Maybe I've been too hard on widgets. Ever since they appeared in the macOS X dashboard, I've thought of them as a nuisance – tiny memory hogs that only exist to disappoint me with their limited functionality. Microsoft took a cue and brought them into Windows Vista, and now they’re back in Windows 11. Widgets are harmless, I know. But every time they’ve showed me the weather, or reminded me of an upcoming appointment, I’ve wished for a world where they didn’t disrupt the sanctity of my desktop experience.
Now I wouldn't say macOS Sonoma made me a total widget convert. But, at the very least, it's made me more tolerant of them. The new widget experience is a minor, but helpful quality of life upgrade – something that basically describes macOS Sonoma as a whole. There aren't any major new features like last year's Ventura, which brought over Stage Manager from iPads. But Sonoma shows that Apple can still come up with new ways to make its desktop OS more pleasant.
You must widget
While you can still access widgets in macOS Sonoma's notification center, something you could do for years, I never found that placement too compelling. My Mac isn't like my iPhone or iPad, where I'm always trying to keep up with the latest alerts. I'm usually focused on getting some work done. By bringing widgets out of the side bar and onto the desktop, Sonoma integrates them far more organically.
Now, you don't have to go out of your way to get a quick weather update, or to see the battery levels of your Apple devices. Your widgets are just always sitting there, ready for a quick glance whenever you close a few windows or expose the desktop (something I do frequently with hot corners). Apple also revamped many of its existing widgets to take advantage of the additional screen space.
Another new feature: You can bring over widgets from your iPhone (assuming it's signed into the same iCloud account as your Mac, and is also on the same Wi-Fi network). Those have been hit or miss, in my experience. They often take a while to load properly on your desktop, and if you interact with them, they either redirect to a website or tell you to open their iPhone app. When I enabled Spotify's iPhone widget on Sonoma, for example, it showed me the track I'm currently listening to, but that's it. As soon as I touched the widget, it said I had to open Spotify on my iPhone to continue.
That wonkiness could be smoothed over if more developers start building macOS widgets. But Apple has been trying to make widgets a thing for years with little success. Maybe they'll have more success now that widgets aren't hidden away in a corner.