Image: Apple

For me, macOS serves two very specific purposes: Book writing and video editing. Granted, within those two categories, there’s much to be done (which includes email and quite a bit of research via a web browser.) And up until the latest macOS upgrade, I have a pretty specific workflow.

SEE: Feature comparison: Time tracking software and systems (TechRepublic Premium)

That all changed last week when both my MacBook Pro and iMac received the Monterey upgrade. Some of the tweaks to my workflow were quite subtle, while others were subtraction by addition (more on that in a bit). But all-in-all, the latest from Apple proves you can make big changes with baby steps.

This won’t be a typical review. I’m not going to list out all the new features and how Apple either succeeded or failed with each. When you first start your new Monterey-powered MacBook or iMac, you’ll be greeted with a welcome tool that’ll explain everything to you.

What I want to do is show you why this upgrade was special for someone who uses Apple hardware part-time (but that part-time work is absolutely crucial).

The big thing for me, and I make absolutely no bones about this, is I need to be able to work with a ridiculously high level of efficiency. Part of that is because I’m so busy. I produce around 30 pieces of content a week (between articles and videos), on top of writing novels. I’ve spent a long time honing a workflow that makes it possible to do so without ripping my hair out. The majority of that workflow is spent in Linux, which allows me to bend and twist the OS and apps to perfectly fit my needs. Other operating systems don’t offer such flexibility, so when a company releases an upgrade that does make it possible for me to make the platform work with me (instead of against me), it’s special.

MacOS Monterey has done just that.

But it’s also because my brain tends to work faster than my fingers. Because of that, I need tools that are right at my fingertips. In that second it takes me to think about which tool to use (or where to find the tool), I might have lost the thread of thought. In my world, that could mean the difference between work flowing like a river or a trickle from a faucet.

My favorite additions

So, what exactly did Monterey change to help with my personal workflow? Two new additions have made it possible for me to really get productive with macOS: Shortcuts and Tabgroups. I’m going to address both of these in separate how-tos, so I won’t go into too much detail here. However, here’s the gist:

  • Shortcuts allows you to create shortcuts for simple or complex actions that can be activated with either a keyboard shortcut or from a top-bar drop-down.
  • Tabgroups is more like what Opera did with Workspaces, so it’s a small addition that has a massive impact on how much more organized your Safari tabs can be.

There are other small additions that make Monterey a beast for productivity. Features like Quicknotes (hover your cursor at the bottom left of your display to add a quick entry in the Notes app). Another nice touch is allowing users to define a Do Not Disturb period, a feature which is called Focus in the Notifications sidebar.

SEE: Feature comparison: Time tracking software and systems (TechRepublic Premium)

Of course, you’ll find other improvements in the migration from BigSur to Monterey, but the biggest improvement is how all of it comes together to make everything so seamless and efficient. And if I had to give a one-word review of Monterey, it would be Efficient because with this new release my fingers can keep up with my mind and my flow doesn’t get bogged down with the process. To any creator (regardless of the medium), that’s the nirvana of productivity. You want to wipe away all of the distractions, be they interruptions from notifications, hiccups in the workflow or inefficiencies in design. Monterey has done just that by taking the smallest baby steps forward … all the while making the most out of the momentum it ekes out of the improvements.

Every operating system development team would do well to pay attention to what Monterey has brought to the table. Apple has proved you don’t have to make monumental changes to add monumental improvements.

Apple Silicon vs. Intel

One thing I will mention is that I’m using Monterey on both Apple Silicon (MacBook Pro) and Intel (iMac) hardware. My iMac runs an Intel 3.8GHz 8-Core i7 with 32GB of RAM, and the MacBook sports the M1 chip with 16GB of RAM. Apple worked some serious magic because Monterey works almost identically on both machines. Even with the MacBook having half the amount of RAM, it performs as well as the iMac.

SEE: The iPhone, iPad and Mac users guide to Microsoft 365 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The one difference I have noticed is that (for whatever reason) the Quick Notes feature doesn’t work on the M1 MacBook but does on the Intel iMac. There are other shiny new objects in Monterey found in apps and functionality that I simply don’t use (like Facetime—sorry, I’m an Android guy). However, with Monterey, users can invite non-Apple users to join Facetime using the latest versions of either Chrome or Edge. The caveat is that either browser must be running on Windows or Android devices (so, still no love for Linux).

Creators rejoice

MacOS has always been a very creator-centric platform. It doesn’t matter if you create books, videos, music, applications, spreadsheets or website content, Monterey goes a long way to simplify your workflow (without forcing major changes on you). In the end, this new iteration of macOS is all about simplicity and efficiency, with a dash of elegance mixed in.

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