It wasn't that long ago when the Mac product line looked old, tired, and oh-too-familiar. Since 2020, however, things have changed significantly on both the Mac hardware and software front. That was when Apple began rapidly replacing Intel-based Macs with those using in-house chips. That year also saw the arrival of the most significant software update since Mac OS X came on the scene over 20 years ago: macOS 11 Big Sur.
At this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple again announced a new version of macOS. Officially called macOS 13 Ventura, the update includes a nice mix of new and updated features. Available as a free download to the public sometime this fall, the update isn't quite as big as the game-changing Big Sur, although it offers substantially more than the version it will soon replace, macOS 12 Monterey.
We'll publish a macOS 13 Ventura review once it's available to everyone. Until then, we're offering this preview. This is not intended to be a review. Instead, it's an overview of the new features and how they functioned from our personal experience with the beta. Many aspects of the software could change before this final release, and we will review the software in full once it's officially released.
Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas (opens in new tab). While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That's why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.
Remember, it remains in beta
Until at least September, macOS 13 Ventura remains an unfinished product. However, between now and then, Apple and its third-party developers will put the update through a beta process.
You can also experience macOS 13 Ventura through Apple's free public beta program. But, remember: betas are sometimes unstable and often exclude key features or tools. Therefore, it's a good idea to install the software on a secondary device and perform regular backups just in case.
Not every Mac that works with Monterey will support Ventura. Those that will include the best Macs on the market, specifically the iMac (2017 and later), iMac Pro (all models), MacBook (2017), MacBook Air (2018 and later), MacBook Pro (2017 and later), Mac mini (2018 and later), Mac Pro (2019 and later), and Mac Studio (2022).
A big update
Each year, Apple announces new macOS features, and I become convinced there's nothing else it can bring to a platform that was first launched as Mac OS X in 2001 — and yet it does.
Apple's macOS 13 Ventura offers many exciting new features and updates. The update is much bigger than the outgoing macOS 12 Monterey, although it's not as significant as macOS 11 Big Sur.
Once again, several new Mac features won't be making the jump to Intel-based Macs because of compatibility issues. If you want all the new features, you'll want a Mac with an Apple M1 or M2 chip. Those exclusive Apple silicon features are noted below.
Best new features
When Ventura was announced in June, much of the early talk focused on two new features: Stage Manager and Freeform. And yet, there are other newbies worth discussing, as you'll see below.
Ventura's most important new feature, Stage Manager, adds a new way of organizing windows on the desktop. Also launching on select iPads with iPadOS 16, Stage Manager positions open app windows (in icon form) on the left side of the screen while moving the current window into the center. As a result, moving back and forth between open apps is as simple as clicking back and forth, and you can also group apps based on specific tasks or projects.
Stage Manager is the latest in a series of features Apple has added to Mac over the years to make windows organization easier. It's much more helpful than desktop Stacks, which launched with macOS Mojave in 2018, and it's easier to use than Spaces, which launched way back with Mac OS X Leopard in 2007.
For those who don't like change, Stage Manager is easily turned on/off through Control Center. It will be interesting to see whether the feature is turned on by default once the first public version of Ventura gets released. It appears to be off initially in the beta.
In recent years, Apple has made it a strange habit of announcing new software features at WWDC that didn't arrive "on time." For example, although Universal Control was announced with the rest of Monterey in June 2021, the cross-platform feature wasn't launched until early 2022. This time, Apple announced Freeform for Mac, iOS, and iPadOS. Unfortunately, the feature is "coming later this year," meaning sometime after Ventura and iOS/iPadOS 16 debuts, but before the end of 2022.
Think of Freeform as a blank slate that is shareable to others across multiple platforms. On this "flexible canvas," you can collaborate with others on projects big and small using various tools, including images, video, audio, PDFs, documents, web links, and more. Freeform works with the Apple Messages Collaboration API, which means live project interaction can happen through FaceTime. You can also share canvases through sharable links.
We'll have more to say about Freeform once it arrives. Until then, stay tuned.
Clock and Weather apps
In Ventura, Apple has finally taken the mobile Clock and Weather apps and brought them to macOS. Both apps look beautiful on the larger Mac screen and are nearly identical to what you'll find on iPhone and iPad. However, with the changes, the Weather Widget will no longer redirect to The Weather Channel's website, just as the Clock Widget no longer links to Date & Time settings.
The native Weather app is also arriving for the first time on iPad with iPadOS 16.
Cameras found on MacBooks have never been extraordinary, although Apple did make some positive changes to the camera found on the 2021 MacBook Pro models and MacBook Air (2022). Despite this, the cameras still aren't nearly as good as the ones found on iPhone models. This is where the Continuity Camera comes in. For the first time, you can use an iPhone as your webcam. In doing so, all of the features that make the iPhone camera system special (Center Stage, Portrait model, Studio Light, and more) come to Mac.
Continuity Camera came as a surprise when it was revealed at WWDC. Almost immediately, however, companies like Belkin started announcing plans to release iPhone stands that will sit at the top MacBooks to take advantage of the new feature. Continuity Camera shows great promise, although it isn't ready for public consumption. Still, it's getting there with each new beta release. It will be interesting to see the complete version in practice.
With software, what was once revolutionary eventually becomes stale and needs updates. With macOS 13 Ventura, Apple made many changes to existing features and tools. I have a few favorites already, although I expect my list to grow before Ventura arrives to everyone later this year.
Handoff in FaceTime
Apple made some incredible changes to FaceTime last year with the introduction of SharePlay. Things are getting even better with Ventura, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16. You can now start a FaceTime conversation on one device and move to another, and vice versa if you choose. Better still, if you're using a Bluetooth headset, it also moves from one device to the next.
iCloud Shared Photo Library
Across all platforms, Apple's also introducing the iCloud Shared Photo Library. Yes, Apple already offers shared albums in the Photos app and will continue to do so. This new feature is slightly different though because whoever is part of the share (up to five others) has equal power. For example, I can create a Shared Photo Library for my parents, brother, nephew, and daughter. Once a person accepts membership, they have equal permissions to edit, delete, or add content. Captions, keywords, and favorites are also shared.
Which photos can you share? You can bring over existing photos/videos to your Shared Photo Library, snap new ones, or take advantage of "smart suggestions" to add content to the share. You can also have photos automatically shared that match a start date or have certain people in the images.
During the beta process, Apple has yet to add most iCloud Shared Photo Library features to Ventura. However, what has been added so far, including the setup process, is user-friendly and shows great promise.
System Preferences once handled under-the-hood options on macOS. Not anymore. In Ventura, System Preferences has been renamed System Settings. Along with the name change, the section has a new user interface that looks like Settings on iPad, right down to its sidebar design.
Power Mac users will probably be the most affected by the new System Settings app, which takes some getting used to, as some options have moved to new locations. However, everyday Mac users will almost certainly like the new look, which seems more welcoming and easier to use.
Edit and unsend in Messages and Mail
Have you ever sent an embarrassing iMessage or an email containing typos or incorrect information? With new features in the Messages and Mail apps, those snafus could become a thing of the past. In Messages, you can now edit or unsend messages up to 15 minutes after sending them. In the official Mail app, there's now a way to undo an email for 10 seconds after sending it.
I have nothing bad to say about Messages' edit and unsend feature. However, does Apple honestly believe 10 seconds is enough time for someone to 1) decide they shouldn't have emailed a message and 2) click the undo tool? The Mail app in Ventura is also picking up the ability to schedule emails to go out at a future time. With this in mind, wouldn't the undo tool make much more sense if every message came with a 30-second or 60-second delay, or at least offer that flexibility?
Exclusive Apple silicon features
If you have an Intel-based Mac that supports Ventura, you still won't be getting all of the update's new features. On a good note, however, there are fewer Apple silicon exclusives with Ventura than Monterey last year.
The biggest exclusive is Live Captions, which can turn audio into text in real-time. The accessibility feature, which Apple expects to keep in beta even after the rest of Ventura arrives to the public, makes it easier to follow along with conversations and media across various devices. Live Captions will also work with FaceTime.
Non-Apple silicon Mac users will also not get to experience inserting emoji using your voice while dictating. There's also a reference mode with Sidecar tool that won't be available. You must also have a supported 12.9-inch iPad Pro to use this.
This preview didn't look at every new feature in Ventura because some haven't even been released to developers. Still, others aren't yet in their final form. Seeing what changes Apple brings to the table from beta to beta is one reason so many non-developers are part of the developer process. Other features were omitted in this preview simply because there wasn't enough time to do so. That won't be the case when our macOS 13 Ventura review is released around the time the software arrives to the public this fall.
When will that be? Well, last year, Apple waited until October 25 to release Monterey; a year before, Big Sur launched on November 12. Catalina had the earliest macOS release in recent years, arriving on October 7, 2019. Therefore, I'd venture to guess macOS 13 Ventura will arrive sometime between the beginning of October and mid-November. Until then, come back to iMore often to see what develops. We plan on publishing much more information about Ventura between now and its official release date.
Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.
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