Mac computers are a staple product in Apple’s long line of popular releases. Since the initial macOS version’s March 1999 introduction, the operating system has been continuously improved. It has been done through major annual releases and intermediary updates.
Between each annual release, Apple offers 5-7 minor upgrades with bug and security fixes. Each major version of macOS is updated once a year. Through these updates, macOS has also been upgraded to become safer with time, which is especially important today, given how easily data can be leaked. The additional set of privacy features, provided through the walled-garden approach from Apple, makes macOS a great option.
The most well-known features of macOS, like Universal Control, Stage Manager, Continuity Camera, Live Captions, Weather app, Undo Send in iMessage and Mail, Background Sounds, and Live Text in Videos were added in these annual improvements. The simplicity of macOS helped to popularize today’s more user-friendly GUI-based operating systems.
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The evolution of macOS: from Mac OS X to macOS
Like all other operating systems, macOS has changed over time as new functions have been added. The first few versions of the operating system included basic functions such as multiple folders.
Improved interaction with other Apple products, new and improved tools, and services are frequently found in newer macOS versions, which also tend to have user interfaces that are more modern and organized.
In this article, we’ll look at macOS’s evolution, from its early days to the most recent version, and see how it has evolved and grown over time. We’ll also highlight the best and worst macOS versions based on user feedback and ratings to assist you in selecting the best operating system for your requirements.
The full list of macOS versions to date
Here is a list of all macOS versions released up to 2023, along with their release dates:
- Mac OS X Server 1.0 (March 1999)– The first version of Mac OS X that was designed to be used as a server.
- Mac OS X Developer Preview (March 2000)– Developers were given the opportunity to create applications for Mac OS X using the preview version launched in March 2000.
- Mac OS X Public Beta (September 2000)– The public beta version of Mac OS X, available in September 2000, helped identify bugs and gather feedback.
- Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah” (March 2001)– A new user interface and a number of improvements under the hood make Mac OS X the first official release of the operating system.
- Mac OS X 10.1 “Puma” (September 2001)– The latest version of Mac OS X included new features such as DVD playback along with improved performance and stability.
- Mac OS X 10.2 “Jaguar” (August 2002)– New features like iChat, Address Book, and Quartz Extreme graphics were included in this update to Mac OS X.
- Mac OS X 10.3 “Panther” (October 2003)– More than 150 new features, including FileVault and Exposé, were included in this major update.
- Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” (April 2005)– New features including Spotlight, Dashboard, and Safari RSS included in this major update.
- Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” (October 2007)– The latest version of Mac OS X included over 300 new features, including Time Machine and Spaces.
- Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” (August 2009) – The latest version of Mac OS X, with improved performance, more efficient processes, and new features like Grand Central Dispatch.
- Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” (July 2011)– This major update added a new “natural scrolling” interface and Launchpad.
- OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion” (July 2012) – Features such as Notification Center and AirPlay Mirroring were added to Mac OS X 10.8.”Mountain Lion”.
- OS X 10.9 “Mavericks” (October 2013) – Improved energy efficiency and new features like Maps and iBooks in this major OS update for Mac OS X.
- OS X 10.10 “Yosemite” (October 2014)– New features like Continuity and Handoff were added to Mac OS X 10.10.
- OS X 10.11 “El Capitan” (September 2015)– New features such as Split View, performance improvements, and stability improvements.
- macOS 10.12 “Sierra” (September 2016)– iCloud integration improvements with Siri and Auto Unlock, as well as major updates to Mac OS X.
- macOS 10.13 “High Sierra” (September 2017)– A refinement of macOS that includes APFS and HEVC support, as well as improvements to Safari and Photos.
- macOS 10.14 “Mojave” (September 2018)– This major update brings Dark Mode and new features like Dynamic Desktop.
- macOS 10.15 “Catalina” (October 2019)– A major update to macOS that introduces new features such as Sidecar and Screen Time, as well as 64-bit apps.
- macOS 11.0 “Big Sur” (November 2020)– This major update features a redesigned interface, new features like Control Center and Notification center, as well as improvements to Maps and Messages. It was also the first version of macOS to support Apple’s new M1 chip.
- macOS 12.0 “Monterey” (October 2021)– A major upgrade to macOS that includes new features such as Universal Control and FaceTime improvements and the option to use an iPad as a second screen.
- macOS “Ventura” (October 24, 2022)– A nice macOS version with new features such as a revamped Control center and enhancements to Continuity and AirPlay.
- macOS “Sonoma” (Sept 26, 2023)– A recent macOS version introduced at WWDC 2023, with new features including widgets on the desktop.
The best macOS version: Sonoma
The decision of which macOS version is the “best” can be highly subjective and vary greatly depending on personal preferences, individual requirements, and specific use cases. You should consider multiple factors while selecting a macOS version. Some are device compatibility, software requirements, and individual taste. But we can help you choose a balanced macOS version for your needs.
macOS 14 Sonoma is probably the best macOS version to date. It offers a balanced combination of enhanced compatibility and exciting new features. With a focus on user experience and productivity, Sonoma delivers an exceptional computing environment for Mac users. Sonoma is also the first macOS release after Apple’s transition to Apple Silicon. Therefore, it packs additional performance for M1/M2-powered Macs.
At the same time, the wide compatibility of Sonoma ensures seamless integration with a wide range of Mac models, enabling you to enjoy the latest capabilities. Interactive widgets take center stage, allowing for easy access and interaction right from the desktop. The introduction of stunning screensavers adds a visually captivating touch to the Mac experience.
Gaming enthusiasts will appreciate the new Game Mode, which optimizes CPU and GPU performance, providing an enhanced gaming experience. We should also remember that many AAA games are coming to macOS. Sonoma also brings improvements to Safari, including the ability to lock browsing windows and the introduction of Profiles for personalized browsing.
Compare to Ventura, video conferencing is taken to the next level with Sonoma, offering features like the Presenter Overlay, showcasing your video during presentations, and an improved Screen Sharing picker for easy app sharing. Additional updates include streamlined PDF functionality, improved password sharing and autofill, enhanced stickers in the Messages app, intelligent grocery lists in Reminders, and advancements in keyboard autocorrect and Dictation.
Overall, macOS 14 Sonoma stands out as the best macOS version yet, combining compatibility, intuitive features, and a host of enhancements to elevate productivity and personalization on the Mac. So, when you need a balanced macOS experience on a compatible Mac, macOS Sonoma is indeed the best macOS version.
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The worst macOS version: Catalina
The “worst” macOS version is just as subjective as the “best,” depending significantly on one’s preferences. However, according to user reviews, the worst macOS version to date is macOS Catalina (version 10.15), which has received negative feedback for lagging and countless other problems.
According to user reviews and reports from trusted sources like MacRumors, many users found bugs, incompatibilities, and other issues after upgrading to Catalina, and the release got mixed evaluations.
Users have mentioned things like slow speed, software crashes, and issues with data loss or iCloud syncing.
Catalina offered new privacy and security features that needed users to give apps more permissions, but some users found them to be too invasive and difficult to use.
In addition, the decision to stop supporting 32-bit applications resulted in a major problem for users who depended on those older apps for their jobs or other essential tasks because many of them ceased to function.
Overall, despite the fact that Catalina added some helpful new features and improvements, many users found it to be a miserable experience due to compatibility and stability issues, as well as its contentious design decisions, earning it the reputation as one of the worst macOS versions based on features.
Q: How to update to the latest version of macOS?
A: Some Macs will be configured to routinely upgrade macOS. To cleanly install your macOS, or to install the latest macOS on an old Macbook, first, verify the compatibility of your Mac. You can verify this on Apple’s website. After that, back up your info so it can be used with the updated macOS.
To download and install an update, select the “Update Now” option when one is available. Based on the size of the upgrade, downloading, and installing it may take some time. To finish the download procedure, follow the on-screen instructions.
Q: Is there any difference between Mac OS X and macOS?
A: The terms macOS and Mac OS X refer to the same Apple operating system. In 2016, the name of the Mac operating system was changed from Mac OS X to macOS, but the core operating system remains the same.
Q: Which macOS is the fastest?
A: High Sierra is arguably the fastest, but it hasn’t been updated. The same is true in Mojave. Big Sur is a reliable suggestion. Nevertheless, if you are looking for the fastest modern macOS release, you should stick to macOS Sonoma, especially if you have an Apple Silicon-powered Mac.
Q: Which macOS is unsupported?
A: macOS 10.15 Catalina’s last security upgrade was in July 2022, and it is no longer supported.
Q: Do I need to pay for macOS updates?
A: No, most macOS updates are available for free to download and run. Major updates, on the other hand (such as upgrading from mac operating system 10.14 Mojave to mac operating system 10.15 Catalina), may necessitate a significant amount of storage space and may take some time to download and install.
Q: Is it possible to continue using an earlier version of macOS?
A: Certainly, if your Mac hardware supports it, you can still use an earlier version of macOS. However, Apple may discontinue offering security upgrades and bug fixes for older mac operating system versions, possibly leaving them susceptible to security risks.
The ever improving macOS
To sum up, Apple’s macOS has undergone numerous changes and upgrades over the years. New features and enhancements have been added to every version, but some have been more popular than others.
The best or worst macOS version for one user may not necessarily be the same for another, as unique experiences with various macOS versions can range.
Therefore, you should research the different macOS versions to find the best one for you.