Before You Upgrade to macOS Ventura, You Should Get Acquainted With These 13 Monterey Features

Before You Upgrade to macOS Ventura, You Should Get Acquainted With These 13 Monterey Features
Image: Apple/Gizmodo Australia

Apple announced macOS Ventura earlier this month (also known as macOS 13). Coming later this year, Ventura will also take full advantage of Apple’s M2 chip, delivering new features including Stage Manager, and powerful new capabilities with Continuity Camera and Handoff coming to FaceTime. macOS Ventura also includes big updates to Safari, Mail, Messages, Spotlight and more.

But, before you get your hands on macOS 13, you should make sure you’re making the most out of macOS 12. The operating system known as macOS Monterey that will have rolled out to everyone with a compatible Mac. If you have an early 2016 or newer MacBook, early 2015 or newer MacBook Air, early 2015 or newer MacBook Pro, late 2014 or newer Mac Mini, late 2015 or newer iMac, the late 2017 iMac Pro, or late 2013 or newer Mac Pro, this is for you.

1. Write notes more quickly

The Notes app got a Monterey upgrade with the addition of Quick Notes, a pared-down note taker that you can use without opening Notes itself. You can create a Quick Note from anywhere with a keyboard shortcut (Fn+Q), by selecting text, or by moving the cursor to the bottom right corner of the screen while holding down Cmd.

2. See FaceTime group chats as a grid

Apple wasn’t pleased that you were spending all your video-calling time on Zoom, so it gave you a Zoom-like interface option for FaceTime group chats — you even get the illuminated box around the current speaker, as on Zoom. It’s called Grid Layout and you’ll see it available as a view on your other Apple devices where FaceTime is supported.

3. Supercharge your shortcuts

Shortcuts was introduced in iOS 12, and made its way to macOS with Monterey. The app works in more or less exactly the same way on a Mac: launch Shortcuts and you can combine several actions into one single command, whether that’s creating a GIF from a video, creating a timer to use for breaks, starting a video call, or whatever other task you need to automate.

Shortcuts in macOS Monterey, (Screenshot: macOS)Shortcuts in macOS Monterey, (Screenshot: macOS)

4. Use your Mac as an AirPlay speaker

Your Mac can act as an AirPlay speaker. If you’re playing audio from your iPhone, for example, you can choose AirPlay output and pick your Mac from the list. It can even work as part of a multi-speaker setup. Use the Sharing tab in System Preferences to configure the AirPlay Receiver option.

5. Use your Mac as an AirPlay display

The same AirPlay trick works for mirroring and extending displays as well as streaming audio. Again, you can open System Preferences and choose Sharing, then AirPlay Receiver to turn on the feature. One way to use it would be to put a presentation from an iPhone up on an iMac, or stream a Fitness+ class from your phone to your Mac’s larger screen.

6. See which apps are using your mic and webcam

The small dots that alert you when your mic and camera are actually in use are really helpful on iOS, and macOS Monterey added a mic indicator to go alongside the green webcam light already present on Macs. When the microphone is in use, you’ll see an orange dot next to the Control Centre icon on the menu bar — click the icon to see which app is using the mic.

macOS Monterey has a new screensaver. (Screenshot: macOS)macOS Monterey has a new screensaver. (Screenshot: macOS)

7. Say ‘hello’

Open up System Preferences and then choose Desktop & Screen Saver and Screen Saver, and you’ll see there’s perhaps a new addition to the list. An elegant screensaver called Hello, and according to Apple, it “celebrates the history and progress of Mac” and refers back to the very first Mac that displayed a similar “hello” message on screen. Pointless, but sweet.

8. Explore cities in more detail

The notoriously not-as-good-as-Google-Maps Apple Maps is also getting better on a Mac. The new features Apple has been rolling out to iOS are also increasingly available on a Mac, providing you’re on a Mac with an M1 chip. Sydney or San Francisco are good places to start exploring the views: look for the highlight icons on landmarks in 3D mode.

9. Extend MacBook battery life

MacBooks (2016 and later) got a new Low Power Mode with the arrival of macOS Monterey, which does exactly what you might expect: reduce some of the extra bells and whistles on your laptop so the demands on the battery are lower. From System Preferences, choose Battery and then Battery or Power Adaptor. Low power mode is available on both.

Setting a new Focus mode in macOS Monterey. (Screenshot: macOS)Setting a new Focus mode in macOS Monterey. (Screenshot: macOS)

10. Maintain your Focus

One of the most under-rated feature of Apple OS is Focus. As with iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8, macOS Monterey got a new Focus tool. If you’re yet to use it, you’ll find it by clicking the Control Centre icon on the menu bar. Think of it as an enhanced version of Do Not Disturb, so you can set specific notification options for scenarios at home and at the office (like studying, gaming, sleeping, working, etc.).

11. See what’s been shared with you

Most of the key Apple apps, including Photos, Apple Podcasts, Safari and Apple News, received a new Shared With You section in macOS Monterey. Essentially this is just a way of quickly getting to anything that your contacts have sent you through the Messages app, whether that’s vacation photos, a link to an article, or a podcast recommendation.

12. Save tab groups in Safari

Keep your bunches of tabs together in the tab groups feature in Safari. To get started, Cmd+click on a tab and choose Move to Tab Group, where you can pick an existing group or create a new one. You can organise your tabs in whatever way works best for you, and by default your tab groups will show up on the left of the Safari interface for easy access.

Safari now lets you save groups of tabs. (Screenshot: macOS)Safari now lets you save groups of tabs. (Screenshot: macOS)

13. Reduce the on-screen clutter in Safari

Speaking of Safari, you’ll surely have noticed that it got quite a radical redesign for macOS Monterey: there’s a streamlined tab bar that changes colour to match the pages that you’re currently viewing, there’s an integrated smart search field built into the address bar, and you’ve also got a redesigned sidebar for managing your bookmarks, shared links, and more.

Head over here to read more about macOS 13 Ventura, or here for info on how to install the macOS 13 Ventura Developer Beta.

This article has been updated since it was first published.