Apple's powerful new macOS was announced at WWDC 2021. This guide covers everything you need to know about macOS Monterey, including features, requirements and how to get it.
During the keynote of Apple's WWDC21 conference on June 7, 2021, the company announced its long-awaited new macOS: Monterey (also known as macOS 12). Like WWDC 2020, this year's week-long conference aimed at developers around the world is virtual and free to the public via Apple's website, the Apple Developer app, the Apple TV app and YouTube.
SEE: macOS Monterey: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
With macOS Monterey, Apple is sticking with the theme of naming its OSs after California locales. This version of macOS offers many new features for users, including Universal Control, Shortcuts and AirPlay for iMac, updated capabilities in FaceTime, a redesign for Safari (including Tab Groups) and more.
This macOS Monterey cheat sheet details the operating system's main features, lists which devices support the OS, explains how to get it and more. We'll update this macOS 12 guide when new features are released. (Download the PDF version of this macOS Monterey cheat sheet.)
SEE: How to migrate to a new iPad, iPhone, or Mac (TechRepublic Premium)
What is macOS Monterey?
MacOS Monterey is Apple's newest operating system, and it's designed to be completely seamless across all Apple devices. It's even more customizable than previous OSs, and it allows users to share content with friends and across iPad and iOS like never before. According to Apple, macOS 12 offers "new ways for users to connect, get more done and work more fluidly across their Apple devices."
What are the main features of macOS Monterey?
One of the most interesting features Apple announced for macOS Monterey is Universal Control. With this feature, users can utilize a single mouse or keyboard to work between Macs and iPads seamlessly—no setup required. Users can drag and drop files between devices; this is intended to allow users to work with fewer interruptions and increase productivity.
Improvements to Safari
Safari is getting a makeover. Now, users can use Apple's new tab design to see more of the page as they scroll. The new tab bar assumes the color of the webpage and combines tabs, the toolbar and search field into a single place.
Apple also introduced Tab Groups for Safari, which is ideal for planning projects and storing tabs that users visit on a regular basis. Tab Groups syncs across Mac, iPhone and iPad to allow for easy sharing. Safari will now offer Privacy Reports and Intelligent Tracking Prevention for a more secure browsing experience.
Shortcuts for Mac
Shortcuts will now be available on Macs as well. With Shortcuts, users can get more done faster and automate tasks for productivity. As with the iPhone and iPad, Mac users can quickly accomplish tasks with their most-used apps. The Shortcuts Editor on Mac allows users to customize shortcuts to match workflows. It is available via Finder, the menu bar, Spotlight and hands-free with Siri. Automator workflows can also be imported, making it easier to get up and running right away.
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New FaceTime capabilities
FaceTime has new audio and video features that make calls feel more natural and lifelike. Using spatial audio and Voice Isolation, voices in a FaceTime call sound like they are coming from where the person is positioned on the screen and ensures that the user's voice is clear. The feature uses machine learning to eliminate background noise and Wide Spectrum to allow all the sound in the area to come through so participants can hear everything. Using the Apple Neural Engine in the M1 chip, the user's background is blurred for a stunning video effect in Portrait Mode, and the new Grid View shows participants in same-sized tiles.
This set of features enables users to have shared experiences while on a FaceTime call; they can share their favorite music, TV shows, movies, projects and more with friends, family or colleagues in real time (collaborating in apps through screen sharing). SharePlay also has an API built for easy adoption, meaning third-party developers can share their apps in FaceTime.
Shared with You
This feature makes it simple to locate content that's shared through Messages, including photos, videos, articles and more. Users can review shared content via the Shared with You tab within Photos, Safari, Apple Podcasts, Apple News and the Apple TV app.
AirPlay for Mac
Now users can play, present and share anything with whomever they choose across all Apple devices. The high-fidelity sound system on the Mac can also be used as an AirPlay speaker, allowing users to play music, podcasts or use the Mac as a secondary speaker for multi-room audio.
Updates to Notes
In Notes, users can work through projects with friends or colleagues, add mentions, see edits in the new Activity View and categorize Notes with tags to quickly and easily find them in the new Tag Browser and in tag-based Smart Folders.
According to Apple, Quick Note is "a new way for users to jot down notes on any app or website systemwide, making it easy to capture thoughts and ideas wherever inspiration strikes." Links from any app can also be added to Quick Notes.
Apple's iCloud+ offers users new premium features, including Hide My Email, expanded HomeKit Secure Video support and an innovative new internet privacy service called iCloud Private Relay (no additional cost).
With the new Focus feature, users can automatically filter out notifications unrelated to their current activity and signal their status to let others know when they are not available. Focus automatically sets across other Apple devices and can be customized based on current activity.
With Mail Privacy Protection, users can choose whether emails can collect information about their Mail activity. The Mac recording indicator now also shows which app may be accessing the Mac's microphone.
SEE: How to migrate to a new iPad, iPhone, or Mac (TechRepublic Premium)
Now anyone can add alternative image descriptions using Markup. Other updates include improved Full Keyboard Access, and new cursor customization options allow for more flexibility when navigating Mac.
Updates to Maps
With the new interactive globe in Maps, it now has an immersive, detailed city experience.
Using on-device machine learning to detect text in photos (phone numbers, websites, addresses, tracking numbers, etc.), Live Text allows users to copy and paste, make phone calls, open websites and find more information. The Visual Lookup feature is intended to help users discover and learn about various topics like animals, art, landmarks, etc. These features work across macOS, including in apps like Photos, Messages and Safari.
AirPods Pro and AirPods Max
AirPods Pro and AirPods Max now use spatial audio on Macs with the M1 chip to deliver a better listening experience.
SEE: 10 ways to prevent developer burnout (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Which devices support macOS Monterey?
MacOS 12 is available on MacBook Pro (2016 and later), MacBook (2016 and later), MacBook Air (2018 and later), iMac (2017 and later), iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, Late 2015), iMac Pro, Mac mini (2018 and later) and Mac Pro (2019). It is also available for iPad Pro, iPad Air (3rd generation and later), iPad (6th generation and later) and iPad mini (5th generation and later).
In order to update to macOS 12 on Mac and iPad, both devices must be signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID using two-factor authentication and cannot share a cellular and internet connection. To use wirelessly, both devices must have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Handoff turned on and must be within 30 feet of each other. To use over USB, you must trust your Mac on the iPad.
When can I get macOS Monterey?
Apple announced on Oct. 25, 2021 that macOS Monterey is available as a free software update on Macs with Apple Silicon and Intel-based Macs. Be sure to read our guide on how to install macOS Monterey.
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