macOS Monterey: What You Need to Know

Everything you need to know about the latest macOS

macOS Monterey, also known as macOS 12, is the latest version of the Mac operating system. It was announced at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference in June of 2021 and is set for release on October 25, 2021. If you use a MacBook, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, or Mac Pro, you’ll most likely want to upgrade to it once it's available.

Currently, macOS Monterey is only available if you're part of the Apple Developer Program and willing to download a beta version of the operating system. A public beta is set to be available in July 2021. 

As always with new macOS, Monterey comes with a ton of new features that make your Mac more productive and easier to use. Here's a quick list of all the key features that the macOS Monterey update offers.

Universal Control

If you own multiple Apple devices, Universal Control is the most significant update coming to macOS Monterey. The feature effectively allows you to share a single keyboard and mouse across all your devices, providing they're all in close proximity to each other. 

You'll be able to move your mouse to the edge of your iMac or MacBook's screen and 'push' it across to your iPad meaning you can use your mouse and keyboard on the tablet instead of your fingertips. 

The feature also means you can drag and drop files rather than rely on AirDrop. It has a lot of promise although it isn't available through the macOS Monterey Developer Beta program yet. 

AirPlay Support

Users of multiple Apple devices can now use their iPhone or iPad to Airplay content across to your iMac or MacBook saving you the need to view all content on the small(er) screen. It's also possible to AirPlay the display of one Mac to another Mac, effectively using one Mac as an external display. You'll also be able to stream from an app such as by drawing using your iPad Pro before streaming the activity onto a Mac so others can view what you're doing. 

Shortcuts for macOS

macOS Monterey Shortcuts app

iOS's Shortcuts app is a great time saver for running complicated tasks quickly once you've found the best shortcuts for iOS. That feature now makes its way to macOS. Previously, Automator fulfilled many of Shortcuts' roles but Shortcuts for macOS is much simpler to use.

You can use it to set up custom shortcuts and routines on your Mac, enabling them to run via Siri, the Finder, Dock, and other parts of macOS Monterey. It's simple to use shortcuts across your Apple devices as they'll be synced across all your Apple devices. 

Regular users of Automator can import all their workflows into Shortcuts so they don't miss out on existing arrangements.

Redesigned Safari

macOS Monterey's redesigned Safari

macOS's web browser Safari has been redesigned to look more modern. It now has smaller tabs than before and it's now possible to organize tabs into tab groups. That means you can group tabs together according to your interests or projects so it's easier to sort through large groups of them. Move across to a different Apple device running iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 and Safari auto-updates the tab groups so you don't miss out.

Safari also now adopts the color scheme of the website you're browsing, with the color scheme changing accordingly between tabs. 

SharePlay With iOS 

While macOS has always been able to communicate well with iOS devices, the integration goes even further with macOS Monterey. SharePlay makes it possible to share media such as videos or music across all iOS, iPadOS, and macOS devices in a way that's kind of like a virtual chat room. Apple has cited examples where you can share a video clip with a friend via iMessage before chatting about it in real-time while the video plays alongside the chat window. 

Connected to that is a new Shared with You folder where you can view all the media people share with you via iMessage. 

macOS Focus

macOS Monterey's Focus Mode

Similar to iOS 15's Focus mode, you can use macOS Monterey's Focus mode to set time periods where you want to filter or block all notifications. It's possible to set up different focuses such as if you're trying to work and only want work-related notifications to come through or if you want to be undisturbed while watching a film or playing a game.

Other Features

Instead of needing to launch the Notes app to write a note, you can create notes on the screen as well as add images and see revisions on shared notes.

The Finder has been adjusted so the progress window when copying a file is clearer and in the form of a pie chart, and you can pause long file copies to resume them later. 

For those worried about battery life, a new low power mode is available via macOS Monterey and works much like the iPhone's Low Power Mode, turning down the system's speed and dimming the brightness of the screen. 

Which Macs Will Support Monterey?

Apple has provided an official list of all the Macs that are able to run macOS Monterey:

  • iMac: Late 2015 and later.
  • Mac Pro: Late 2013 and later.
  • iMac Pro: 2017 and later.
  • Mac mini: Late 2014 and later.
  • MacBook Air: Early 2015 and later.
  • MacBook: Early 2016 and later.
  • MacBook Pro: Early 2015 and later.

Is macOS Monterey Free?

Yes! Providing you own a compatible Mac, you can simply hit the update button once the OS update is available and enjoy the new operating system entirely for free. There are no fees involved.

Can I Install Monterey on My Mac?

When Monterey is officially launched, everyone with a compatible Mac can install Monterey.

For now, only subscribers to the Apple Developer Program can download the Monterey beta with a public beta program available sometime in July. Any beta is a risky thing to install on your main system as they're often unstable and unreliable, so it's better to wait until the official launch sometime in the Fall.

Will Monterey Slow Down My Mac?

If your Mac is reasonably new, Monterey almost certainly won't slow down your Mac, although some beta releases may have some stability issues.

If you have an older Mac though, such as one that's the oldest MacBook or iMac to be compatible with Monterey, you may notice some slowdown. There's no guarantee of this either way, as it depends on the configuration of your system and how you use it. Generally, the older the system, the bigger risk of slow down. 

  • How do I install macOS Monterey?

    To install macOS Monterey as part of the developer beta, visit Apple's developer site and select Account, then sign in. Click the two-line icon at the top-left, select the Operating System tab, and click Downloads. Next to macOS Monterey beta, select Install Profile. Next, access the macOS beta Access Utility from your Downloads folder, and double-click to mount and install it. You'll see the System Preferences > Software Update window; select Upgrade Now and follow the prompts.

  • Why should I upgrade to macOS Monterey?

    When it's publicly available, and if your hardware is compatible, there are many upsides to upgrading to macOS Monterey. macOS Big Sur was plagued by compatibility issues, bugs, and other problems, and Monterey is likely to fix these issues. In addition, Apple says Monterey will improve its use of artificial intelligence, automation, and machine learning in its design and interface. Monterey is also expected to improve OS privacy and integration issues, with a more seamless design and more universal control over apps and devices. A newer Safari design, along with extensions, is expected, as well as AirPlay and other design and performance upgrades.

  • When should I upgrade to macOS Monterey?

    Currently, only a developer beta version of macOS Monterey is available. A public beta is expected in July 2021, but it may be late 2021 or early 2022 before Monterey is widely available to the public. If you're happy with Big Sur and you have critical data you don't want to risk, consider watching the Monterey rollout and verify its stability before upgrading.

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