Apple's taking the Mac back to 2005, and i couldn't be happier

Apple's 2023 version of macOS looks awfully like something much older, and I'm absolutely delighted

macOS Sonoma
(Image credit: Apple)

If you live long enough you get to see history repeating: what's old to you is shiny and new to people much younger. And the shiniest, newest thing about macOS Sonoma this year is something that was shiny and new for me 18 years ago: desktop widgets.

The desktop widgets Apple is so proud of in macOS Sonoma are really, really old. I don't want to sound like an ancient Mac user but I am, so that's how it comes out: what you're seeing in macOS Sonoma is what we had on macOS Tiger. 

That was in 2005.

Tiger Widgets on macOS

(Image credit: Brian Sawyer / Flickr)

Why widgets went away, and why they're back

I miss widgets. I miss them so much that I bought a third party app, WidgetWall, to bring them back to my Mac.

The widgets Apple delivered back in 2005 were part of a feature called Dashboard, and it was my very favourite thing about that version of the OS. But Apple never seemed to really care much about the widgets, and over time they were given less and less attention; today they live in the Notifications area of macOS on my M2 Mac mini Pro, where they're rarely seen because I forget they're there. 

And widgets have an even longer lineage. The first version of Stickies, which put little Post-It style notes on your desktop, was written in 1994 and included in System 7.5 (and it's been in macOS ever since).

The reason Widgets are back is primarily because the lines between the iPhone, iPad and Mac continue to blur. Widgets are a big part of the current iOS on iPhone, and on iPadOS too; the iPad support is getting better with the arrival of lock screen widgets in iPadOS 17 later this year; and the widgets in Sonoma will include iPhone ones if your iPhone is in range. So each of your devices will feel more and more like a different window on the same stuff. And of course widgets are going to be great on the Vision Pro.

History isn't really repeating here. It's more that Apple has found a new approach to an old idea. And that old idea was a really good one, so I'm glad it's coming back.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (