Best MacOS Monterey features: AirPlay to Macs, FaceTime with anyone, group Safari tabs and more
Apple's MacOS 12 is available for download. Here are some of the best new features to try out.
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Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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Some users reported that the update was crashing their devices, but Apple has since released a patch that should fix the issue, which it says was tied to T2 security chips. Whether you've already upgraded or are still putting off the update, here are some of the best new MacOS features and how to use them.
FaceTime with friends on Android and Windows devices
What it is: MacOS Monterey is breaking down Apple's barrier to FaceTime calls, allowing you to share a link to join a FaceTime call from your Apple device to your friends and family using Android and Windows devices. They can join the FaceTime call directly from their web browser, no app or Apple device needed. The feature will also be available on iOS 15 and iPadOS 15.
How you'll use it: You can create a shareable FaceTime link from your Mac in Monterey. To do it, open the FaceTime app (it should be on the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen, or you can search for it in the Finder). Log in with your Apple ID if you haven't already. At the top left corner, click Create Link. From the dropdown menu, you can copy and paste the link, or send it via email, text, notes or other apps.
When ready to join the call, click the link you just created within the app and click Join. When others try to join, you can approve them before they enter the call.
We've also got FaceTime instructions on how to start a FaceTime call from an iPhone with iOS 15 and how to join a call from an Android or Windows device.
Group all your open tabs in Safari
What it is: Open tabs in the Safari browser get a refresh in MacOS Monterey, with a more compact, modern look that lets you see more of the page you're browsing. A new tab group feature lets you easily save a group of tabs so you can open and close them at the same time for easy access.
How you'll use it: To set up a tab group, open the tabs you want to save. Click the square icon at the top left corner to show the sidebar. In the sidebar, press the button in the top right corner that looks like a square with a plus sign in it. Click New Empty Tab Group and enter a name for the set of tabs. Hit enter.
To open a tab group when you open Safari, click the sidebar icon in the top left corner and select the group you want from your list. To switch between tab groups, click the sidebar icon to hide it, and click the tab with the name of the active group. From the drop down, choose from the other tab groups you want to open.
These tab groups will sync across all of your Apple devices. You can also click and drag a tab group into an email or message and send it to others.
AirPlay to your Mac from other Apple devices
What it is: The popular Apple AirPlay feature allows you to stream music, videos and presentations from one Apple device to another or to a TV or speaker on the same Wi-Fi network. Now, you can choose to stream directly to your Mac, too.
How you'll use it: AirPlay works the same way on Mac as on other devices: Make sure both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network, and open the file you want to share on your iPhone or iPad. Tap the AirPlay icon (it looks like a square with a triangle at the bottom), and select your Mac from the list of options that appear. Your Mac can also act as an AirPlay speaker for music.
You can also mirror your display as another way to share. Again, make sure both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network. On your iPhone, swipe down from the top, and tap Screen Mirroring. Select your Mac from the list of available devices.
Live Text can read your photos
What it is: Apple's new Live Text feature found in iOS 15 is also in MacOS Monterey. Similar to Google Lens, Live Text uses computer vision to "read" the text seen in photos.
How you'll use it: To try it out, open an image in Preview, Photos or Safari. You can highlight and copy the text in the image, and cut and paste it elsewhere. You can also highlight addresses and phone numbers in websites, and use them to make a call, search for directions or open a URL.
Coming soon: Use SharePlay to watch movies along with friends on FaceTime
What it is: The new FaceTime feature SharePlay lets you host virtual watch parties and share your screen within a FaceTime video call -- similar to apps like Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix Party, that gained popularity during the pandemic. But unlike other apps, SharePlay also gives you a picture-in-picture video chat with FaceTime, not just messaging alongside the stream.
How you'll use it: To use SharePlay, both parties need to have FaceTime on an Apple device that supports MacOS Monterey, iOS 15 or iPadOS 15. So far, you can use it to watch content on Apple TV Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, TikTok, Twitch and ESPN Plus, among others.
Note that SharePlay is available on devices running iOS 15, but it's still in beta on MacOS Monterey. It should be available in the Monterey 12.1 update. Here's how it works in the beta: To start using SharePlay in MacOS Monterey, start a FaceTime call from your Mac, open a compatible streaming app and choose a show or movie. Press Play and both parties can watch the stream at the same time.
Still to come: Universal control to move between your iMac, MacBook and iPad
What it is: At WWDC, Apple executives showed off a new feature called universal control, which allows you to place multiple Apple devices next to each other (say, an iMac, a MacBook or an iPad) and move seamlessly between them using the same mouse and keyboard, without any additional setup. For example, you could drag and drop files between the different devices, and use the trackpad on your MacBook to control your iMac and iPad at the same time.
How you'll use it: As of this writing, Apple said that universal control would be available to test out "later this fall." We'll update this story once we can try it ourselves.