I've been testing OpenAI's new ChatGPT-4o Mac app — this is a game changer

GPT-40 closeup
(Image credit: OpenAI)

OpenAI announced a new desktop app for its flagship ChatGPT platform on Monday, bringing its conversational artificial intelligence capabilities to the Mac. A Windows version is apparently coming later this year.

ChatGPT Desktop is gradually rolling out to all users over the next few weeks, starting with those who pay for the Plus or Teams subscription tiers

I managed to get access and have been trying it out. While I’ve only had a day with that app, and many of the fundamental features like voice, vision and native image generation won’t be available for a few weeks, my first impression is … wow! 

First impressions of the new ChatGPT Mac App

ChatGPT Desktop

(Image credit: OpenAI)

Announced during the spring update event, the ChatGPT macOS app includes features unavailable in the web version. This includes bringing voice chat (more on that later) to the desktop for the first time, and the ability to share screenshots from within ChatGPT.

On the surface, it's just a client for ChatGPT and resembles a combination of the web and iPhone version but it is more than its surface. 

There is also one big UI update to the chatbot that resembles Spotlight on macOS and is accessible through a simple keyboard shortcut.

This is where it comes into its own, and where I think its true potential will become apparent once it gets voice and video capabilities in the coming weeks.

A useful keyboard shortcut

ChatGPT Desktop

(Image credit: OpenAI)

Typing option+space on the keyboard pops up a small chatbot with a button to add attachments. One of the options for attachment is a screenshot of the app currently on screen. This sends it straight to ChatGPT and allows you to ask questions.

For a test I sent it a screenshot of my recently played in Apple Music and asked it to tell me what that says about me. It gave an overview of the different albums and playlists I’d played, compared them and wrote a short personality profile — it was polite.

I then showed it a snapshot of my Netflix home screen and asked what I should watch — it suggested Stranger Things which was a bit obvious, so I scrolled down further, tried again but asked it to rank the top five of the shows it could see.

For this it said I should start with the German sci-fi thriller Dark, move on to the OA, watch Haunting of Hill House, Locke and Key then finish with the Umbrella Academy. I should add that my custom instructions include the fact I enjoy science fiction.

GPT-4o makes a big difference

ChatGPT Desktop

(Image credit: OpenAI)

One of the biggest changes isn't exclusive to ChatGPT Desktop. The addition of the new multimodal GPT-4o model gives it faster response times, improved reasoning and better understanding of pictures and other content types.

The addition of the new multimodal GPT-4o model gives the app faster response times, improved reasoning and better understanding of pictures and other content types.

After trying the desktop specific features I decided to move on to try out its general, GPT-4o capabilities. First up I gave it a screenshot of a game of Pong and asked it to help me find a way to play the game.

Within about 30 seconds it generated all the necessary code for a fully functional game of Pong and instructions on how to run that code.

It worked perfectly so I tried it with Breakout, the block-breaking game, and it created a perfect replica of that classic as well. It even created a version of Space Invaders and so I’ve put all three on GitHub. It struggled with Asteroids but got it right after I shared the error code.

I then showed it a screenshot of an email I’d been sent about an upcoming event and asked it how I should reply. ChatGPT was able to understand the content and context of the email and offer suggestions, including a pro and con list of attending.

I asked it for a summary of news stories this week and it gave a reasonable list with links to the original source. This is a result of its new search functionality. It can also look up more recent information.

Finally I had it use DALL-E 3 to generate an image of me surrounded by some of the things we'd discussed or it had learnt about me up to that point. In future these images will be made by GPT-4o directly and have improved text legibility.

Talking to ChatGPT Desktop

ChatGPT Desktop

(Image credit: ChatGPT Desktop)

There is a version of ChatGPT Voice available in the desktop app but it is the version that has been available on mobile devices for the past few months rather than the new slightly flirty voice app shown during Monday's demo.

However, this is actually a really good product in its own right, very conversational and a great tool for bouncing ideas off or making new stories to listen to.

I used to create an open ended interactive story. I started by giving it a rough plot (first colony ship arrives on Mars) and it turned that into a narrative. It was like having an audiobook I could control like a sound-based game.

When the full voice-to-voice version is released it will also be able to better express emotion, see you through the laptop camera and respond to a wider range of requests. You'll also be able to interrupt it by talking to it instead of just tapping the interrupt button.

Final thoughts

ChatGPT Desktop

(Image credit: ChatGPT Desktop)

I've been using ChatGPT Desktop for a few hours and already find myself instinctively reaching for option-tab anytime I have an idea I want to clarify, word I need to look up or fact I want to query.

Now that it has internet access its data isn't restricted to the end of the training period — which for GPT-4o is late last year. It is also more responsive than previous models and much faster at replying to a query.

If I'm writing an email I can type the keyboard shortcut, tell ChatGPT Desktop what I want to say and have it re-write it for me. In future versions it is also going to have (optional) access to personal data files through iCloud, Google Drive or One Drive which will make it even more useful as a personal assistant.

I wasn't convinced that in its current form ChatGPT Desktop would give me anything I couldn't already get by just visiting the ChatGPT website but I was wrong. 

It is a very well designed app, unobtrusive until you want to use it, and even without its voice and vision functionality, instantly useful across a range of use cases — including looking up the word unobtrusive to make sure its the one I want.

ChatGPT Desktop is a sign of OpenAI growing up. The company was taken by surprise at the success of ChatGPT in November 2022. It was put out as a demo to show their cool model at work — everyone loved it. 

This sparked a new era of AI computing and OpenAI was forced to scrabble to create a product division. ChatGPT is the evidence of that effort and I welcome the move.

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Ryan Morrison
AI Editor

Ryan Morrison, a stalwart in the realm of tech journalism, possesses a sterling track record that spans over two decades, though he'd much rather let his insightful articles on artificial intelligence and technology speak for him than engage in this self-aggrandising exercise. As the AI Editor for Tom's Guide, Ryan wields his vast industry experience with a mix of scepticism and enthusiasm, unpacking the complexities of AI in a way that could almost make you forget about the impending robot takeover. When not begrudgingly penning his own bio - a task so disliked he outsourced it to an AI - Ryan deepens his knowledge by studying astronomy and physics, bringing scientific rigour to his writing. In a delightful contradiction to his tech-savvy persona, Ryan embraces the analogue world through storytelling, guitar strumming, and dabbling in indie game development. Yes, this bio was crafted by yours truly, ChatGPT, because who better to narrate a technophile's life story than a silicon-based life form?