MacOS Ventura review: Should you upgrade?

After releasing a whirlwind of four new iPhones, AirPods Pro 2, two new iPads, and iOS 16 this fall, Apple is ready to hit the release button for the latest major software update for the Mac: macOS Ventura.

MacOS Ventura is different from last year’s macOS Monterey, but it does bring some useful new features to Apple’s line of computers. There’s a whole new way to multitask, a native option to use your iPhone as a webcam, and new messaging, photos, and mail features—to name a few.

I’ve been using Ventura since it was first released in Apple’s beta program in June, and my initial assessment turned out to be correct: MacOS Ventura is a sneaky, meaningful upgrade.

MacOS Ventura will be available as an update through the Mac App Store. You’ll need to search the store for “macOS Ventura” to find it. Download and install the Ventura installer, then follow the prompts to install the latest major macOS update.

The new macOS Ventura will run on the following MacBook and Mac desktops:

• iMac (2017 and later)
• iMac Pro (2017)
• Mac Pro (2019 and newer)
• Mac Studio
• Mac Mini (2018 and later)
• MacBook Air (2018 and newer)
• MacBook Pro (2017 and newer)
• MacBook (2017 and newer)

macos ventura webcam 2

Jason Cipriani/CNN

I suspect Continuity Camera will be one of the more popular MacOS Ventura features, as it turns your iPhone into a Mac’s webcam, which is long overdue. Even better, you don’t need to do any setup other than bring your iPhone close to your Mac. Then, while on a call, select your iPhone as the camera option in the app’s settings page.

You can then use the camera controls on the Control Center to turn on portrait mode, use center stage to keep you in the frame, or use stage lighting to improve lighting conditions.

There’s even a desktop view, which uses your iPhone’s camera to create a video feed of your desktop, so you can appear on a call and present at the same time. The desktop view feature sounds great; however, I had some issues getting it to look just right. I’ve found that the further away your iPhone is from you, the better you can get everything lined up just right, but even then the video just doesn’t look right.

macOS Ventura screenshot

Jason Cipriani/CNN

With the release of Ventura and iPadOS 16.1, Stage Manager is new for both Mac and iPad. The new feature brings new multitasking workflows to both platforms, although the iPad is more controversial than the Mac due to performance issues.

However, Stage Manager on Mac doesn’t suffer from the same problem, and, as long as you remember it’s there, I can see it being a useful update to help Mac owners with multitasking.

Stage Manager is an optional feature that you must manually turn on or off in Control Center. When enabled, Stage Manager creates an active stage in which an application or group of applications is displayed. On the left side of the screen are more stages, with apps displayed on small thumbnails. You can target and run multiple applications at each stage.

You can drag and drop apps into groups. For example, I usually use both Safari and iA Writer. In a traditional multitasking MacOS workflow, all open applications reside on one desktop. That means when I open another app (like Mail, Slack, or Twitter), those windows just pile up on top of everything else. The end result can be a cluttered mess of apps and windows; unless you’re constantly managing and minimizing windows, creating secondary desktops, or using apps in full-screen mode, it can be overwhelming.

Using Stage Manager, I can create a stage with my writing apps (Safari and iA Writer), and then create another stage with Mail, Slack, and Twitter. Then, if needed, I can switch back and forth between the stages, accessing and using the app as needed.

It’s a cleaner, easier way to multitask on a Mac, and of course, it has a learning curve. But here’s its real problem: I never remember it being there.

I’ve used Stage Manager very little over the past few months, not because I don’t like it, but because at some point I turned it off and then I never thought about turning it back on. That’s what makes Stage Manager an optional feature, with a button hidden in the Control Center.

When I use Stage Manager, I like the clean look and interaction. I just wish I remembered it was there more often.

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Of course, macOS Ventura has some headline features. Stage Manager and the Continuity camera are two prime examples, but to me, it’s all the little features in Ventura that make it a must-have upgrade for any Mac user.

Best example? You can now use Handoff to switch FaceTime calls between your Mac and your iPhone or iPad without hanging up. If you start a FaceTime call on your Mac, just hold your iPhone close to your computer and you’ll see a prompt asking if you want to transfer the call between devices. A quick click later and the call has been transferred to your iPhone. It’s so cool.

With the launch of iOS 16 in September, iPhone users have the option to edit or delete iMessage. Ventura now offers this option for Mac users. If you find that you sent the wrong message to the wrong iMessage contact, you have two minutes to realize your mistake, right-click the message, and select Unsend to delete it.

If you make a bunch of spelling mistakes in your message, you have 15 minutes to right-click on iMessage, choose Edit and fix your mistakes.

I use the editing function several times a day. Typos happen, and it feels great to fix them instead of sending multiple messages to save face.

On a similar note, the Mail app now has a customizable delivery delay before your emails are actually delivered until that time expires. This means you can reply to a message, promise to attach a file, click send, but you don’t actually attach anything.In the lower left corner of the Mail app you will briefly see Undo send to prevent messages from being sent at this time.

If you think you would benefit from having more time, you can adjust the grace period from 10 seconds all the way up to 30 seconds.

MacOS Ventura will be released alongside iPadOS 16.1 and iOS 16.1, all three of which will debut iCloud Shared Photo Library. I used this feature in the beta program long before it was removed. On paper, Shared Photo Library promises to easily sync photos and videos between your iCloud Photo Library and up to six family members. You can set it to automatically share photos and videos with specific faces or dates (perhaps your partner or kids), or manually add items to the shared library.

MacOS Ventura is free and comes with useful features and improvements such as a continuous interworking camera, stage manager, and minor changes to apps like Messages, Mail, and Photos.

If your Mac is compatible with macOS Ventura, I see no reason why you shouldn’t upgrade. I recommend waiting a few days, or even a week, to make sure no major issues or bugs were discovered during the beta program, and then pressing the upgrade button. This software may not revolutionize the way you use your Mac, but like the Blink-182 once said, it’s all about the little things.

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