Apple macOS 12 Monterey preview

The public beta of macOS 12 Monterey, Apple’s next big version of macOS, is now available for download. The operating system has the same general appearance as its predecessor, macOS 11 Big Sur, but it brings new features and a number of changes to Apple’s most popular services.

Before getting to the heart of the matter, a friendly reminder that Monterey is, for now, a beta version. It might not be the best idea to install on a primary device, as you might encounter bugs, unfinished features, and incompatibility with third-party apps. If you are installing the program on your daily driver, first make sure you have backed up anything that you cannot afford to change.

For those who take the plunge and install the public beta, the component that seems most excited about Apple is its updates to FaceTime. My favorite among these is Portrait mode, which blurs the background behind you as you speak on a call (similar to the iPhone feature of the same name). Portrait mode didn’t always get it all – sometimes when there were several different surfaces behind me, it seemed to be a bit confusing and leave some parts unblurred. But it wasn’t hard to find areas where the feature worked perfectly. Apple says Portrait mode will also be available for adoption in third-party apps, but we’ll have to wait until they release updates to support it.

MacOS Monterey’s new FaceTime Portrait mode did a decent job of blurring my background.

Even though it has had the ability to make group calls for a few years, I’ve always looked at FaceTime as a tool to call one person at a time. But Monterey is introducing a few other features that are clearly aimed at making the tool a more powerful competitor to Zoom, suitable for larger meetings and calls. It now supports Grid View and Spatial Audio (which makes other people’s voices appear to be coming from the area of ​​the screen where their face is positioned). You can generate a link to a FaceTime call ahead of time (the same way you generate a Zoom link), and Android and Windows users can join from their browsers. And a new voice isolation feature uses machine learning to dampen background noise as you speak.

There is a new feature called SharePlay, which looks like Netflix Party or Scener but for FaceTime. Like Netflix Party, it allows you and others on your FaceTime call to watch content from certain streaming services together by syncing video playback and each other’s controls. (So ​​we both watch the video on our own devices, with our own accounts. But when I pause or start up, you also pause or start.) SharePlay isn’t a new idea, but it is will certainly be handy to have on FaceTime. While the list of supported services includes some big players (such as Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, Paramount Plus, Twitch, Pluto TV and – hilariously – TikTok), it doesn’t seem to include Netflix, which is the one streaming. service that I and all of my friends and family reliably have in common. Until this is added to the list, I don’t see myself using it that often.

One new feature that I think I use a lot is Quick Note. Quick Note makes it easy to take notes on an article you read (or items you view in Maps, Photos, or other apps). You can right-click the highlighted text to add it to a quick note, and it will appear there with a link to the source. (You can also press Fn + Q to display a blank one.)

Quick Notes sync across devices and are available in a specific “Quick Notes” folder in the Notes app. The most practical thing, I think, is that if you have an app open where you have already created a quick note, you can hover your cursor to the lower right corner of the screen and a thumbnail of the note will appear.

A screenshot of a MacBook Pro screen.  The Verge review of the Razer Blade 14 is open in Safari.  A paragraph is highlighted with

I took some notes on my recent Razer Blade 14 review.

Apple has introduced a few “continuity” features designed to make Macs easier to use alongside other Apple devices. The most exciting, Universal Control, probably won’t be ready until a future beta release. What you can try out now is AirPlay, which first made its way to macOS. AirPlay makes it easy to stream content to a Mac computer: it can mirror or extend your iPhone screen, for example, or it can work as an AirPlay 2 speaker. I was able to set this up easily (you just need to wait for the devices to detect each other, then enter a code on your phone), and it worked fine.

A screenshot of a macOS notification that says

Yes, this is the name of my iPhone. Long story.

Safari has a few tweaks, mostly regarding tabs. The URL bar is now located next to your tabs, giving you more browsing space. The tabs now have a rounder appearance and you can click on any of them to reveal the full address of its page.

The new feature that I think is very useful is the Tab Groups. The way it works is if you have, say, five tabs open, you can click a little icon in the upper left corner to turn them into a “group of tabs.” Later, if you open the sidebar on the left, you will see the group listed in the “Tab Groups” section; click on it and Safari will reopen these five tabs. This sidebar also contains a list of bookmarks, a reading list, and a list of links that have been shared with you in Messages. You can test the new Safari browser in older versions of macOS without having to update the beta version of Monterey by installing the Safari technology overview.

A screenshot of Safari open on a MacBook Pro.  A Verge Windows 11 video is open on YouTube.  The sidebar is open and displays two groups of tabs: Verge Videos and Verge Articles.

Tab groups are almost instant to click in and out.

There are a number of other possibilities built into macOS Monterey. Shortcuts are available on macOS, Focus lets you filter notifications based on the task you’re doing, it just got easier to save the photos you receive in Messages, and more. I can’t wait to dig deeper into these features for our full review, but the things I highlighted here are the ones that I think have the most immediate impact on everyday use.

The phrase “junk” really sums up my impressions after using macOS Monterey for a few days. macOS Big Sur has completely overhauled the Mac experience. This is not the case here (which is good – not every update has to be a revolution). Apple seems to have made a few tweaks here and a few tweaks there. My reactions were largely, “Okay, that might be practical. Which is right. I’ll take it at hand.

Here is the list of devices that will support macOS Monterey:

Notably, that doesn’t include a few models that got Big Sur last year, including the 2013 MacBook Air, the late 2013 MacBook Pro, and the 2014 iMac.

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About Alan Adams

Alan Adams

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