Just in time for the public debut of its revamped and updated MacBook Pros, Apple today releases macOS Monterey. Here are some of the key features of this release for enterprise professionals.

Which Macs are compatible?

Announced at WWDC 2021, macOS Monterey is the 20th iteration of Apple’s desktop OS since it migrated to OS X back in 2000. Monterey works on most Macs that are five years old or so, and even some models that are older. The following Macs are compatible with macOS Monterey:

  • MacBook (Early 2016 and later);
  • MacBook Air (Early 2015 and later);
  • MacBook Pro (Early 2015 and later);
  • Mac mini (Late 2014 and later);
  • iMac (Late 2015 and later);
  • iMac Pro (2017);
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013 and later).

Missing in action for a while: Universal Control

Apple won’t be rolling out Universal Control with Monterey on day one. The feature makes it possible to use a single mouse and keyboard between up to three Macs and iPads. The feature supports drag-&-drop between devices and should deliver significant benefit to anyone working across several devices. Improvements in AirPlay mean you can draw or sketch on your iPad and colleagues will be able to watch what you are doing on your Mac; you can also stream video or other assets from your iPad to your Mac, or use the Mac’s own speaker as an AirPlay 2 system.

But Split view is enhanced

While Split View is already useful when working between multiple applications, it has been awkward swapping between different ones in each window. You can now quickly swap one widow for another: just click the green button, select the change windows option and you can select another window from the thumbnails that you’ll see. You can also change a Split View window into full screen using the same green button and both windows will automatically go into full screen, so you can swipe between the two.

Improvements with multiple displays

If you use multiple displays with your Mac, windows will now resize automatically when you move between displays. This works for windows moved between Macs and iPads.

Useful Shortcuts come to Finder

If you do anything at all on your Mac, you’ll spend a great deal of your time in the Finder. One of the most functionally useful Monterey improvements is the capacity to save Shortcuts as Quick Actions, which will save you lots of time automating repetitive tasks.

If you collaborate on work with other Mac users using iCloud, the new Collaboration folder in the sidebar gathers all your shared documents in one place. Each item held in the folder will show you who has accepted an invitation to that file and who last modified it.

And Shortcuts are better

Apple has added Shortcuts to the Mac with an application that lets you build your own and provides you with a library of prebuilt items. This integration extends across the Mac.

The Finder will automatically choose relevant Shortcuts for the item you have selected, and you can run them from the Menu Bar, Dock, Spotlight, via Siri or contextual menus.

M1 Macs can run shortcuts created on iOS devices and existing Automator workflows can be converted into Shortcuts. If your business already uses Automator workflows, Apple says both Automator and Shortcuts will co-exist on the Mac for years. Here’s more info: What’s new in Shortcuts on macOS.

You can take Quick Notes on Macs and iPads

Already available on iPads, Quick Notes makes it super easy to take Notes while working within applications – just type Q+Globe or Fn key to open a. new note, or use a Hot Corner. You can add links to apps, websites, and other items, and these notes will pop up when you open a site referred to in the note. All of these are stored in the Notes app, making them accessible across all your devices.

The Notes application gains Smart Folders, tags and better tools (such as @Mentions) for collaboration within your teams. A new shared folder lets you monitor all your shared Notes.

There are useful Passwords tweaks

Passwords are now available in the new Passwords section in System Preferences. You can also import passwords from other password managers and use the built-in authenticator (also on iPhones/iPads) to generate security codes. Perhaps the most useful improvement for many professionals is better support for Windows – you can now access iCloud passwords on Windows and autofill them in Edge with the new iCloud Keychain for Windows extension.

Reminders gets much better

Reminders gets much more useful in Monterey, which ushers in the improvements in the app Apple has also made in iOS and iPad OS. That means you can tag reminders and use tags to find them again, create Smart Lists, and enjoy improved natural language support.

System-wide translation

Never be lost in translation again. Because translation is system wide in Monterey, you can translate text wherever you find it. Received a short report in French? Select the text, right-click it and choose Translate. You can then copy that text,  change the language, or replace the existing with translated text. Apple has also made it possible to dictate text of any length, rather than the 60-second limit that existed until now.

Machine vision intelligence

Live Text can automatically turn words in any image or online into editable text you can copy and paste across applications. The feature is also smart enough to identify phone numbers, web addresses, tracking numbers, or other items from an image.

Visual Look Up is similar. The feature uses on-device machine learning to identify things such as pieces of art, dog breeds, or landmarks and will then present you with relevant information about what it sees. (Think of it as being like a visual search engine.)

FaceTime plays better with others

By far the most important improvement in FaceTime is support for non-Apple devices using a web browser. That one addition may help the application gain ground lost to Zoom.

Full Keyboard Access

Full Keyboard Access lets you use your keyboard to take complete control of your Mac, no mouse required.

Data protection

Mac IT admins should be pleased that System Preferences now offers a tool to erase all user data and applications from the system, which makes it much easier and less time-consuming to protect corporate data.

Privacy protection

Monterey is festooned with privacy improvements, including a new recording indicator next to the Control Center in the menu bar that not only shows recording is taking place but will also tell you which app(s) are doing so. You’ll also get Mail Privacy Protection and all the recently improved privacy features in iCloud+, including Hide My Email, Custom email domain, and iCloud Private Relay. Two related enhancements include Account Recovery Contacts to help you regain access to your Apple ID if you become locked out, and the new Digital Legacy Program.

Time for Focus

Finally, there’s Focus. This lets you assign times during which notifications can be blocked and goes a little further than the Do Not Disturb feature it assimilated. It does so by providing granular controls, so you may have a Work-related Focus setup that accepts notifications from work apps but blocks all the others. The feature is supported in Messages, which will display a notice to let others know you’re currently unavailable. This should be pretty helpful to remote workers attempting to get actual work done, rather than engage in endless message chatter.

Learn more about Focus here.

Improvements for MDM

A key improvement in Monterey is the introduction of support for declarative device management, which means the device checks itself to ensure it is secure. An improvement in Managed Apple IDs makes it much easier to sign personal devices to corporate networks. Take a deeper look at the MDM improvements here.

There are, of course, other changes; let me know of any productivity-boosting improvements in the OS you come across.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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