Apple divided the iTunes app into three distinct applications: Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV.
  • The Finder now manages iOS devices connected to your Mac.
  • Find My app: The consolidation of Find My Mac and Find My Friends resulted in a new app called Find My.
  • Enhanced Reminders: Reminders now support attachments, and Siri has become more intelligent in determining when to notify you.
  • Removal of Dashboard: The Dashboard widget app has been eliminated.

These are the key new features of macOS Catalina:

  • Exclusive support for 64-bit applications.
  • Introduction of Catalyst apps.
  • Sidecar functionality for using an iPad as a second screen.
  • Restructuring of iTunes into separate Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV apps.
  • Introduction of the Find My app, merging Find My Mac and Find My Friends.

macOS 10.14 Mojave

Released: September 24, 2018

macOS 10.14 Mojave

macOS 10.14, also known as Mojave, was first unveiled at WWDC in June 2018 and became available on September 24th of the same year. Named after the Mojave Desert in California, macOS 10.14 introduced popular iOS apps such as Apple News, Voice Memos, and Home to the Mac desktop environment. Additionally, it presented an enhanced dark mode and marked the final version of macOS to support 32-bit applications. Users would receive a notification when attempting to use these 32-bit apps.

The Finder received notable updates, including a new file metadata view and a visually appealing Gallery View for browsing files. Taking a screenshot now results in a brief appearance of the image in the corner of the screen, similar to the experience on iOS. Moreover, macOS Mojave introduced the ability to capture videos using the screenshot tool.

One of the significant additions in Mojave was Group FaceTime, which allowed users to engage in video or audio chats with up to 32 people simultaneously. This feature could be accessed from a Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch.

Apple’s web browser, Safari, introduced tracking protection and reduced the amount of system information shared with websites. It also gained the capability to generate strong passwords for new online accounts, store them securely, and autofill forms.

The Mac App Store underwent a complete revamp, featuring a redesigned interface and editorial content, aligning it with the iOS App Store. The introduction of a new Discover tab and categorized tabs like Create, Work, Play, and Develop made it easier for users to discover new apps. Furthermore, macOS Mojave brought over popular iOS apps, including News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home (for HomeKit automation).

Key new features of macOS Mojave encompass the inclusion of four iOS apps, an improved dark mode, the Gallery View for file browsing, the introduction of Group FaceTime, and notable enhancements to the Mac App Store.

macOS 10.13 High Sierra

Released: September 25, 2017

macOS 10.13 High Sierra

Named after the High Sierra mountain region in California, macOS 10.13 was the 14th iteration of the macOS operating system. Rather than undergoing a complete overhaul, this release, which followed the previous version, Sierra (10.12), focused on enhancing performance and implementing technical updates.

Apple introduced the Apple File System, replacing the HFS Plus file system. This new system utilized technologies such as 64-bit inode numbers and flash memory, resulting in faster execution of everyday file-related tasks like duplicating, finding, and backing up files.

Here are some other notable changes that were introduced:

  • Metal, the low-level graphics API, received its second release, known as Metal 2. It incorporated virtual reality and machine learning features, as well as support for external graphics cards.
  • The Photos app received an updated sidebar, new editing tools, and the ability to sync photos with tagged People using iOS 11.
  • The Mail app introduced a new Spotlight search feature called Top Hits and achieved a 35 percent improvement in storage space.
  • Safari incorporated machine learning capabilities to block third-party trackers and prevent autoplay videos. Additionally, Reader mode could be set to remain enabled permanently.
  • The Notes app now supports tables, and users have the ability to pin notes to the top of their list.
  • Siri received an upgrade, featuring a more natural voice and enhanced artificial intelligence through machine learning.

Key new features of macOS 10.13 High Sierra include:

  • Apple File System.
  • Advancements in Metal graphics with Metal 2.
  • Enhanced features in the Photos app.
  • Improved storage management in the Mail app.
  • Addition of tables in the Notes app.
  • Smarter and more expressive Siri with increased AI capabilities.

macOS 10.12 Sierra

Released: September 20, 2016

macOS 10.12 Sierra

macOS 10.12 Sierra, which was named after the Sierra Nevada region in California, marked the introduction of the macOS branding for the Macintosh operating system. It succeeded OS X El Capitan, which was also named after a notable geographical feature in California. The announcement for macOS Sierra was made in June 2016, and it was released as a free update to El Capitan in September of the same year.

This update brought a range of features that are still present in the current macOS, such as:

  • The introduction of Siri to the Mac desktop environment.
  • iCloud Drive with optimized storage capabilities.
  • Auto-unlock functionality for Mac computers.
  • Tabbed interfaces for supported applications.
  • Picture-in-picture mode that allows users to watch videos while working on other tasks.
  • Support for the Apple File System (APFS).
  • Night Shift, a feature that reduces blue light emission from the screen during nighttime hours.

Additionally, various apps received enhancements, including:

  • Improved facial recognition and new object and scene recognition features for Photos, which power the Memories photo groups.
  • Safari received new developer tools that supported extensions connecting with third-party apps.
  • Apple Pay introduced web-based buttons in Safari, enabling users to complete purchases using their iPhone or Apple Watch.
  • Messages received bigger emojis, tap-back features, the ability to play YouTube videos, and preview web links.
  • The Mac Messages app incorporated iOS 10 additions to iMessage and allowed users to toggle read receipts on and off for individual conversations.
  • iTunes introduced a new “For You” tab and added a lyric feature to its MiniPlayer.
  • Notes enabled users to share and collaborate on specific notes.

Key new features of macOS Sierra include:

  • Siri integration on the desktop.
  • Improved iCloud Drive functionality.
  • Picture-in-picture mode for multitasking.
  • Night Shift for reduced blue light exposure.
  • Apple Pay integration on the web.
  • Enhanced iMessage integrations.

More About macOS

macOS is a continuation of Mac OS X (later called OS X), initially released in 2001. It is built on Unix and shares many under-the-hood similarities with Unix and Linux, most notably multiuser support, preemptive multitasking, and access to the system using Terminal.

OS X was renamed in 2016 as macOS 10.12 Sierra to match Apple’s other operating systems like iOS, watchOS, and tvOS.