Today marks the release of the latest iteration of macOS, Monterey. The usual disclaimers apply. If you have production software on your Mac that you use to pay for your shoes, you should seriously check all of that out before installing this update. That said, I’ve been running the beta for months, and it’s been largely stable (except for Shortcuts, explained further below). Once you get it installed, there are several features that I found delightful through the beta:
Focus mode is my favorite feature this year. It lets you set contexts that control what apps show up on your iPhone and iPad, along with what apps and people can interrupt you. It’s more powerful than I could have expected, but there are limitations. With the release of Monterey, you can now have your Focus mode reflected in your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. This ability to launch a feature across the spectrum of Apple’s computing hardware is something new and a testament to their changes over the last few years to unify the experience across devices. This unification comes at a price, but also pays dividends like this. I’m putting together a free webinar on Focus mode in the next few weeks to explain how I use it. Stay tuned for an announcement in the next few days.
Mac as AirPlay Receiver
I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about this. Still, now, in addition to transmitting your Mac’s screen and audio to a different AirPlay device (like an Apple TV), you can also turn your Mac into an AirPlay receiver, which allows you to share a screen from another Mac or transmit your iPad screen to your Mac. This also works for audio, so if you’ve got some nice speakers connected to your Mac, you can play your iPhone audio through your Mac’s speakers.
The Nuke Button
Deleting your data from your Mac has always involved multiple restarts and visits to the system recovery tools. Now you just go to the System Preferences menu and choose “Erase All Content and Settings…” to get started. Deleting your data from your Mac is now as easy as it is on your iPhone and iPad.
Improved Window Management
Window management on the Mac leaves a lot to be desired. Indeed this is one of those areas where I think Microsoft has done a better job than Apple has with macOS. There has been some improvement this year, however.
Menu Bar in Full-Screen Apps
If you go into the Dock & Menu Bar preference pane, there is now a Menu Bar section with a checkbox to “Automatically hide and show the menu bar in full screen.” This was always a sticking point for me with full-screen apps. If the apps take the full screen, I can certainly afford a few pixels at the top for the Menu bar. Now I can put it there by default by leaving this box unchecked.
Better Tiled Window Support
For several years now, the Mac has been able to tile two apps on the screen at once. But it has been garbage. Assembling the tiles takes a lot of dragging, and if you minimize either window, you break the tiled window set up. The feature has been unusable for me. It just felt like the guy doing window management went out for a pack of cigarettes and never returned.
With the new Monterey release, there is a new feature where you can have the opportunity to replace a window with another application if you click and hold onto the green button. I don’t think this is ultimately going to lead me to start using tiled windows. There are still too many other problems. It is, however, better. I just wish they did more with window management on the Mac.
There are lots of things that go on inside Apple that are pretty boring. The running battle over the latest iteration of Safari is not one of them. I would love to hear one day what happened over the summer of 2021. Safari’s visual design got turned on its head and then turned back to its original position again. That wasn’t the only change of note to Safari, however.
Intelligent Tracking Prevention
One particularly nefarious practice online marketers have been doing is building profiles of you based on your online activity and your IP address, and you don’t need to sign up for an online account for them to creep on you. Apple has been engaged in a running battle with these people. This year’s Safari update added intelligent tracking prevention, making it harder for marketing companies to profile you. You get this for free, and I like it.
I like to think of the new tab groups feature as bookmarks 2.0. It’s a little more intuitive and makes it easier to group tabs based on the area of research. You could set, for example, a group of tabs based on your personal life, your scuba diving habit, or your work. A lot of nerds have dismissed this, but I can see plenty of uses for Tab Groups. Moreover, I think a lot of people that don’t dream in binary will find it helpful.
Quick Note was a banner feature for the iPad this year, but there is also support for the feature on your Mac. Just put the mouse cursor in the lower-right corner and click. A Quick Note will appear on the screen with a link to your current focus. This is a rudimentary but zero-effort way to get started with contextual computing. You can later jump between the website or source app and the note with a click. I’m not sold on Quick Notes. (I do something far more powerful with Obsidian.) That, however, doesn’t change the fact that this is an excellent way to get started with linking contexts.
And, of Course, Shortcuts
Shortcuts for the Mac was touch-and-go for much of the beta, but made a lot of improvement towards the end. There are still some broken pipes in there, but essentially you can start automating with Shortcuts right away.
You can download the Monterey update today from the App Store.