New Safari Tab Bar. Tab Groups. Tabs Anywhere. Everywhere even. Universal Control for iPad… and Mac. AirPlay to Mac. AirPlay Speaker…from Mac. Spatial Audio with heads tracked. Shortcuts on Mac. New Books app. Hello screen savers and wall papers for all. Privacy indicators. Privacy Protections. Split View Swapping. And a ton. An imperial metric ton of iOS cross-over features. Day and freaking hallalulah date. It’s the macOS Monterey Public Beta. It supports the MacBook back to 2016, the MacBook Air and Pro back to 2015, the Mac mini back to 2014, the iMac back to 2015, the iMac Pro, and the Mac Pro back to the trashcan. You can download it now, but just remember — beta means beta, so don’t put it on anything mission critical. Now let’s do this!
Day and Date
Time was iPhones would get a bunch of fancy new features and it would take years if not never for them to come to the Mac. Well, not today software satan, not any more. Thank re-orgs, thank SwiftUI, thank Apple silicon, thank Federighi finally going full-on, Feighi-level Apple Cinematic Universe, whatever, but from FaceTime to Messages, SharePlay to Shared With You, Live Text to Translate, the vast majority of all the fancy new iOS features are now coming on time, and at the same time, to macOS. I covered all of them in the iOS and iPadOS beta videos, so I won’t recapitulate them here, but there’s some interesting Mac-specific tech going on as well.
Live Text only works on M1 Macs, not Intel, because Live Text is literally Live. Apple’s doing it on the fly in real time. No pre-prossessing and indexing, no server round-tripping. As soon as you encounter any image, new or old, including images on web pages, it gets sent to the Neural Engine and any and all text is made selectable and actionable. You could brute force around that with Intel, but not in real time and not without impacting the other work the CPU and GPU need to be doing at that time, any time you come across an image anywhere. It’s the whole reason Apple moved to their own silicon to begin with.
For Portrait Mode in FaceTime, Apple’s using the Neural Engine in the M1 chip to do a real-time… monocular depth estimation and segmentation masking, like the 2020 iPhone SE. You can toggle that and audio modes in Control Center. You can see up to 20 people in the new Grid view as well, and if you have more than that on your table read, the others will be rostered and rotated in as they speak.
There’s also a new hot mic indicator. Software, not hardware like the hot camera indicator, but it’ll show up next to Control Center on the menu, and above the Control Center interface when you expand it, so you can see exactly when and what is listening to you at any given time.
Because the Mac is a full-on multi-windowing environment, SharePlay on the Mac can be way less constrained… or just let you get way more distracted, than is possible on the iPhone or iPad.
And the Mac will even let you switch apps in Split View now without having to burn the whole thing down and start over again. Which… swoon. Can I get a finally?
Twenty years ago, Don Melton, Ken Kocienda, Richard Williamson and team kicked off the Alexander project at Apple. They forked KHTML, Konquerer, made the WebKit rendering engine, and the Safari web browser. Apple’s browser. Under the single, Quisats Harrach of zero regression. It doesn’t slow down. Ever.
With macOS Monterey, that obsession continues with a new tab bar. Which… I’ve actually been kinda hesitant about. I was very much old navigator yells at clouds when address bars and search fields were first conflated, and seeing Apple further conflate them with tab bars… I was screaming. In my heart.
But it’s working and it’s significantly reducing the amount of interface chrome… not Chrome, chrome, though that too… around my web content, which can never get enough pixels as far as I’m concerned. So, we’ll see how I feel come release.
What’s instant win for me is tab groups. Put all the pages you use together, all your web workflows, and then invoke them, switch between them, add new tabs to them, even share them, at any time. And if you have multiple Apple devices, they’ll sync between your Mac, iPhone, and iPad, so you can do all that from any of them.
The new Quick Note features, which I covered in the iPadOS video, is baked right in as well. You can jot down some thoughts, highlight some text, and the Quick Note will persist so you can revisit or update it any time you go back to a website.
Web extensions, which have been a bit of a mixed-as-in-everytime-they-update-they-disappear-until-I-jump-through-hoops-to-get-them-re-enabled-blessing for me on Big Sur, are going cross-platform with iPad and iPhone, which will not abide any such shenanigans, so fingers crossed that’ll all be fixed and fast.
And if you subscribe to iCloud+, which up until now just meant paying for extra iCloud Storage — or Apple One, Private Relay will help protect your identity from profilers on line. Basically, it hides the address of the website you’re going to from your ISP, and your IP address from the website you’re going to, and any data harvesters they’re connected to. I have a whole entire deep dive video up on that that I’ll link in the description, because it’s super cool.
With Universal Control, you can use your Mac to control your iPad, two iPads, an iPad or Mac… you get the idea.
It’s not a screen take-over like Sidecar or a projection like AirPlay. It’s not turning your iPads or other Mac into secondary or tertiary displays. iPads stay iPads. Macs stay their own Macs. You can just use a single Mac keyboard, mouse, or trackpad to control the iPads or other Mac.
It’s instant setup if you drag your mouse cursor from your Mac and keep dragging in the direction of your iPad or Mac, but you can also configure a static or frequent combo in System Preference for literally zero setup.
Then you can just point, click, swipe, type, open, close, drag, drop, across both devices, multiple desktops — it’s just the biggest escalation in Apple’s continuity system… ever.
Of course, there’s a lot more going on, especially behind the scenes for privacy and security, and I’ve got a whole entire video up on that as well, link in the description.
AirPlay to Mac
AirPlay for Mac lets you stream video from your iPhone, iPad, or other Mac, to any Mac. Just pick it the way you would any AirPlay source, and use your Mac like… it was a television attached to an Apple TV.
It’s not Target Display mode, the late, lamented hardline that let you use an iMac as a second screen for your Mac. That’s been lost to frame stitching for 5K displays, as least for now. This has higher latency to ensure sync. Which you can minimize but doing it hard over a USB cable if you want to.
But if that’s not a deal breaker for you, and for many applications it may not be, then you absolutely can use it to take over your iMac’s screen with your Mac’s screen. Or just beam something from your iPhone to your much bigger Mac screen.
You can use it to mirror or extend your display. And if you don’t want or have video, you can even target your Mac as an AirPlay 2 speaker for audio.
I’ve been wanting it, asking for it for years, and now it’s here. Hurrah.
Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking works on the Mac now, kinda like how it does on the iPhone and iPad. I say kinda because the Mac does’t have the same sensors, so the system is just assuming the direction you’re looking most of the time is where the screen’s at, and then basing the dynamic off any and all changes from that.
There are new Hello screen savers and desktop wallpapers for everyone, not just the new iMacs.
On device and continuous dictation for M1 Macs that’ll personalize to you over time.
A new collaboration folder in the Finder and a new circluar progress meter for file copies that you can use to stop and resume larger files, at your leisure.
Low power mode lets you tip your Macs balance between performance and efficiency decidedly towards efficiency.
And there’s a built in Authenticator for two-factor security tokens so you no longer have to rely on just a password or use the easy to SIM-swap SMS system to protect your accounts. There’s even an iCloud Passwords app for the web, and an Edge Extension for Windows users in the Edge Store. Satya Microsoft asks, Tim Apple answers!
He even asks Craig Software to ship macOS virtualization for Apple Silicon.
In addition to the accessibility features Apple previously announced this year, the Mac is also getting custom mouse pointers. Set you own outline and fill colors so you can more easily make it out as it moves and changes modes.
There’s also better support for full keyboard access so you can do way, way more without having to switch to a mouse or trackpad.
You can factory restore your Mac, blowing away all content and settings without having to re-install macOS. It destroys the T2 or M1 encryption keys so your stuff is just gonner than gone gone. Summary deresolutioned.
Hey, here’s something interesting about Shortcuts for Mac — It’s not a catalyst app, not UIKit for Mac. It’s a full on Macity Mac app. All AppKit under the covers and SwiftUI on top.
Which is… interesting for a whole number of reasons, but mostly how SwiftUI seems to staking its claim as the future of cross-Apple apps… staking it right through the heart of catalyst, just maybe?
Either way, anyway. You can use Shortcuts on Mac just like Shortcuts on iOS. To take any tasks you need to do more than two or three times a day, or any tasks that require two or three more clicks than you otherwise have the patience to give them. Just let Shortcuts do the heavy lifting.
And if you’re new to Shortcuts, Apple has a gallery full of the basics to get you started, and maybe inspire you to more cunning and complex Shortcuts of your own.
Here’s something else interesting about Shortcuts for Mac — it’s the start of a multi-year transition from ye old automations of yore to the bold, bright future of workflows. What that means for now, though, is that Automator is still around, and you can import your existing automations into Shortcuts to prepare them for that future.
Then you can use Spotlight, the Finder’s context-sensitive preview pane, the menu bar, even the dock — in other words, just exactly where you’d expect to find them on the Mac.