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Best MacOS Monterey features: FaceTime updates, Safari tab groups, AirPlay and more

You can download the beta of Apple's latest version of MacOS now. Here's how to try out some of its cool new features.

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The MacOS Monterey beta is full of new features, including the ability to FaceTime with those on Android and Windows devices. 

CNET/Dan Ackerman
This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple.

Apple's latest Mac operating system, MacOS Monterey, is chock full of new features aimed at streamlining the way your Mac works and making it easier to seamlessly work across all of your Apple devices. You can download the MacOS Monterey public beta now to test out some of its best new features (like using FaceTime on Android and grouping tabs in Safari) before its general release this fall, so long as your Mac is compatible. Just note that because it is still in beta, it may contain bugs and you shouldn't download it on your primary Mac. 

We went hands-on with the MacOS Monterey public beta. Whether you've got the beta on your device now or are waiting until the final release, here are some of the best new MacOS features and how to use them. 

Read more: iOS 15 hidden features on iPhone

FaceTime with friends on Android and Windows devices

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Join a FaceTime call whether you're on an Apple, Android or Windows device with MacOS Monterey. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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 

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Save groups of open tabs together for easier access later in the updated version of Safari found in MacOS Monterey.

Screenshot/Apple

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. 

Use SharePlay to watch movies along with friends on FaceTime

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The new FaceTime feature allows you to experience streaming TV, movies and music within a video chat (it works on your Mac, too).

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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. 

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. 

AirPlay to your Mac from other Apple devices

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You can now use AirPlay to cast your iPhone or iPad's screen to your Mac.

Screenshot/Apple

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

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MacOS Monterey's Live Text feature lets you copy and paste text from a photo or handwritten note.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

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. 

Still to come: Universal control to move between your iMac, MacBook and iPad

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With universal control, you'll be able to control multiple Apple devices from the same keyboard and mouse, just by placing them next to each other.

Screenshot/Apple

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, universal control was not yet available to test out in the MacOS Monterey beta. We'll update this story once we can try it ourselves. 

For more, check out three of the best things we've found in the MacOS Monterey beta so far, the best new WatchOS 8 features and everything we know about iOS 15

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