Apple announced macOS Monterey, the next big software update coming to the Mac, in early June at WWDC. It's not going to be available until the fall — unless you download the public beta (available now) — but it promises to bring a bunch of cool new features that you'll actually use.
If you bought a Mac within the last several years, there's a good chance that it will be able to run macOS Monterey. Apple claims that MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros and iMacs that are 2015 or later will support it. (Others like the MacBook, Mac Pro and Mac Mini vary, so you'll want to check compatibility on Apple's website.)
That said, there's a little bit of a catch because Intel-based Macs won't get access to all the features that macOS Monterey promises. For features like Portrait Mode on FaceTime and the new globe view on Apple Maps, you'll need a newer M1-based Mac. All the below features will be available on all compatible Macs.
You can finally AirPlay to a Mac
To date, 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 will be a valuable for sharing both video and audio. You'll be 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'll be able to quickly stream it over AirPlay.
An easier iPad-to-Mac experience
One of the most highly-anticipated features coming with macOS Monterey is Universal Control. It's going to allow you to seamless use your keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) with both your Mac and iPad. This is big deal because it will allow you to 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. It promises to 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 will be getting a lot of new features when macOS Monterey rolls out. You'll be 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 will support spatial audio (if you're wearing AirPods Pro or AirPods Max). And, if you're using an M1-based Mac, there's Portrait Mode effect that you will be able to use.
That said, the most-hyped new feature is definitely SharePlay. This will allow you to share your screen over FaceTime with multiple people, which is obviously great for presentations. More intriguingly, it will watch parties for movies and shows and group listening sessions for music, where anybody in the FaceTime being able to control playback or queue up songs. Not every streaming app will support 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. At launch, mostly Apple's services are expected to support it.
A much-improved Notes app.
The new software will introduce a bunch of new features to the Notes app, including a new Activity view that will tell you who (and when) somebody last edited a shared note. You'll also be able to organize your notes with hashtags. The start new feature, however, is called Quick Note.
Quick Note is a feature that will allow you to quickly create a note in the Notes app. When browsing the web (or in a supported app), you'll be 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 will then appear in the Quick Notes section of your Notes app. These Quick Notes will sync across all your Apple devices.
A new-look Safari
If Safari is your web browser of choice, the new macOS is going to give it quite the face lift. The most drastic difference is that Apple is doing away with the traditional tab bar and instead replacing it with combination of the toolbar and the search field, in which the tabs will appear to float within the browser. It's an interesting design choice that puts an emphasis of the new Tab groups feature (which allows you to group tabs together for easy organization), but it will likely 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. You'll be able to set schedules for when certain apps can sent you smart notifications, and you'll be able to set various statuses (such as "Work" or "Sleep"), which you can again customize which apps can send you smart notifications. The other cool thing is that your status will appear as work of an "away message" in the Messages app that your contacts can see, so they'll know if it's a good time to text or call you. You'll also be able to set your Focus mode status across all (or just one) of your Apple devices.