The 3 best new features of macOS Ventura

OS updates should be like good cinematography: yes, a major spine, but not one that stands out too obviously. Change a device’s user interface or functionality too drastically and you lose the muscle memory and personal workflow developed over time. But at the same time, change too little and no one will feel the need to update.

The new version of MacOS from Apple, called Ventura, expected to arrive later in 2022, but the public beta is available now. Everyone always says don’t install beta operating systems on your primary devices, and I’ve offered similar advice in the past. But honestly, once it hits the public beta stage (as opposed to a locked developer beta), things are generally in pretty good shape.

So with that mindset I downloaded and installed MacOS Ventura on a Macbook and iOS16 on my phone. I didn’t even save anything, I just went there. Yolo, I guess.

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MacOS Ventura Public Beta: Top 3 New Features


The next unspoken truth about updating the operating system is that most people will never see, use, or even be aware of most updates, especially since many are small tweaks that work behind the scenes, or add features you’re probably not even looking for. for.

But Ventura does a bit more than most OS updates, and when combined with iOS 16 or iPadOS 16, you get access to some really useful features. So while most of Ventura probably won’t make much of a difference to your daily life, here are four new features in the beta that stand out the most.

MacOS Ventura Scene Manager

Stage Manager places your open applications along a left side rail.

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The biggest visual change in Ventura is this new way of sorting and arranging different windows in different applications. Rather than the traditional Command-Tab or four-finger swipe, Stage Manager places your active apps in a column of thumbnails on the far left of the screen.

Click on the app you want and it jumps to the middle of the screen, making it easy to switch between apps on the fly. Sure, it wasn’t hard to switch between apps before, but this is a new, very visual way to do it. If you have multiple windows open in an application (like multiple browser windows), clicking the thumbnail on that left rail will jump between those windows.

Now that I’m using Stage Manager, I can’t imagine not using it anymore. However, that leaves us with what I would call the Double Dock problem. You now have a horizontal dock at the bottom of the screen and a second quasi-dock running vertically on the left side of the screen. If you want a really clean desktop view and need to hide Stage Manager, open the Command Center (the two pills icon) and disable it.

Dan Ackerman sitting at a patio table looking at a laptop

Using an iPhone as a wireless webcam with Camera Continuity.

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Continuity Camera

It’s something I’ve been waiting for for many years. The elevator pitch is that you can now use your iPhone as a wireless webcam. Sounds simple enough, but previously you had to use a third-party app like EpocCamwhich just isn’t simple and bug-free enough for everyday use.

Now, with Ventura on your Mac and iOS 16 on your phone (both currently through public beta), it’s suddenly easy to do, and it works in Zoom, FaceTime, and many other apps. Simply select your phone as the camera from the app’s camera selection menu. You must be signed in to the same Apple ID on both devices and on the same Wi-Fi network with Bluetooth enabled.

An iPhone mounted on a MacBook.

The iPhone makes an excellent webcam in macOS Ventura.

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Why would you want that? Unless you have the new macbook air m2 or the 14 inches Where 16-inch MacBook Pro, your MacBook has a fairly unimpressive 720p resolution camera. These newer Macs have much better 1080p resolution cameras, but your iPhone’s rear camera will still be much better than that. Looking at the MacBook M2’s 1080p camera alongside video from an iPhone 13 Pro via Camera Continuity, the iPhone was clearly superior.

There are a few additional tricks available in Command Center under Video Effects, including Center Stage, which follows your face around the frame; Portrait mode, which slightly blurs the background; and Studio Lght, which darkens the background and brightens your face.

Potentially more interesting is Desk View, which uses the iPhone’s wide-angle lens to capture what’s happening just below the laptop’s palm rest and touchpad, even if the phone is pointed directly at your face. It’s a standalone video app, so you can share it on Zoom, for example. It’s pretty limited right now in what it shows and how it’s implemented, but I’m interested in experimenting with it more.

MacBook, phone and pliers on a patio table

This 3D printed clip secured an iPhone to the lid of the MacBook.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

But wait, there’s more.

How do I position my phone to use it as a webcam, you ask? I’m sure there will be plenty of mini tripods and phone mounts available to secure your phone to the top of a MacBook.

But I went ahead and designed a simple one through TinkerCad, and printed it on a 3D printer. This specific stand is designed for an iPhone 13 Pro Max, with a case, and the new MacBook Air M2. You can try to download and print it if you think it will fit your phone and laptop. I also make the CAD file available, so you can adjust the measurements as you wish.

If you you don’t have a 3D printer, our list of the best is a good starting point.

The the public TinkerCad file is hereand the The 3D STL file is here on Thingiverse.

List of on-screen parameters

System Preferences is now… System Settings.

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System Settings/Preferences

Am I the only one who finds the traditional Mac System Preferences menu confusing? It’s a bunch of icons, which seem to move around with each version of the operating system, and the tools you want are inevitably buried in submenus. I find some of the organizational choices confusing and I question some of the internal logic.

The new look of the menu, now called System Settings, is delightfully basic. It’s just a list. The actual functionality isn’t much different, but I find it much easier to navigate because you can still see the other list entries in a specific menu. The somewhat opaque icons and category names are still there and things like click and drag for the trackpad are still buried in a submenu of the accessibility menu, but it’s nice to move the UX needle down. utility rather than design.

CNET site with a captioned Dan Ackerman video at the bottom of the screen

Live Captions adds real-time transcription to almost anything.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Live captions for videos

As a fourth favorite feature, I love the real-time captioning that works across different apps and audio sources.

YouTube videos already offer pretty good subtitles, but live streams, for example, can be a problem. Other video or video-related services offer a wide range of captioning and captioning options, some good, some not so good.

Live Captions adds just that, live captions, in a pop-up window and works with real-time spoken content from many video sources, including FaceTime calls. This is great for extending accessibility, but also handy in situations where the person on the other end of your video call can’t be heard clearly, has a bad mic, etc.

I’ve tried it several times, and you really do get an almost instant on-screen transcription of what the other person is saying. It’s not a feature I would use all the time, but it’s both impressive and useful.

Ventura Ventura

There are many other features in macOS Ventura, including improvements to Mail, Safari, Spotlight, and password management. Frankly, I found these parts less interesting than the parts I highlighted above, considering what would make a real difference in my daily workflow. Some of them are working fine now, while others need more time to fully cook, which is understandable given that this is a beta version.

The official version of Ventura should be available this fall, depending on when Apple previously released updates to the operating system.

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