macOS Ventura public beta is here; these are the main features – TechCrunch

Back to WWDC, Apple has promised to release the public beta of macOS Ventura in July. The company lived up to its word by releasing the macOS 13 lucky number this morning (alongside the rest) for anyone who likes to live very lightly on the edge, after rounds and rounds of bug testing.

We’ve been playing around with the latest version over the past few days and are largely happy with the upgrades it contains. I should add here the standard caveat that comes with using beta software, although I didn’t find this latest release particularly buggy.

Continuity Camera was the star of WWDC – both in terms of functionality and general novelty. It builds on an earlier feature of the same name, bringing something far more useful for most of us day-to-day. Download Ventura on your macOS and iOS 16 on a compatible device, and your iPhone will also act as a webcam.

Honestly, I was a little surprised at how well the two worked together. Once the updates are complete, your Mac should automatically detect the connected device and offer it in the drop-down menu of compatible video chat platforms. I tried it on FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Hangouts, and they were all able to use the iPhone. As you can see below, there’s a distinct difference in quality between the 14-inch MacBook M1’s on-board camera (left) and the iPhone 12’s rear-facing camera (right).

Big difference between the on-board camera of the 14-inch MacBook M1 (left) and the rear-facing camera of the iPhone 12 (right). Picture credits: Brian Heater

Belkin sent me an early version of their Continuity Camera clip to test the system, and that worked well too. It uses the phone’s MageSafe magnets to snap on the back. A small rubber lip lets you rest the phone on the MacBook lid. Or you can use the metal ring to stand it on the desk – although the former makes eye contact much easier while looking at your screen. Like Ventura, the clip is still in beta, but again, I had no problem with it.

Honestly, the biggest concern is the stress the full weight of an iPhone will put on the lid/hinge in the long run. The MacBook wasn’t designed with that in mind, but I guess we have to believe the company thinks it won’t put too much pressure on them if they actively encourage users to do so. Obviously, the ideal here would be to improve on the built-in cameras, but while the company has made the jump from 780 to 1080p on newer systems, the iPhone still wins.

Apple Belkin macOS Continuity Camera. Picture credits: Brian Heater

It’s certainly a nice upgrade for those with older, compatible MacBooks, but even sticking an iPhone to a Mac isn’t the most elegant solution. It’s a nice option to have in these days of remote work. Center Stage works with the feature to follow you as you move and incorporate other people into the frame. Desk View is an interesting – if not particularly useful – addition that can shoot your hands through an overhead view. More useful is the addition of Handoff for FaceTime which allows you to quickly switch between devices during a call.

Stage Manager is the other feature I use most regularly since downloading Ventura. I’m always skeptical of any new workflow feature. I tend to find these things interesting in my initial review, but they never quite stick. Maybe it’s my own giddy approach to the job, or maybe the features haven’t been integrated into the end-user experience in a way that lends itself to grip (maybe both ?). After a few days or weeks, I tend to forget about them completely.

Picture credits: Brian Heater

As a fairly chaotic desktop window user, I’m once again optimistic here. This is partly because the feature is enabled by default. It uses macOS’s real estate to create a kind of sidebar where the rest of your open apps are. Windows are organized in stacks and your messy desktop files disappear into the ether. When windows are minimized, move to this left sidebar, rather than the toolbar.

Double-clicking on the desktop dismisses the feature and brings up your desktop files. Click on the left sidebar and Stage Manager will reappear. You can also manually drag and drop windows to and from Stage Manager, if you want to have multiple applications in the foreground. A few other small features would be nice, like the ability to drag and drop windows to rearrange them, but again, I’m cautiously optimistic that my disorganized app will be able to integrate the feature into my workflow.

Picture credits: Brian Heater

These two features are the most exciting daily additions, but there are a few others worth calling out. Undo Send for Mail is long overdue, giving you a few extra seconds to rethink that message. It’s saved my ass more than once on Gmail, and good to see it added to Mail. This comes with an improved search that fills the bar as you type.

The system’s Spotlight search has also been improved, with better indexing of images found in messages, notes, photos and more. Spotlight also gets a shortcut that allows you to perform simple functionality, such as setting up and activating Focus sessions from the browser.

The operating system settings have undergone a long overdue overhaul. The new version is cleaner and, more precisely, like iOS. Freeform, meanwhile, is the whiteboard feature the company previewed at WWDC. This one is still listed as “Coming Soon”, however, so we can’t share hands-on impressions there. More soon.

MacOS 13 Ventura is now available in public beta.

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