Apple’s macOS Ventura bets on multitasking, better apps, and a little chaos

With Stage Manager, a slew of app updates, and Continuity Camera, this is definitely one of the most... interesting macOS updates in a while.

The next version of macOS is called macOS Ventura, as Apple announced during its virtual WWDC keynote. The new operating system isn’t a visual overhaul like Big Sur was, nor is it an upgrade that strictly focuses on refinements and quality-of-life improvements like Monterey. Rather, Ventura (or macOS 13) tries to strike a balance somewhere in between, with enough new UI elements to feel refreshing while sticking with the formula that’s been working for macOS over the past few years.

It also gets a little weird. Apple had a particular demo onstage that seemed completely out of character for them, yet somehow made sense in the grand scheme of things. It’s definitely a much less traditional macOS update, which could ultimately help drive adoption rates once it’s released to the public.

The biggest, shiniest new feature in Ventura is Stage Manager. Also coming to iPadOS 16, Stage Manager allows you to organize all the apps you have open and move the ones you don’t immediately need off to the side. You can still easily access them by clicking on them, and you can even group apps together to be presented in the main view. It’s sort of like separating app windows into different desktops while not having to actually create a bunch of different desktops.

The feature can be enabled through Control Center so you don’t always have to live with it on. However, I can imagine anyone with a wide-enough screen will likely use it simply for the sake of keeping tabs on where all of your windows are when multitasking. I know I’ll be one of them.

Apps are also seeing plenty of improvements across macOS Ventura. Safari is getting a new shared Tab Groups feature which lets you group a set of web pages together and share them with your friends in real-time. You can start a FaceTime call or Messages conversation from that point so you can talk about what you’re all looking at.

The browser also gains access to Passkeys, which allow you to set up new web accounts by using Touch ID or Face ID in place of a password. The feature works cross-platform and will fall back on QR codes if you aren’t using an Apple device.

Mail app users are getting the ability to cancel sent messages, schedule emails to go out, get reminded about an email at a later date, and enjoy a much more robust search experience. The Messages app gets updated with an edit button for messages, the ability to recover recently-deleted messages, and mark threads as unread. You can also collaborate on files in other apps like Pages and Keynote right through iMessage, as well as enjoy content together in real time with SharePlay.

Spotlight gets a substantial upgraded with a new design, Quick Look for peaking at documents, and Live Text integration. You can now search for photos by location, people, scenes, or objects, and it’s now much easier to find said photos whether they’re in your library or on the web. Spotlight also now lets you take actions like start a timer or create a new document, while search results for things like media and businesses are now much richer.

The Photos app is upgraded with iCloud Shared Photo Library which lets you share a single photo library with your family that automatically uploads pictures and videos of selected people, places, and things. There’s also improved gaming support with more responsive graphics and accelerated performance thanks to Metal 3.

Live Text is updated with support for videos, Visual Look Up is now compatible with more subjects like animals and statues, there are new Weather and Clock apps for the Mac, Live Captions are available for all audio content, and System Preferences gets renamed to System Settings along with a refreshed UI that’s simpler and easier to navigate.

That’s all well and good, and then things take a bit of a funky turn. Apple’s new Continuity Camera feature is by far one of the quirkiest it’s ever shipped, and despite its somewhat awkward appearance, it actually seems… convenient?

The way it works is really straightforward: if your iPhone and Mac are near one another and you fire up an app on your Mac that require a camera, macOS will automatically look for your iPhone and rely on its cameras instead of the built-in webcam. This will let you use your iPhone as a webcam and take advantage of its much higher-resolution lenses. You’ll also get to use Center Stage, Portrait mode, and a new Studio Light feature that brightens your face and darkens the background.

This is certainly a weird feature, but it gets even weirder when you consider what else it can do. Another way to utilize your iPhone’s cameras on your Mac is through Desk View, which uses the ultra-wide lens to capture what’s in front of you on your desk and bends the image using AI to make it look like an overhead camera. The result is a shot that could be useful for creating DIY videos or crafting with your friends over FaceTime.

To make all this happen, Apple has partnered with Belkin to design special mounts that work with MagSafe to attach your iPhone to your Mac.

This, my friends, is what we call in the business “gimmick-adjacent.” It certainly seems like it’ll be useful for anyone who has a less-than-stellar webcam on their MacBook or don’t have one at all with an external monitor, but boy does it seem like the exact kind of feature Apple would leave up to third parties to ship. Like, did you ever think Apple would promote strapping your iPhone to the top of your MacBook? I certainly haven’t.

Granted, I haven’t tried this feature yet, and it’ll be a while before it’s in a place where I can review it. That being said, there’s no way the general consensus around Continuity Camera will be anything less than partisan, whether it’s all positive or negative.

Overall, macOS Ventura seems like it’ll be a solid update when it ships later this fall. I’m assuming some features will be delayed so Apple can finalize them, but there’s always a chance the whole kit and caboodle are ready to launch come September-October. We’ll just have to wait to find out.

macOS Ventura will be available on the following devices when it launches:

  • iMac (2017 and later)
  • iMac Pro (2017)
  • MacBook Air (2018 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (2017 and later)
  • Mac Pro (2019 and later)
  • Mac Studio (2022)
  • Mac mini (2018 and later)
  • MacBook (2017 and later)