The three best things in the MacOS Monterey beta so far
I've been living with the new MacOS beta for a while now. Here's why it's changing how I use my MacBook.
Dan AckermanEditorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications.
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ExpertiseI've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever.Credentials
Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
I've had a little while to play around with the MacOS Monterey public beta, and so far there are a handful of things that really blow me away. That said, like almost every OS update, from Monterey to Windows 11 to iOS 15, most of the new features are things you'll probably never use, or even find. So much of what we do on our computers is browser-based that the platform matters much less than it used to.
That said, a few of the new MacOS features really jumped out at me as very useful. Note that this is still a beta, and some promised features aren't available yet, or working well yet.
Open FaceTime on your Mac, create a link and share it any way you want. You can just copy it and send it via email or Google chat.
So far, I've found the browser version to be a little choppy compared to a direct FaceTime-to-FaceTime call, but by opening this platform up so widely, I can see FaceTime being much closer to a Zoom competitor for work calls now.
If you suffer from tab fatigue, the new tab groups let you group a bunch of open tabs together, almost like a folder, and switch between different groups in a flash. You can label and organize them any way you want, and it's easier to navigate than the way I used to do it, having different browser windows open, each with their own set of tabs.
There's also a cool visual upgrade. The tabs themselves have been subsumed into the page design, blending in better, whereas before, they literally stuck out from the top of the page. It's a subtle difference, but a much cleaner look. I especially love how the color of the tab bar changes on the fly to blend in with whatever page you have open.
It's not revolutionary, but the way we look at and use browser tabs has been stagnant for so long that this new design really puts the focus on what you're reading, not the sea of tabs sticking up at the top of the window.
Live Text learns to read your photos
This isn't really a new trick, but it's new to Macs. Open an image in Preview or Photos, and you'll be able to highlight and copy text in the image. In my testing, it worked pretty well, and I tried with both handwritten and printed text.
More than just cutting and pasting text, you can also highlight phone numbers and websites. For a phone number, you can call, text or FaceTime it, and for a URL, you can open it in Safari or pop open a quick preview window. Yes, apps like Google Lens have been able to do this forever, but it's handy to have it built right into the OS.
Some other new features, like Universal Control for using your Mac keyboard and touchpad or mouse on your iPad, aren't in the current beta yet. The official version of MacOS Monterey is expected later this year.