It's been several months since Apple announced macOS Monterey, the next big software update for the Mac, at WWDC in early June — but it's finally here. As of October 25, your Mac (must be 2015 or later) can download it: click the Apple menu (the Apple icon) in the top-left of the menu bar, select System Preferences and then click Software Update.
The new macOS promises a lot of cool features, but there's a little bit of a catch: you'll need a newer M1-based Mac to get all of them; if you have an Intel-based Mac, you unfortunately won't be able to get features like Portrait Mode on FaceTime and the new globe view on Apple Maps. However, no matter which Mac you have — so long as it supports macOS Monterey — you'll be able to take advantage of the below features.
You can finally AirPlay to a Mac
Previously, it's been nearly impossible to AirPlay something from your iPhone or iPad to your Mac. That's changing with macOS Monterey's AirPlay to Mac feature. It turns your Mac into an AirPlay output device that will appear just like any other device that supports AirPlay. Like before, the two devices will have to be on the same Wi-Fi network.
This new features is valuable for sharing both video and audio. You're able to easily share your iPhone's screen to watch a video or presentation. If you want to listen to a song on your Mac's better-quality speakers, you can quickly stream it over AirPlay, too.
An easier iPad-to-Mac experience
One of the most highly-anticipated features of macOS Monterey is Universal Control. It allows you to seamless use your keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) with both your Mac and iPad. It's a big deal because you can easily transfer files and photos between your devices — just drag and drop — without having to go through a cloud-based service (like iCloud or Dropbox) or a hard drive. So it will save you a lot of time, plus you won't have to deal with pairing and repairing your wireless devices (even if they support multi-point Bluetooth).
Watch movies with friends over FaceTime
FaceTime on the Mac gets a lot of new features with macOS Monterey. You're able to create sharable FaceTime links so that anybody hop in and join video chat, making it feel a lot like Zoom or Google Hangouts. (This means people on a Windows or Android device will be able to join your FaceTime call.) Video calls also now support spatial audio (if you're wearing AirPods Pro or AirPods Max). And, if you have an M1-based Mac, there's Portrait Mode effect that you're able to use.
The most-hyped new feature is probably SharePlay. It allows you to share your screen over FaceTime with multiple people, which is obviously great for presentations, but maybe more intriguing is the fact that it allows you to have watch parties for movies and shows and group listening sessions for music. And the cool thing is that anybody in the FaceTime call can control playback or queue up songs. Not every streaming app supports SharePlay at launch, but the API is open so popular services like Disney+, Netflix, HBO Max and Spotify will theoretically be able to take advantage of it. Right now at launch, mostly Apple's services are the only ones to support SharePlay.
A much-improved Notes app.
The new software introduces a bunch of new features to the Notes app, including a new Activity view that tells you who (and when) somebody last edited a shared note. You're able to organize your notes with hashtags. And the standout new feature is called Quick Note.
Quick Note is a feature that allows you to quickly create a note in the Notes app. When browsing the web (or in a supported app), you're able to highlight a word, phase or paragraph, then right click and select "New Quick Note"; the selected text and a hyperlink to the source then appears in the Quick Notes section of your Notes app. These Quick Notes also sync across all your Apple devices.
A new-look Safari
The new macOS gives Safari quite the face lift. Apple has done away with the traditional tab bar and instead replaced it with combination of the toolbar and the search field, in which the tabs appear to float within the browser. It's an interesting design choice that puts an emphasis on the new Tab groups feature that allows you to group tabs together for easy organization; however, this could frustrate those who normally like to have 10+ tabs open at one time.
There's a new Focus mode that's essentially a more customizable Do Not Disturb mode. It allows you to set schedules for when certain apps can sent you smart notifications, as well as set various statuses (such as "Work" or "Sleep"); you can also customize which of these apps can send you smart notifications. The other cool thing is that your status now appears as an "away message" in the Messages app, which your contacts also can see, so they know if it's a good time to text or call you. These Focus mode statuses can be set across all (or just one) of your Apple devices.