Game controller mac OS. Best Game Controllers for Mac 2022
Best Game Controllers for Mac 2022
If you’re looking for the best game controller for Mac, you’re in the right place. Although Apple devices don’t have as many gaming options as PCs, gamers do put the capabilities of their Mac systems, iPhones, and iPads to test. This is precisely why you get to see a wide variety of game controllers developed into universally compatible tools for playing games.
Is there a Game Controller for Mac?
Yes, there are some handy options available on the market. Some of them are premium models, while others are budget-friendly options. Here’s what you should keep in mind when choosing one:
- Operating system support
- Compatibility with different platforms
- Design and construction
- Button orientation, and how they feel
- Trigger buttons and sensors
- Battery life
Also, make sure you go through customer reviews of these products before you reach your final decision.
Best Game Controller Reviews
In this quick guide, we will talk about some popular gaming controllers to help you find the right one for your Mac.
8Bitdo Sn30 Pro Bluetooth Gamepad – Nintendo Switch
The Sn30 Pro game controller is 8Bitdo, a third-party game hardware manufacturer that deals in gamepads, Bluetooth adapters, Xstanders, and the like.
The 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro is a full-size game controller for Mac that features wireless Bluetooth. This device has been designed for delivering optimal performance, flexibility, and comfort. Among its prominent features, the game controller offers Ultimate Sofware that promises complete control over the game controller.
The 8Bitdo Sn30’s software lets you customize buttons and determine their functionality, customize sticks to get that precise control, set trigger sensitivity, etc. You can also create Macros using any button combination. This gaming controller for Mac is designed in a retro-style just like an old-school Nintendo controller.
It has six-axis motion sensors for accurate position detection. Along with these, you get customizable hair trigger buttons, and you can customize trigger ranges to your liking. over, you can modify the sensitivity of the two joysticks. The gaming controller comes with 1000mAH batteries.
The 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro game controller is compatible with Apple macOS 10.7 or later (MacBook Pro), Windows 7 or later systems, and Android 4.0 or later systems; 8Bitdo Sn30 measures 1″x 1″x 1″ and weighs just under 13 ounces.
This product is also available in Black and G Classic on Amazon.com.
- Offers rumble vibration, gyro-aiming, and USB-C charging
- Rock-solid D-pad
- Smooth triggers
- Cheaper than most gaming controllers
- Sticks may be smaller than your liking
- Cannot wake the Switch
- It takes some time to get used to
Sony DualShock 4 Wireless Controller for Playstation 4
If you’re a fan of the famous Play Station 4, the DualShock 4 Wireless Controller for Mac and Windows PC may be the perfect choice for you.
This gaming controller by Sony has been improved to deliver better shape, feel, and sensitivity to the gamers. If you’ve tried the older version of the DualShock 4, you’re going to notice better control and improved sensors in this version.
The Xbox wireless game controller comes with an innovative, clickable, and multi-touch touchpad at the front. Click on the touchpad, and it’ll lead you to a plethora of gameplay options and functionalities you’re sure to like.
Going a step further than just three dimensions, the Mac-supported Sony DualShock4 game controller boasts built-in speakers for immersive gaming. It also offers a jack to connect a stereo headset if you want a distraction-free experience.
To charge your PlayStation 4 controller, you can do this only with a standard charger or plug it into your PlayStation 4 system. When on rest mode and connected with the PlayStation 4 Playstation, the game controller recharges itself, making sure you don’t wait a minute.
The gamepad features trigger buttons and analog sticks to give you precise control. over, you can discover a list of options to share the highlights of your game, thanks to the two buttons (share and opportunity) on the gaming pad.
The game controller measures 6.34″ x 2.24″ x 3.94″ and weighs 6.38 ounces. You find it hard to get a high-quality game controller as lightweight as this one.
- Works with Remote Play on your Mac
- Offers six to seven hours of battery life
- Complete range color options available
- Speaker and headset support
- Share button
Razer Wolverine Ultimate
How can we ignore one of the best platforms for games, the Xbox. The Razer Wolverine Ultimate will amaze you with features you’ve never seen before. Whether it’s Xbox One, Mac, or PC, the Razer Wolverine Ultimate promises to deliver an over-the-top gaming experience.
The wireless Xbox controller features interchangeable thumbsticks, so you ensure the right height for a better gaming experience than any other Xbox One controller. over, the D-pad is alike, and the pack comes with two options, allowing you to choose the optimal button layout.
The Razer Wolverine Ultimate Xbox Wireless controller offers a variety of buttons to enjoy advanced games. You get four multi-function triggers, two multi-function bumpers, as well as a quick control panel. The re-mappable bumpers help you master your gaming technique and show off your skills to your friends.
On top of that, there’s Razer Chroma lighting for the ultimate style statement. Razer Chroma offers a wide range of effects and profiles that you can customize according to your liking. The game controller is compatible with your Mac and can be easily set up.
While it is best for Xbox games, the Razer Wolverine Ultimate is bulky. It weighs over 13.5 ounces, so you’ll probably take some time to adjust if you’re used to lightweight steam controllers. It’s also a little bigger, but it will be a lot easier to play games once you get accustomed to it.
- Interchangeable sticks and D-pad
- Multi-function triggers and bumpers
- Chroma lighting
- Compatible with Windows, X Box One, and Apple devices
Which game controller is best for Mac?
The simple answer to this question is: ‘A controller that’s compatible with your Mac’. However, it would help if you dug deeper as you might be using one controller on different systems and platforms. So make sure it’s flexible enough to work with a Mac, iPhone, Windows PC, or other devices you might have.
For instance, the Sn30 Pro by 8Bitdo is an ideal game controller for Mac that can be used with various systems and platforms.
Which MacBook is the best for gaming?
Here we have some handy options:
- MacBook Pro 16-inch w/ 9th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor: for full-time gamers
- MacBook Air 2020: for casual gamers
- MacBook Pro 13-Inch: an alternative for MacBook Air
- MacBook Pro 16-inch w/ Core i9: A premium device for gaming
All of these models support all of the popular gaming controllers. However, the price range varies significantly.
Which video game controller is the best?
No one controller’s best for all different platforms. However, based on the media, device capability, and your preferences, here are some options:
- Scuff Prestige: for PC and Xbox
- 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro Controller: for retro play
- Astro Gaming C4TR: for PlayStation 4
- Nintendo Switch Pro Controller: for Nintendo Switch
- Hori Real Arcade Pro.V Kai: for fighting games
- Xbox Adaptive Controller: for better accessibility
- Scuf Infinity4PS Pro: for traditional gamers
In conclusion, we have offered the best budget-friendly game controllers to use on Mac to play games. They provide exceptional performance and features for immersive gaming. While selecting these products, we also made sure they’re available online and support multiple devices, including Mac devices.
While most controllers are not compatible with Switch, the 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro is one controller that has improved a lot in recent years, and it might serve the purpose. over, this model offers everything you need in a retro-style controller, but with more modern features.
That said, before buying any game controller for Mac, make sure your device is also compatible with popular gaming platforms like Xbox and Playstation 4. Here’s a guide that’ll show you how you can set up your MacBook with PlayStation 4 and Xbox controllers to enjoy their full features.
About Our Reviews:- Macdentro.com is a team of consumer advocates committed to bringing you accurate, non-biased reviews on all tech products. We also analyze customer satisfaction insights from verified buyers. If you click on any link on Macdentro.com decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.
How To Connect A Controller To Mac
It’s common knowledge in the gaming world that Macs aren’t the best machines for gaming. I even wrote a whole post about optimizing your Mac for gaming recently. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying (including myself). After all, buying a Mac doesn’t leave you with a whole lot of cash to go and grab another PC for gaming. This is why I’m going to show you how to connect a controller to Mac in this post.
Officially, an updated Mac supports the following controllers:
- Xbox wireless controller (Model 1708, a.k.a., most Xbox One controllers)
- Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
- Xbox Adaptive Controller
- Playstation DualShock 4 Wireless Controller (a.k.a., the PlayStation 4 controller)
- Various MFi (Made For iOS) controllers (though not all)
However, you can connect a few more than this using some less obvious methods. In this post, I’ll cover all of the major gaming controllers, as well as the Steam Controller, and then I’ll go into controller mapping at the end.
How to connect a controller to Mac: PlayStation 4/PS5/PS3
First, we’re going to cover my favorite controller, the PlayStation 4 controller (fight me). According to research, it appears that you can also connect a PS5 and PS3 controller to your Mac since these all use Bluetooth. I don’t have a PS5 controller yet (heartbreaking) but I do have a PS3 and PlayStation 4 controller to confirm that these will work with your Mac in 2021.
Since these controllers are all so similar, they all connect in essentially the same way (thank you Playstation for adopting Bluetooth early). I’ll include methods for Bluetooth as well as wireless.
Let’s start with how to connect a controller to Mac using Bluetooth.
Connecting a Playstation 4 controller with Bluetooth
To connect a PlayStation 4 controller to Mac, all you need to do is place your Playstation controller into pairing mode and then choose it from your Mac’s Bluetooth menu. Let’s start by opening the Bluetooth menu.
Click the icon in the top-left of the Menu Bar on your Mac and click System Preferences… from the dropdown menu. From there, click the Bluetooth icon.
Next, we’re going to set the PlayStation 4 controller into pairing mode. To do this, press and hold the PS button (the small, round button in the middle of your Playstation controller) while also pressing and holding the Share button (the small button to the left of the touchpad on your PlayStation 4 controller).
After a few seconds, the light on the front of your PlayStation 4 controller should start blinking rapidly. If you look on your Mac, you should see the PlayStation 4 appear in your Bluetooth settings.
Click Connect, and your PlayStation 4 controller should instantly connect to your Mac. You won’t notice any immediate uses for the controller; Apple hasn’t added any way for this controller to interact with your apps natively. Instead, you’ll need to play a game on your Mac that supports this controller. Most Steam games should.
Connecting a Playstation 3/4/5 controller with a cable
Next, we’re going to connect a Playstation controller to Mac using a cable. As mentioned, I’ve tested and confirmed that this works with PS3 and PlayStation 4 controllers, but not PS5. So I’m purely speculating that this will work with your PS5 controller.
Another note: You’ll probably run into a problem of ports when trying to do that. That’s because most MacBooks only support USB C now, and most of your gaming cables are going to still use a traditional USB insert. So you’ll need some kind of adapter or hub to bridge this gap unless you’re using an iMac or Mac mini.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the tutorial.
First, plug the controller you want to use into your Mac. All three controllers (PS3, PlayStation 4, and PS5) use a different cable. Make sure you have the right one for your controller.
Once plugged in, click the icon in the top-left of your Mac screen and then click About This Mac. This will bring up the following popup:
On this popup, you’ll click the System Report… button. This will bring up yet another popup.
In the left pane, you’ll see a section labeled USB. Click it. This will show you all of the USB devices currently connected to your Mac. If you see your Playstation controller in this list, as shown in the image above with a PS3 controller, then that means your Playstation controller is connected to Mac. You can use it with gaming apps on Steam, the Epic Games store, and more.
If you don’t see it, then that either means that you’re Mac isn’t updated enough to support this feature, or it means the PS5 controller isn’t compatible yet.
How to connect a controller to Mac: Xbox One
Next, we move on to the Xbox One controller. This section is going to encompass the generic Xbox One controller, as well as the specialty Xbox Elite Wireless Series 2 and Xbox Adaptive controllers. These can be connected to your Mac using the same cable as the PlayStation 4 using the same method from the above section, Connecting a Playstation 3/4/5 controller with a cable.
Does your Xbox One controller support Bluetooth?
You can also connect a controller to Mac if your Xbox One controller has Bluetooth support. I learned the hard way that not all Xbox One controllers have Bluetooth support. Only the 1708 model does. You can check which model you have by opening the battery compartment on the underside of your controller and reading the MODEL XXXX portion.
If you see a 1537 or 1697, then that means your Xbox One controller doesn’t have Bluetooth built into it. You’ll have to use the wired method. If you have the newer 1708, though, you can easily connect it to Mac.
Connecting your Xbox One controller to Mac using Bluetooth
To do this, you’re going to follow the same procedure as the PlayStation 4. Open your Bluetooth settings on Mac, set the Xbox One controller into pairing mode, and connect it to your Mac. Let’s start by opening your Bluetooth settings.
On your Mac, press command spacebar to bring up Spotlight. Type “Bluetooth” and select Bluetooth from the options that appear (do not select Bluetooth File Exchange.app).
Next, we’re going to set the Xbox One controller to pairing mode. After turning your controller on, press the small circular button on the front of your Xbox One controller, next to the USB port. It should have three small arrows next to it. Press and hold it until the Xbox button on your controller starts to blink.
Once it starts blinking, return to your Mac and you should see it in the Bluetooth menu. Click the Connect button next to it. After a few seconds, the controller should pair to your Mac. You can now use it with gaming apps on your Mac.
Connect an Xbox 360 controller to Mac: What you need
The Xbox 360 controller is next up on our tutorial to connect a controller to Mac. It’s a pretty straightforward device to connect to your Mac, though you’ll probably need to make some purchases.
Like the PS3 controller, the Xbox 360 controller will need to be connected to your Mac with a cable. That’s because the Xbox 360 controller not only lacks a Bluetooth profile for Mac compatibility, but it lacks Bluetooth altogether.
Unlike the PS3 controller, however, most Xbox 360 owners didn’t get a cable with the Xbox 360 controller. This is because Xbox 360 used replaceable batteries and rechargeable battery packs in place of a controller that could charge via cable.
So if you don’t have a cable that can plug into your Xbox 360 controller (and you will need a proprietary cable to do so) you can click on this link to pick one up off of Amazon (this is not a sponsored link). The cable in that link is only 7 and has more than a thousand positive reviews.
Connecting your Xbox 360 controller to Mac
Once you have the cable and the Xbox 360 controller in hand, you’re ready to connect a controller to Mac. As with the PS3 controller, you may run into the issue of having a USB end on your cable and a USB C port on your Mac. For that, you’ll need an adapter or a USB hub with both ports on it.
Either way, once the Xbox 360 controller is plugged into your Mac, click the icon in the top-left of the Menu Bar and then click About This Mac. Then, click System Report… In the window that appears, click USB in the left-hand pane.
This will show you everything plugged into your Mac via USB. If everything has gone according to plan, you should see your Xbox 360 in this list. If you do, you’re ready to start playing games with your Xbox 360 controller on Mac.
And that’s it! That’s how to connect a controller to Mac à la Xbox 360.
Connect a Steam Controller to Mac
Last up in this tutorial to connect a controller to Mac, we’re going to cover the Steam Controller. While this might not be the most popular controller on the market, I wanted to make sure everyone was covered, and I think this is the last mainstream controller that can be connected to your Mac.
While the Steam Controller can be used wirelessly, it needs to be plugged into work on Mac. Go ahead and remove the batteries from your controller and plug it into your Mac using a USB C to micro USB cable.
Once connected, open Steam and click the Big Picture button in the top-right of the Steam client.
If you’ve never used Big Picture mode, it’s just Steam’s mode for when you’re treating your PC more like a traditional TV and console setup. It prepares Steam for use with a controller and even a TV if you so choose.
Anyway, once you’ve switched to Big Picture mode, Steam might automatically start installing firmware updates for your Steam Controller. If this happens, you’ll need to restart your Mac to proceed.
And that’s it! If you plan on using your Steam Controller while it’s plugged into your Mac, that’s all you need to do.
Pairing your Steam Controller to Mac for wireless use
For those who want to use their Steam Controller with Mac wirelessly, you’ll need to put in a little extra work. Here’s how to connect a controller to Mac with Steam.
After restarting your Mac (assuming you needed to in the previous step), you’ll manually pair your Steam Controller to Mac. To do this, insert your wireless receiver into a port on your Mac that your Steam Controller can easily detect. In other words, you probably don’t want to plug it into the back of your Mac if you can avoid it.
Next, turn your Steam Controller off and launch into Big Picture mode on Steam. Click the Settings icon in the top-right.
Next, click Controller, then Add Steam Controller. This will initiate an on-screen pairing process. Follow the instructions that appear, and in a few moments, your Steam Controller should be good to go!
And that’s it! Yet another way to connect a controller to Mac.
Map a controller on Mac using a controller mapping app for Mac
Finally, as we reach the end of the article, we’re going to touch on mapping your controller to your Mac. If you don’t know, mapping refers to the process of associating each button on your controller with a key on your Mac’s keyboard.
You won’t need to do this for all of your Mac games; many of them will feature controller support. That means you’ll only need to connect your controller to Mac and launch the game, and it should automatically detect the controller for you.
Others, however, won’t recognize the controller. When this happens, you’ll need to download an app or configure your controller in Steam so that you can map your keys to buttons on the controller.
Mapping a controller on Mac with Steam
This is pretty easy to do in Steam. First, open Steam, enable Big Picture mode, click Settings, then Controller Settings, then place a check next to the controller(s) you want to use with Steam.
Once you do this and connect/reconnect your controller to Steam, you’ll get a prompt to name your controller. Name it, then head to your Library in Big Picture mode.
Click the game you want to configure, then click Manage Game.
Next, click Controller Configuration. This will bring up an image of the controller you’re using along with a way to map each of the buttons on your controller to a key on your Mac. Whatever you map each key to is how the game will respond when you press that button on your controller.
For instance, if moving forward is the “w” key, then you’ll want pushing forward on your left joystick to be mapped to “w”. If your jump is “spacebar” on your Mac, then you might make that “X” on a PS3 controller.
Mapping a controller on Mac with a third-party app
Of course, you won’t always be using Steam for your Mac gaming. Maybe you want to download an app from the App Store or a website. In these cases, you might not have any options to use a controller with the game using the built-in options. When this happens, a third-party mapping app can save the day.
A few popular (and safe) apps are Joystick Mapper and Enjoyable. Both will not only allow you to map your controller to keys on your keyboard for games, but they can also map your controller to work across your Mac. That means you’ll be able to replace your mouse and some keys on your keyboard with a controller.
There are tons of other apps on Github if you end up not liking either of the suggestions. Just make sure to do your research before downloading a mapping app to your Mac.
Connect a controller to Mac to get the most out of your Mac gaming
If you’re like me, you grew up playing console games long before you ever tried to play a game on the computer. This can make the switch to a mouse and keyboard a difficult and tedious process. Hopefully, this tutorial has shown you that you don’t have to give up a controller to game on your Mac.
How To Use a Playstation or Xbox Controller On Mac (inc. M1 M2 Macs)
If you want to connect a Sony DualShock controller, Xbox One, Xbox 360 or Xbox Series S/X to play games on a Mac or use as a remote control for a Mac, here we show you the best ways to do so including for M1 M2 Macs.
If you’ve recently switched to Mac, you can still play Xbox games on a Mac and there are many different ways of playing Windows only games on a Mac.
But you can also easily connect an Xbox or Playstation controller to a Mac so that you can play games such as Overwatch 2 on a Mac, Fortnite and Hogwarts Legacy without the keyboard and enjoy haptic feedback such as vibrations.
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How To Connect An Xbox Or Playstation Controller To A Mac
If you just want to quickly connect an Xbox or Playstation controller to a Mac follow these instructions. Here we use an Xbox controller as an example.
- Press and hold the Xbox button on your controller to turn it on and it will light-up.
- Press and hold the small Bluetooth pairing button on the front of the controller to activate pairing mode. When pairing mode has been activated, the Xbox button will start flashing rapidly.
- Then on your Mac, go to the Apple logo in the top left of your screen and go to System Preferences and select Bluetooth.
- Select your Xbox controller from the list of Bluetooth devices that appears and click Pair.
You can now use your Xbox controller to play Xbox games on your Mac. You can disconnect the Xbox controller from your Mac at any time by going back into the Bluetooth settings or turning-off Bluetooth.
This is the easiest way to connect an Xbox controller to a Mac although it doesn’t allow you to map out controls on it very easily.
For that you’ll need a clever app called Controller which we’ll look at now.
How To Connect An Xbox Or Playstation Controller To A Mac With Controlly
The best way to connect an Xbox or Playstation controller to a Mac is by an app called Controlly.
Controlly is an easy way to connect a console gamepad to a Mac as it not only supports Bluetooth but allows you to customize just about every button control.
Controlly turns any PlayStation 4 DualShock controller or Xbox One gamepad into a remote control for your Mac which can do just about anything.
If you suffer from Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) or have disability issues with your hands, Controlly makes it much easier to control your Mac without using the Trackpad or keyboard.
Note that Controlly is not specifically designed for gaming – it’s more a way of mapping a controller to remote control your Mac although you could easily map keyboard controls for a game to it.
It’s also not to be confused with a remote desktop tool for your Mac which are used for accessing Macs remotely.
Rather, it’s a remote control mapping tool for PlayStation 4 and Xbox controllers which simply allows you to navigate around your Mac as long as you are in range of Bluetooth.
With Controlly, you can control your Mac cursor without touching the Trackpad and use it like an Apple TV remote for scrolling through content and other media in macOS.
Controlly is much more than just a key mapping tool which usually only allow you to map one number or key to a function on the controller.
Controlly allows you to configure keyboard shortcuts, mouse movement and scrolling all of which is impossible with key mapping software.
Controlly allows you to visually define exactly what you want different buttons on your PlayStation 4 or Xbox controller to do such as launch Mission Control, Expose, iTunes and more.
To connect your Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox Series S/X or Xbox One controller to your Mac follow these instructions.
- Download Controlly
- Put the controller into Bluetooth pairing mode
- On your Mac make sure Bluetooth is turned on and go to System Preferences Bluetooth to connect to the controller
You then simply use the Controlly interface to map out the different actions you want your gamepad to control on your Mac.
Controlly is free for 7 days but after that it costs 3.99 to continue using it.
About The Author
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macOS 13 Ventura: The Ars Technica review
- Andrew Cunningham
- 10/26/2022 10:50 am
- Categories: Features, TechView non-AMP version at arstechnica.com
reader Комментарии и мнения владельцев
296 with If you asked me to tell you all the most exciting things that happened to the Mac in the last two years, I’d start with hardware, not software. The transition from Intel’s chips to Apple silicon has been transformative, ushering in huge battery-life boosts and allowing MacBook Airs and Mac minis to do the kind of work you would have needed a MacBook Pro or 27-inch iMac for a few years ago. The Mac Studio ably fills the longstanding gap between the Mac mini and Mac Pro in Apple’s desktop lineup, and new function-over-form redesigns for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air seem purpose-built to address criticisms of the Mac hardware lineup circa 2016. These Macs would be exciting upgrades whether they were running Big Sur or Ventura.
On the software side, it’s not as though nothing has happened to the Mac in the last two years. It’s getting new features. I still find it comfortable to work in, even as Windows 11 has introduced some genuinely handy window-management features that I miss when I’m not using it (especially in multi-monitor mode). But it does feel like the software side of the Mac is lacking its own unique direction and identity lately. Overwhelmingly, new features for macOS merely help it keep pace with what is happening on the iPhone and iPad. That feels doubly true in Ventura, where a core system app has been rewritten from the ground up to mirror its iOS counterpart, where a new window management feature is being implemented in the same way on the iPad, and where new apps and updates to old ones are increasingly just iPad apps running inside macOS Windows. The throughline for all these features is about making the Mac more welcoming and comfortable for people who come to it through one of Apple’s mobile platforms. This makes some sense. The Mac is Apple’s most powerful, extensible computing platform, both in hardware and software. It’s also the smallest, by shipping volume. Maybe some of the first iPhone buyers were Mac users first, but the balance surely flipped years ago. But when was the last time that the Finder, the Dock, or the Menu Bar was given a substantial, non-cosmetic rethink? When did Apple last make major improvements to the way that Windows coexist on a given screen? The Mac does get new under-the-hood features that are specific to it, but the headline features are mostly iOS and iPadOS imports, especially this year.
- System requirements and compatibility
- What should I do with my unsupported Mac?
- Other system requirements
- Branding and installation
- Saving free space, especially on Intel Macs
- Stage Manager
- Wait, is Stage Manager on the Mac actually good?
- Then why is Stage Manager such a mess on the iPad?
- A small feature wishlist
- System Settings, RIP System Preferences
- Better? Or just different?
- Other UI redesigns
- Share sheet
- Print and Page Setup
- About This Mac
- Font Book
- Continuity Camera
- New apps and app changes: Weather and Clock
- Safari 16
- iCloud Shared Photo Library
- Home app
- Expanded gamepad support
- Passkeys: Death to passwords
- Other security features: Rapid Security Response
- USB-C: Cancel or allow
- A stricter Gatekeeper
- Lockdown Mode
- Ambiguous changes to Login Items
- “Launch Constraints”
- Grab bag
- Spotlight tweaks
- Metal 3
- Live Text improvements
- New Siri look
- Sidecar space
- FaceTime Handoff
- Wi-Fi password copying
- No more Network Locations
- Another low-key year for Mac software
- The good
- The bad
- The ugly
System requirements and compatibility
Ventura still runs on both Intel and Apple silicon Macs, though for the third year in a row, Apple is dropping support for quite a few Intel Macs. Here’s what Ventura will officially run on:
- 2017 iMac/iMac Pro and later
- 2018 MacBook Air and later
- 2017 MacBook Pro and later
- 2019 Mac Pro and later
- 2018 Mac mini and later
- 2017 MacBook and later
- 2022 Mac Studio and later
Ventura requires a 7th-generation-or-newer Intel Core processor, as it’s dropping support for all the 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-generation CPUs that could still run Monterey, plus the server-grade Ivy Bridge (3rd-generation) CPU in the 2013 Mac Pro.
If cutting off support for all the remaining 2013–2016 Macs in one release seems abrupt to you, that’s because it is—Macs released in the mid-2010s are generally getting updates for a year or two less than Macs released in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Apple doesn’t talk about its rationale for compatibility cutoffs, and it’s still not saying how long it plans to release new macOS versions for Intel Macs. Based on its current rate of progress and historical data from the PowerPC-to-Intel transition, I expect Apple to end support for Intel Macs entirely by the time macOS 16 rolls out in 2025, give or take a year in either direction. But it’s hard to know how the company will treat Intel Macs that it was still selling well into 2022 (including the 2018 Mac mini and the 2019 Mac Pro) or if it will make some kind of exception for Intel Macs that technically use Apple Silicon in the form of the Apple T2 chip.
What should I do with my unsupported Mac?
Speculation aside, if your Mac isn’t on Ventura’s support list, you haven’t reached the end of the road. Apple will still release security updates and new Safari updates for macOS 11 (Big Sur) and 12 (Monterey), and major third-party app developers like Google, Microsoft, and Adobe usually support older OS versions for a few years, too. You might run into some iCloud incompatibility issues if you’re running the latest version of iOS or iPadOS on your other devices, and those older versions of macOS don’t always get the same security patches as newer versions. But things should generally continue to work well enough for at least a couple more years.
If you’re running macOS 10.15 (Catalina) or an older version and your hardware isn’t capable of upgrading to Big Sur, Monterey, or Ventura, though, it’s time to consider your alternatives.
The simplest and most obvious is to upgrade your hardware. An M1- or M2-based Mac will improve on an early-to-mid-2010s Mac in every conceivable way, from screen resolution and quality to performance and battery life. If you can afford to do it, it’s absolutely worth doing.
Depending on your Mac, a second, riskier option could be to force Ventura (or Big Sur or Monterey) to continue to run. Various patching tools exist that keep newer versions of macOS running on older Macs, the most prominent of which is the OpenCore Legacy Patcher. This software leverages OpenCore, a Hackintosh bootloader, to keep older Macs chugging along by patching old hardware support back into the OS. But Ventura has removed a lot of the underlying system files that made supporting older Macs easier, and re-adding support for those Macs has been more difficult than it usually is. You may run into instability or crashes or have problems when it comes time to install macOS updates. This is a solution, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
Moving beyond macOS, Windows 10 is still probably your best option for installing a modern operating system on an old Mac. You may need to contend with old, outdated drivers, but the Boot Camp driver packages for these older Macs should at least be good enough to get you up and running. You obviously lose access to iMessage and most iCloud functionality, aside from what’s available in the browser-based version of iCloud and iCloud for Windows. But older versions of macOS are already missing out on newer iCloud features. And iCloud for Windows has seen some neat updates recently, including an extension for Chrome and Edge that gives access to Apple’s iCloud password autofill features.
Windows 11 is an option, but no Intel Mac meets Windows 11’s more stringent hardware requirements since they don’t expose the Intel CPU’s firmware TPM module or support Microsoft’s Secure Boot implementation. That said, the same tricks you use to get Windows 11 running on unsupported PC hardware can work just as well to get it running on an Intel Mac. You just have to be OK with the possibility that your PC may stop getting updates at some point (so far, Windows 11’s updates have installed on my unsupported PCs just fine).
A somewhat new option since last year is ChromeOS Flex, a version of ChromeOS that can run on many different PCs and MacBooks. Flex replaces Neverware’s CloudReady, an alternative OS we’ve talked about in past macOS reviews, but it gets updates more promptly and enables some ChromeOS features that CloudReady never had access to. ChromeOS Flex is officially certified for MacBook Airs and Pros as old as the 2012 models, though other Mac hardware may still run the OS just fine. ChromeOS Flex may be a better choice than Windows if you don’t want to pay for a Windows license or if you’re handing down an older Mac to someone who already uses ChromeOS on their work or school computer.
Other system requirements
Not all Macs that can run a given macOS version are compatible with all its features. The good news for Ventura users is that, with all the old Macs that have been dropped, the feature gap between the Apple Silicon Macs and the Intel Macs that remain isn’t all that large. It also means there are fewer dividing lines between Intel Macs.
This is a stab at a comprehensive list of everything that a new Mac running Ventura will do that older ones won’t, with new-to-Ventura features in bold.
- AirPlay to Mac requires a 2018 or later MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, a 2019 or later iMac, a 2020 or later Mac mini, the iMac Pro, or the 2019 Mac Pro.
These features generally require an Apple T2 chip, present in most Macs introduced in or after 2018 (minus the 2018 and 2019 iMacs):
- Always-on Hey Siri.
- 4K HDR streaming support.
- Some Spatial Audio features in FaceTime. In T2 Macs, it will work using the internal speakers or wired headphones but not Airpods. If you have an Intel iMac from 2018 or 2019, it will only work using wired headphones since those models didn’t include a T2.
And this slowly growing list of features requires an Apple Silicon Mac:
- Spatial Audio in FaceTime when using Airpods.
- The 3D globe and more detailed renderings of cities in Apple Maps.
- On-device voice dictation, with no Internet connection required and no time limit.
- Portrait Mode in FaceTime.
- Live Captions transcription in FaceTime or any other app.
- Reference mode with the 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro, which lets you use your iPad as a secondary reference display in Sidecar mode.
- Inserting emoji using voice dictation.
Branding and installation
Big Sur and Monterey were both named for locations on California’s western coastline, not far from Apple’s San Jose-area headquarters. Ventura follows a similar motif but ventures farther afield, taking us down to a city of a little over 100,000 (though it could be named for Ventura County, the county Ventura is in). Ventura is a lot closer to LA than it is to Cupertino—and to a certain Santa Catalina Island.
I’m not sure whether we’re still meant to infer any kind of deeper meaning from the way Apple names its OS releases—maybe we are, and as a non-California resident, I simply lack the context to understand each codename’s subtle intricacies. Or maybe SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi just throws a dart at a randomized list of California location names on June 1 every year. The Ventura County Star did a cute piece in June about how jazzed locals are to see their city’s name up in lights; with its redesigned System Settings app, Stage Manager window management, and gaggle of imported iOS apps, maybe the Ventura branding is just playing up that this version of macOS is meant to be friendly to Mac newcomers or tourists visiting from iOS.
The desktop wallpaper continues the post-Big Sur tradition of using colorful abstractions rather than high-res photos for branding, though in this case, the orange-and-blue curves are concrete enough to evoke a California poppy. The default wallpaper dynamically shifts color throughout the day, and a few additional color-swirl-y wallpapers have been added, plus there’s an orange-tinged screensaver included among the returning favorites. But as with Monterey, there are no new high-res photos of Ventura or its surrounding environs, a tradition that appears to have ended with Big Sur.
Saving free space, especially on Intel Macs
The first version of Monterey actually saved Mac users a smidge of disk space compared to Big Sur, but let’s take a look at how much space a modern-day Monterey install takes up and how much space Ventura needs in turn. (We’ve used both a 2020 Intel MacBook Air and an M1 Mac mini for this comparison).
Beginning with the numbers from the M1 Mac, you get around 2.4GB of extra free space with Ventura compared to a fresh install of macOS 12.6. Those files are distributed differently than before—the OS volume shrinks from 15.41GB in Monterey to 8.81GB in Ventura, but the size of the Preboot volume increases by around 4.3GB. That’s because a lot of system files—mostly but not exclusively related to Safari, WebKit, and the macOS password manager—have been moved out of the system volume, where they can be updated more easily. We’ll talk about this more in a later section about how Ventura changes the macOS Signed System Volume.
But that’s nothing compared to our Intel MacBook Air, where a new Ventura install was around 4.5GB smaller than a new Monterey install. The System volume is the same size as on the M1 Mac, but the Preboot volume is smaller by a little over 3GB.
Ventura on Intel Macs, in particular, seems to benefit from what longtime Mac users might call the Snow Leopard effect—that version of macOS dropped all support for PowerPC Macs, allowing PowerPC drivers, PowerPC apps, and PowerPC system files to be ejected from the OS wholesale. A new Snow Leopard install freed up over 10GB of space compared to a Leopard install on the same computer.
Ventura isn’t as extreme as that; there’s still plenty of Intel code in macOS, and there presumably will be for a few years yet. But the OS totally removes support for four generations of Intel processors (as documented primarily by Hackintosh tinkerers trying to keep Ventura running on those old Macs). That means graphics and chipset drivers for those CPUs are gone; support for any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth chips particular to those Mac generations are gone; and system files related to the old pre-Haswell version of the x86 instruction set are gone (the Preboot volume in Ventura is where many of those files, including dyld caches, are now kept).
Clearing up that cruft comes at a cost. People whose Macs can run Ventura benefit from space savings at the expense of a whole bunch of people whose Macs won’t run Ventura. I still think that owners of Skylake-based Macs from late 2015 or 2016 should be able to run Ventura, given those systems’ similarities to the barely different 2017 Macs that replaced them. But the freed-up space (and presumably, freed-up engineering resources on Apple’s end) is probably the best argument I’ve seen in favor of dropping older models.
Apple has been unusually (if reluctantly) public with the troubles it has had with Stage Manager on the iPad, going so far as to delay iPadOS from September to October and kick the multi-monitor version to a later release. I’m not a huge iPad multitasking person, but I’ve been tracking Stage Manager’s progress through the Apple enthusiast/writer/developer crowd I follow on And for what it’s worth, I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many complaints about a new Apple feature as I have about Stage Manager on the iPad (last year’s attempted-and-aborted Safari redesign comes close). Apps interact with each other in unpredictable ways, basic features (like right-to-left reading) don’t seem fully baked, and the only reliable thing about it is how frequently it crashes.
Suffice it to say that my expectations for the Mac version of Stage Manager—available as an off-by-default optional feature in Control Center or the Desktop Dock settings—were not high when I finally decided to bite the bullet in a near-final Ventura beta. So imagine my surprise when Stage Manager on a Mac worked—and worked pretty well. And I actually kind of liked it.
Wait, is Stage Manager on the Mac actually good?
Apple wisely takes an ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach to macOS’s standard multitasking model in Ventura by turning Stage Manager off by default and making people go hunting for it if they want to use it. You can’t change your Mac’s UI in a major way by accident.
If you haven’t used it, Stage Manager differs from standard macOS multitasking by offering a column of recently used apps on the side of your screen (it’s the left-hand side by default, but it will switch if you’ve got your Dock set to use the left-hand side of your screen instead). But unlike minimizing or maximizing an app from the Dock, each stage can contain multiple app Windows from multiple apps; switch from one stage to another, and every window on that stage will pop back up on your screen in exactly the arrangement you were using before.
It’s a half-step between the behavior of the Dock, which can hold many individual minimized app Windows, and apps running in Full Screen or Split View mode, where you can only fit (at most) two apps at a time, and you have only limited control of how each app’s window is sized. The Dock remains available with Stage Manager turned on, but minimizing Windows in Stage Manager mode minimizes them to the recent apps column instead of the Dock.
Within a given stage, app Windows work exactly as they do anywhere else on your Mac. You can move, resize, and rearrange them any way you want, including shoving them all the way to the edges of the screen. The recent apps column will persist on the side of the screen by default, but it will get out of the way if you move an app window over it; you can bring the apps back up by moving your cursor to the right edge of the screen.
The Mac’s version of Stage Manager has multi-monitor support from the start, and it works on all the Macs that run Ventura, not just a subset of newer models. Every individual monitor is treated as its own stage with its own recent apps list. Your desktop icons aren’t visible by default in Stage Manager, but you can turn this feature off or toggle their visibility by clicking on an empty space on your desktop.
Stage Manager thumbnails update in real time.
The recent apps column does some other neat things the Dock can’t. All app thumbnails are rendered in real time, so you can watch them update and refresh even when they’re in the background. Windows from the same app can show up on multiple stages, but if they’re on the same stage, those Windows will stack on top of each other in the recent apps list. Mouse over any given stack in the recent apps list and you can pull the topmost window in the stack into your current stage without maximizing the rest of the Windows.
Stage Manager integrates seamlessly with macOS’s other window management systems. Do you still want to use some apps in Full Screen mode? Great—they don’t appear in your recent apps tray, and you can access them with a trackpad swipe, the same as you could before. Do you like Mission Control? Also cool. Apps in your tray slide gracefully up into Mission Control mode, along with any open apps that aren’t in your tray.
Then why is Stage Manager such a mess on the iPad?
The major difference between Stage Manager on the Mac and Stage Manager on the iPad is that the Mac has a robust, decades-old, multi-window multitasking user interface undergirding it. Once in a stage, Windows interact with each other in familiar ways, with no need for padding between the apps and the edges of the screen. It’s always clear which window on which stage has FOCUS, and when apps communicate with each other (say, when clicking a link in a non-browser app, bouncing you to a browser), the interaction makes logical sense, swapping stages or jumping to an already-open stage on other monitors gracefully.
Comparing the night-and-day smoothness and stability of these two features with the same name, it becomes clear that Apple simply bit off more than it could chew with Stage Manager on iPadOS. On the Mac, it’s a new interface on top of a bunch of technologies that already existed. On iPadOS, Apple needed to implement not just the basic Stage Manager interface but a new way for users to interact with Windows on a desktop; a new way for open iPad apps to communicate with each other; and a way for apps to spawn multiple instances, virtual memory swapping, and actual multi-monitor support on a device that has no idea how to handle the idea of multiple screens because it has never had them before.
When you break it down like that, it’s no small wonder that the implementation has been such a fiasco—it’s a whole pile of new things bouncing off of and probably breaking each other. And it’s clear why Apple took a couple of those elements off the table entirely while trying to bang Stage Manager for iPad into some kind of usable shape for release.
On the Mac, that foundational work is long done. Stage Manager glides along pretty smoothly. I can’t say I’ll be using it exclusively, but in a context where basic features aren’t busted, I like it as a simpler, more intuitive, and user-visible version of the multiple-desktop Spaces feature introduced all the way back in Leopard and as a way to quickly and temporarily clean up a desktop cluttered with icons. Maybe you’ll like it too! But if you don’t, your Mac will continue to work as it did before.
A small feature wishlist
Though it works fundamentally fine on the Mac, the feature does have rough edges. Because using Mission Control brings up any minimized Windows from your recent apps list, and because minimized apps in Stage Manager always go into the Recent Apps list rather than to the Dock, it means there’s no good way to make a window stop appearing in Mission Control other than closing it.
Stage Manager makes me wish, desperately, for some kind of automated window-snapping in macOS. It doesn’t have to be exactly the way Microsoft handles it in Windows 11, though I believe Snap Layouts are as close as anyone has come to a perfect implementation of the feature (macOS does have window tiling, options that show up when you mouse over the green stoplight button, but this is just another way into Split View mode and is nowhere near as quick as a keyboard shortcut or as intuitive as clicking and dragging).
Part of the reason I use Full Screen and Split View mode on a Mac so much is because it doesn’t have great controls for juggling multiple Windows on a cluttered, unordered desktop. But trying to take advantage of Stage Manager means dealing with these Windows more often, which draws new attention to the Mac’s weaknesses here. Why Apple hasn’t added some kind of window-snapping to the Mac 13 years after Microsoft started doing it in Windows 7—a desire to differentiate? Pride? Confidence that the current system is fine?—is still a mystery.
System Settings, RIP System Preferences
System Preferences is one of the built-in macOS apps that has changed the least over the years, second only to mainstays like TextEdit and Chess. The version in Mac OS X 10.0 is clearly related to the one in Monterey, and it hasn’t gotten a functional overhaul since version 10.4 added a Spotlight search bar (even though the panes have been organized and reorganized near-endlessly over the years and individual panes have been overhauled).
That changes in Ventura, which kicks System Preferences to the curb in favor of System Settings, an app with almost all the same functionality that has been rejiggered to more closely resemble the Settings app on an iPhone or iPad. And it’s not just the app—throughout Ventura, the “Preferences” menu item in most first-party Mac apps has been changed to “Settings.”
I suspect most longtime Mac users will hate System Settings, especially at first glance. For the purposes of reviewing it, let’s accept a few things as true for the sake of argument:
- There’s value in making macOS’s Settings more consistent with iOS’s Settings to cater to people who arrive at the Mac by way of an iPhone or iPad.
- To accomplish that goal, it’s worth temporarily frustrating or confusing longtime Mac users who are used to System Preferences.
- System Preferences is not inherently good or bad just because it has existed in its current state for a long time.
I want to say all of that upfront because I want to delineate my two critiques of the Settings app.
My gut reaction—and the one that lots of longtime Mac users will probably have—was that, at first, I didn’t know where to find anything. Everything has been moved around, sometimes logically and sometimes not. For 15 years as a Mac user, I have been learning where stuff is in System Preferences, and things have mostly stayed in the same place, even as individual preference panes have been redesigned or remixed. With System Settings, I’ve had to relearn where everything is, and a decade-plus as an iPhone and iPad user has not made this transition easier for me because the things I want to tweak on a Mac are not the same as the things I want to tweak on a phone.
These are valid observations, but I can admit that as criticism, it’s dull and at least partly rooted in status quo bias. Ground-up redesigns of longstanding UI can be great. Case in point, the Windows 11 Settings app is better organized, better looking, better performing, and easier to use than the old maze of individual Control Panels, even if it took Microsoft a full decade to get it there.
To help with that sense of feeling lost, I looked at every individual preference pane from System Preferences and tracked where they landed in System Settings.
In most cases, any given preference pane in Monterey has been moved to a similarly or identically named place in Ventura. The transition will be the most difficult when settings previously ensconced within one preference pane are suddenly spread out among multiple Settings pages.
Some of these splits are small and logical—Desktop Screen Saver becomes one page named Desktop and another named Screen Saver. The breakup of other preference panes is more Pangaea-esque; Users Groups is split three ways, Battery is split three ways, and Privacy Security is split four ways. The most maddening splits are the ones where a single setting that was previously grouped with others in System Preferences is moved to a totally different place from the rest of them in System Settings (the setting for Apple Watch unlocking is a good example).
It took me a while to get used to the handful of preference panes that are essentially intact but have been moved one level deeper into the app, from a top-level preference pane to an entry inside the General menu. Software Update, Date Time, Time Machine, Sharing, and Startup Disk all meet this fate.
I find this organization somewhat arbitrary—who’s to say why the language settings and file sharing settings are general but the desktop wallpaper and keyboard settings are not? But the pages that have been tucked away here are usually ones that non-power users don’t fiddle with very often (and Software Update will either do its thing automatically or call attention to itself on an as-needed basis). But if you do use them, it takes time to get used to looking for them elsewhere. In the early days of your transition, the search tool is your friend.
Better? Or just different?
- System Settings is not as keyboard-navigable as the old System Preferences app, which could be an accessibility issue. A general lack of contrast between the gray background and gray buttons and drop-downs can make it harder to tell what is and isn’t a button or text you can actually interact with. Reordering the settings pages alphabetically, an alternate display option in System Preferences, is no longer possible. Ditto for hiding Settings pages you don’t want to see. Consistency is still an issue, too; why do the trackpad settings still use a row of horizontal tabs when all the other settings pages have moved away from that design? The macOS app isn’t even especially consistent with the way Settings works in iOS—most settings for individual apps are still accessed via their apps and not via a universal list of apps in the System Settings app (I’m not saying I want something similar on the Mac; it’s actually one of my least favorite things about how settings work in iOS. That’s just where the make it more like iOS line has been drawn). The overarching problem is that System Settings bends or breaks some of Apple’s own rules about what makes a good Mac app. Here are some of the broken or partially disregarded rules, emphasis ours:
- “People expect to enter data and control the interface using any combination of input modes, such as physical keyboards, pointing devices, game controllers, and voice.”
- “Leverage large displays to present more content in fewer nested levels and with less need for modality.”
- Avoid using a switch to control a single detail or a minor setting. In general, don’t replace a checkbox with a switch. If you’re already using a checkbox in your interface, it’s probably best to keep using it.
- Give people a way to predict a pop-up button’s options without opening it.
A lot of this reads like nitpicking, I realize. No operating system’s settings app is perfect. They are, by necessity, a ramshackle heap of menus and toggles, where decades-old features and brand-new ones need to find a way to coexist. Any given person will only interact with a fraction of the menus on anything approaching a regular basis; your relationship with System Settings may well depend on which menus and toggles you interact with the most and how often.
But examined in its entirety, the whole thing just feels a bit sloppy. It’s not that it’s unusable or awful, but it’s going to make a bunch of longtime Mac users change their behavior without really delivering something that feels unambiguously better than what it replaced. The old Windows Control Panels were a mess, and whether you like the Settings app or not, it has helped to tame that mess over time with a more modern and consistent user interface. System Preferences wasn’t great, but it was OK, and it did its job, and that’s about the best thing I can say about System Settings, too.
Other UI redesigns
The System Settings app isn’t the only built-in app (or app-adjacent dialog box) that has been redesigned for Ventura. Most of these, like System Settings and a few app updates, appear to be efforts on Apple’s part to dogfood SwiftUI, its still-new framework for designing user interfaces that work across all of its operating systems.
By many accounts, SwiftUI is immature and not fully baked. Still, bugs in System Settings (for example) that showed up in early betas appear to have been mostly fixed by the release version of Ventura.
Ventura’s default Share sheet has been overhauled to be more iOS-y. It’s now a speech bubble-shaped sheet that pops up when you click the Share button or the Share menu item in any app that uses the system’s default Share sheet (though third-party apps are still apparently welcome to implement sharing in other ways). The menu combines a list of all available share extensions on your Mac (customizable from System Settings, as before) with a selection of recent contacts and a user-configurable selection of Shortcuts if you want to share something using a custom workflow.
When sharing items from the iCloud Drive folder in the Finder, the Share sheet will let you choose whether to send a copy of a selected file or folder to someone or to share it via iCloud so that multiple people can access and edit the file. Weirdly, selecting a folder anywhere else in the Finder also gives you a Collaborate option, but when you try to select it, the system tells you to move the folder to iCloud Drive first. I don’t know whether this is a bug or an ad for iCloud Drive that is working as intended.
I don’t use the Share sheet in macOS nearly as much as I do in iOS, maybe because macOS gives you other ways to share files between apps and people, and those are the ones that are stored in my muscle memory. The new approach does feel slower than the old Share sheet did, especially compared to a standard nested menu—it takes just long enough to pop up after you’ve invoked it to feel annoying. Extensions on the Share sheet also can’t be reordered. You can drag them into any order you want in System Settings, but the Share sheet seems to arrange them in alphabetical order no matter what.
Print and Page Setup
Ventura introduces a totally redesigned Print dialog box, and while I’m not in love with all the layout and organizational decisions in System Settings, I actually think the Print changes are a solid improvement.
The biggest (and best) change is that the single-page preview pane on the left side of the window is now a continuously scrollable list of all pages in your document rather than something you navigate one page at a time with arrow keys. If you don’t want a specific page printed, you can uncheck each page individually right from this list. And as you change your layout and paper handling options, all of the pages change in real time, so you can see exactly how the result will appear.
The Print dialog’s different sub-menus, previously hidden behind a drop-down, are now in a vertically scrollable list. Each of these are collapsed by default, but expand them and you’ll see all the usual print options arranged in a familiar way.
The new Print dialog commits some of the same sins as System Settings—mainly sliders everywhere instead of checkboxes—but the drop-down menus are higher contrast and are more easily identifiable as drop-down menus compared to the versions in System Settings (a win for usability, a loss for consistency). But in this case, the overall layout is so much nicer that it’s easier to overlook the minor sins.
You don’t often see a Page Setup menu in macOS anymore, since the main Print dialog handles so much about the setting up of pages. But in the instances where you do still use one, the Page Setup dialog now includes a smooth, high-res version of Clarus the Dogcow as its preview image. This hearkens all the way back to the old LaserWriter days, when Clarus served a similar purpose.
All of these changes only apply to apps that use the built-in macOS print dialog. Apps can still supply their own interfaces for printing, and those won’t change in Ventura.
About This Mac
- If you have an iPhone running iOS 16, you’ll be able to use the iPhone’s rear-facing camera as a Mac webcam or microphone. Continuity Camera is a bit clunky, mainly because you need to find a way to mount your phone at an acceptable webcam angle, but even the worst iPhone camera is a major step up in resolution and image quality from the best Mac webcam. (Apple sent us one of the MagSafe-compatible Belkin mounts, which did work well but requires a MagSafe-compatible iPhone. If you’re trying to use an older spare iPhone as a camera, you’ll need to figure something else out.) Apple says that the wireless version of Continuity Camera requires an iPhone XR or newer; the iPhone 8 series and the original iPhone X may support it when connected via a cable, but we weren’t able to test this for ourselves. After you’ve engaged Continuity Camera once, it will automatically take over for your built-in webcam when [your] iPhone is locked, in landscape orientation, stationary, and with the camera unobstructed, according to Apple. This keeps the feature from kicking in when your phone’s in your The first time you launch a video app on your Mac with a compatible iPhone in range, you’ll see a pop-up asking if you want to enable Continuity Camera; this pop-up can be disabled on the iPhone if you aren’t interested in using the feature. Once connected, Continuity Camera functions the same way as any other webcam connected to a Mac. Most first- and third-party video apps offer some kind of option for choosing between multiple cameras when they’re connected, and your iPhone will show up in the same list along with your built-in webcam and any USB webcams you may have attached. The iPhone will show up as an audio-only input in apps like QuickTime or Audacity, making it handy as a portable microphone—audio from the phone can be recorded along with or independently of video from the camera. You have a limited amount of manual control over which of your iPhone’s cameras you use, and Continuity Camera’s features differ slightly based on the iPhone you have. All compatible iPhones support Portrait Mode background blurring, independent of any separate background blur feature supported by the video app you’re using. The iPhone 12 and newer also support the Studio Light feature that simulates a ring light, artificially brightening your face while dimming your background. If you have an iPhone with an ultrawide lens—the iPhone 11 or newer, according to Apple’s spec sheet—Continuity Camera supports the Center Stage feature from newer iPads and the Studio Display. Not to be confused with Stage Manager, this feature will pan-and-scan to keep you in the center of the frame, or it can expand the frame to include multiple people. The majority of my video calls are done at a desk sitting in a chair, where the subtle drift of the camera following my face in Center Stage seems like a glitch rather than a useful feature, but it’s more helpful if you’re standing and moving about (or trying to keep a kid in frame). These dual- and tri-lens iPhones can do something called Desk View, where the bottom bit of an ultra-wide-angle image can be cropped out and displayed separately from your face to create the effect of an overhead camera pointed at your desk. Video of your face is sent over as usual, and a user-selectable part of your desk is captured and shared via FaceTime’s built-in screen sharing. Since the people on the other end of your call are seeing a small crop of the outer edge of an ultra-wide image, distortion is a problem, and the video quality isn’t great even with an iPhone 13 Pro, but it’s a neat idea. All of these video effects can be toggled via Control Center, though individual apps (like FaceTime) may offer settings for them separately. One limitation I ran into: If you’re already using other local wireless communication features like AirPlay (audio or video) or Sidecar, Ventura won’t let you use your iPhone as a webcam. If you use a cable to connect your iPhone to your Mac, it will transfer data over that cable instead, freeing up your Mac’s wireless capabilities to do Sidecar or AirPlay simultaneously. For me, having to break out extra mounting hardware for my phone is too much effort for a basic Zoom or FaceTime call. Still, for streamers or vloggers looking for better-than-webcam video quality that doesn’t require dedicated camera hardware, it’s a handy feature to have.
New apps and app changes: Weather and Clock
- The main changes in the Messages app itself are the same ones we got in iOS 16—the ability to edit and undo sending of iMessages to other people running iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or Ventura. Messages can be unsent for up to two minutes after they’ve been sent, and they can be edited for up to 15 minutes after being sent. To do either of these things, right-click or control-click the message you want to edit or unsend, and you’ll see both options in the menu. The unsending and editing features don’t work with standard green-bubble SMS text messages, but a fringe benefit of using Messages in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and Ventura is that when people use Tapbacks or iMessage send effects in your green-bubble message threads, you’ll now see those as tapbacks and not as obnoxious “So-and-so-liked-such-and-such” text entries. On an Android users’ end, Google has rolled out updates that will map Tapback responses to analogous emoji so that these responses will be received more or less as intended across platforms. Google would very much prefer that Apple adopt the RCS messaging standard that Google is trying to push, but there’s no sign of that happening. Messages picks up a couple of Mail-ish features. There’s a Mark As Unread option, which is accessible from the Conversation menu or with a Shift-Command-U keyboard shortcut. It will mark the last received message in a given thread as unread rather than any specific message in a thread. You also have the option to recover deleted messages for up to 30 days.
Of the tweaks to the Photos app this year, the most useful is probably the duplicate detection feature—there’s a new sidebar item for duplicate photos in your library. You can compare all the duplicates (along with their file sizes) and either manually delete the ones you don’t want or let Photos “merge” them automatically for you, keeping the one it thinks is best (based on file format, resolution, and “relevant data,” whatever that means) and sending the rest to the Recently Deleted collection. Photos on my Mac found a total of 56 duplicate photos, distinguishing between the ones that were exact copies and the ones that looked the same but “[had] unique resolutions, file formats, or other slight differences.” Merging them all would save me a couple hundred megabytes’ worth of space, which isn’t bad. Speaking of Recently Deleted, that collection is now password-protected by default, adding a layer of security and privacy if you deleted a photo from your device because you didn’t want anyone to see it (we won’t speculate on your motivations for doing that). Batch editing photos gets easier, too, since you can now copy the adjustments you’ve made to one image, select multiple images, and paste those adjustments to all of them rather than having to enter edit mode and copy and paste those adjustments individually (“adjustments” are called “edits” in the menu now, but the menu items are in the same place and do the same thing). This is handy when you’ve shot a lot of photos of the same subject or in similar lighting conditions and you want to make the same baseline color, white balance, and lighting adjustments to all of them before you begin fine-tuning the adjustments in specific photos. Finally, if you don’t care to see the “memories” sidebar item that gathers your photos together into little automated collections and sets them to cutesy music, you can disable this sidebar item from the Settings. Handy, maybe, if you’re on deadline and you don’t want to be attacked by a bunch of reminders of how tiny your kids used to be or how few gray hairs you used to have. Memories will still show up in other places, like in the People menu.
iCloud Shared Photo Library
The iCloud Shared Photo Library feature is launching for the first time along with Ventura, iOS 16.1, and iPadOS 16.1; it wasn’t a part of the original public release of iOS 16. The feature doesn’t replace standard shared albums, which can still be created and accessed as they normally would. What it does is create a more permissive kind of sharing for some photos, where all users with access can edit and save photos, and those edits can be seen (or changed or reverted) by anyone else with access to the album. When you create a shared library, you’re asked which pictures from your personal library you’d like to have added to it. You can just throw your entire personal library into the shared library, or you can select individual albums or photos to add as you like. Every person added to the shared library is asked to make this same determination—add their entire personal library to the shared library, or some of it, or none of it. Once you’ve created your shared library, a toggle in the upper-left corner of the app will let you switch between your personal library, your shared library, or a combined view that displays both; if you do this, apps from the shared library will be denoted by a small icon in the upper-right corner of the thumbnail. Some automated features, like Memories, Locations, and all the Smart albums for different file types, will still function for your personal library and the shared library independently. But the People feature, for whatever reason, will only work when the “Both Libraries” option is selected. The photos count against the iCloud storage of the account that originated the album, so you don’t need to worry about overloading people who are still managing to get by with their free 5GB iCloud accounts. And if anyone other than you deletes photos from the shared library, you’ll receive periodic notifications about it by default, so no one can delete something you feel strongly about keeping without letting you know about it. Personally, I find this feature intriguing but a little confusing. I like having more powerful sharing, where multiple people can work collaboratively on a batch of photos they can all edit or delete as they need to. But it’s hard to imagine wanting to share every photo in my entire library with anybody, let alone multiple people, and I suspect the difference between a shared library and shared albums might be difficult to explain to less tech-savvy people. I’d like to see a version of this functionality added to the shared albums feature that already existed—but at least the option is now available for people who want to share more stuff.
Ventura’s main additions to the Notes app are organizational. There are some date-based divisions in the main Notes column that group notes into categories like “Yesterday,” “Previous 7 Days,” and “Previous 30 Days.” After that, notes from the current year appear to be grouped by month, and notes older than that are merely grouped by year. Notes (other than pinned ones) are still presented in reverse-chronological order based on when they were last edited, and this doesn’t change anything about that. But it does help to break up the monotony of a particularly long list of notes. Ventura also gives Smart Folders an upgrade. Currently, Smart Folders are only organized by tags—hashtagged keywords you insert into each note manually. Smart Folders in Ventura can be organized in a bunch of different ways; you can include only notes with checklists or based on when notes were created or modified, plus a bunch of other settings. When you create a new Smart Folder, you can choose as many of these filters as you want and decide whether you want to include notes that meet all or any one of the criteria you specify. Beyond that, changes are minor. You can share a note via a link now rather than sharing directly via one of the services listed on the Share sheet. And if you lock a note, you can secure it with your account’s login password rather than needing to specify a separate one (though using a separate password is still supported).
Most of the new features in Ventura’s Mail app are the kinds of things that you’ve already gotten used to if you’re using the Gmail or Outlook web clients, but for those who prefer a local mail app or people who are using a mail provider with a more barebones web client, they’ll be nice to have. After hitting Send on a message, you now have 30 seconds to hit Undo to recall the message and fix a typo or make other changes (just don’t quit the Mail app before the email actually goes out, or it will get stuck until you re-open Mail again later). Sending mail can be scheduled now, too, for the times when you are ill-advisedly writing a work email at 1 am but don’t want it to go out until normal-people hours (scheduled messages should send just fine even if you quit the Mail app, according to Six Colors’ Jason Snell). Other additions attempt to save you from common email faux pas, like forgetting to attach something to a message that clearly references an attachment or forgetting to copy someone on an email who is normally copied along with the other people you’re sending your message to. Search in Mail gets smarter, too, with the ability to show top search results separately from the rest of them and the ability to compensate for typos or misspellings when searching. Typing “aple” into the Search field got me no results in Monterey, but doing the same thing in Ventura correctly showed me hits containing the word “Apple.”
The Home app gets a substantial redesign in Ventura, one that should be familiar to iOS 16 (or iPadOS 16) users since the Mac version of the app is still a Catalyst version of the iPad app with a (very) lightly Mac-ified user interface. The app’s main update is an improved layout that gives you more information and a better idea of where your accessories all are and what they’re doing at that exact moment. You’ll see information about whether you have HomePods or other kinds of speakers or set-top boxes playing anything anywhere in your house, plus new “category” views that sort controls for your accessories into different groups based on what they do.
The Home app also introduces support for the Matter Smart home standard that Apple and other companies are pushing. To use Matter accessories, Apple says you’ll need a “home hub, such as an Apple TV or HomePod device,” so it’s not something you get for free just by upgrading.
The changes to Reminders are mostly organizational, aside from granting the ability to do some basic text formatting in the “notes” section of reminders. The “Scheduled” and “Today” lists now group reminders by time so you have a better sense of what is happening when (and what is past due). Custom lists can be pinned to the top of the app alongside all of the auto-generated groups of reminders, and a new “Completed” list makes it easier to look at what you’ve already done and when. If you find yourself making many similar lists, they can be saved as “Templates to save time later.
Expanded gamepad support
- It is a truth universally acknowledged that passwords are an irritating nightmare. Almost anything you can do to make them more secure—make them longer, use special characters, use a unique one for each of your accounts, add two-factor authentication—makes them more annoying. They can be leaked, stolen, or guessed (the latter is increasingly easy with the use of high-end computer hardware). Using a good password manager can help with many of these problems (you should be using one—I like Bitwarden), but they come with a learning curve, and going through the initial setup process is intimidating. To its credit, Apple has built a reasonably capable password manager into iOS and macOS, a feature or two at a time, and it can reduce a lot of that friction because so many people save their passwords into Safari in the first place. Over the years, Apple’s system has picked up features like detection for compromised passwords, monitoring for duplicate passwords, and even a browser extension for Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge (albeit one that only works in Windows; macOS users have to stick with Safari).
In Ventura, Apple is working to replace passwords with something less Apple-centric: passkeys. With the backing of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the FIDO Alliance and W3C Consortium, passkeys are meant to circumvent the password mess entirely, replacing them and whatever two-factor authentication system you use. Built on top of the WebAuthn API, passkeys work by pairing a public key stored on a web server and a private key that is encrypted and stored on your device. Whenever you try to log in to a passkey-enabled site, your device will ask you to authenticate locally, and then you’ll be allowed into your account. Here’s how Apple describes it in the WWDC developer session about passkeys:
Rather than having a single, typeable string, a passkey is actually a pair of related keys. These keys are generated by your devices, securely and uniquely, for every account. One is public and is stored on the server. The other is private and stays on your devices even when signing in. The public key is not a secret. It’s just as public as your user name. The private key is what is needed to actually sign in. The server never learns what your private key is, and your devices keep it safe. When you go to sign in, the server sends your device a single-use challenge. WebAuthn allows many different challenge-response algorithms, but passkeys on Apple platforms use standard ES256. Only your private key is capable of producing a valid solution to the challenge for your account. Your device produces this solution—called a signature—locally, and only sends the solution back to the server. Your private key stays secret and only on your devices. The server then validates the solution using your public key.
Since the only thing stored on the remote server is the public encryption key, passkeys can’t be leaked in data breaches, and they can’t be stolen or guessed. Passkeys are also phishing-resistant, as they are associated exclusively with specific web domains (and/or apps). Users can be tricked into entering passwords or even two-factor authentication codes into fraudulent websites by spam emails or texts, but passkeys won’t work if these domains don’t match. Apple’s Passkey implementation relies on iCloud for cross-device syncing, where the keys are “end-to-end encrypted, so even Apple can’t read them.” This prevents a problem with some two-factor authentication apps—because your passkeys are stored in iCloud, they automatically move to new phones or other devices as you upgrade rather than being specific to a single piece of hardware.
On an iPhone or Mac, you use Touch ID or Face ID when prompted to sign in to a passkey-compatible website, much like you would to unlock a password manager or authenticate an app that wants administrator privileges. Non-Apple platforms can generate QR codes that can be scanned with your iPhone to log in. (One benefit of passkeys being a standard is that Google is handling external device sign-ins exactly the same way with Android’s passkey implementation, which should help create a common vocabulary and behavior over time.) One issue with passkeys on the Mac is the same thing that makes Apple’s password manager less than desirable: non-Safari browsers don’t have direct access to the passkeys stored in iCloud. Passkey-aware browsers can at least generate a QR code that your phone can scan—another benefit of standards—but it’s an extra step you don’t have to worry about in Safari. Developers will need to put some effort in to make passkeys viable, and we’ll presumably be living in some kind of hybrid passwords-and-passkeys in-between space for at least a few years. But pushes from Apple and Google will get passkey support into the hands of virtually every smartphone user on Earth, and support from Microsoft (which has been a pioneer in other passwordless efforts) will take care of computer users who don’t use Macs. Apple has a lot of clout in the industry and historically has been much better than other companies at getting developers to follow its lead—we’ll probably look back on iOS 16 and Ventura as an inflection point for the passkey ecosystem.
Other security features: Rapid Security Response
Apple says that Rapid Security Response will allow it to update Macs more quickly and more frequently without triggering a laborious system reboot. This feature appears to be enabled by something we noticed when we looked at how Ventura uses disk space—the moving of several gigabytes’ worth of system files from the signed-and-sealed main system volume to the hidden Preboot volume. These still appear in the Finder alongside other system and user files thanks to cryptex disk images that can be used to extend the main system volume while still being stored separately. Files in those Cryptex images—Safari, lots of Safari and WebKit-related files, various shared cache files, and a few other odds and ends—can be updated without the song and dance of mounting a snapshot of the Signed System Volume (SSV), applying the patches to it, re-sealing it, and rebooting. We haven’t really gotten to see Rapid Security Response in action yet—system updates will still require a full reboot, and every single beta update throughout the summer has required the normal install-and-reboot cycle. We’ll be on the lookout to see how (and if) Apple announces and documents updates that take advantage of Rapid Security Response as Ventura is patched.
USB-C: Cancel or allow
The first time you connect most USB-C accessories into a Ventura Mac, you’ll see a pop-up asking you to confirm whether you actually want the device to connect to your computer. This is intended to protect you from plugging into something that looks like a USB-C charger or something else but is actually a vector for malware. Once you’ve allowed an accessory to connect one, it won’t ask for your permission to connect it again. A non-comprehensive list of some things that have triggered the prompt for me: USB-A drives attached to USB-C dongles (but not the dongles themselves) plus pretty much any other kind of mass storage device, USB-C Ethernet dongles, a USB-C SD card reader, mice and keyboards, and a USB-C hub. A USB-C to HDMI dongle didn’t trigger the warning. One possible loophole for people who use USB-C to USB-A hubs is that once you’ve given permission for a hub to connect to your Mac, new devices connected to that hub don’t trigger a warning whether your Mac has seen them before or not. This was true both of a standalone USB-C-to-A hub and the USB hub built into a USB-C monitor we tested with.
A stricter Gatekeeper
If you download and run apps from outside the Mac App Store, you’ve probably encountered Gatekeeper’s security pop-ups before. For apps that have been properly notarized by their developers, you’ll just see a one-time pop-up telling you that you downloaded the app from the Internet and double-checking that you really want to run it. In previous macOS versions, that check was a one-time thing at first launch, and once you had dismissed it the first time, you wouldn’t need to deal with it on subsequent launches. The behavior in Ventura should look exactly the same the vast majority of the time. But Gatekeeper is now re-checking apps’ notarization status every time you launch them, quietly, in the background. You’ll only see the notifications again if something about the app has changed in a way that breaks notarization. Under typical circumstances, this sort of thing will only happen if the app has been altered in some way, either by data corruption or some kind of malware, but it can be triggered by app updates if the app doesn’t handle them properly or if a third-party app modifies the contents of another third-party developer’s app. (If developers want other third-party apps to be able to update or modify their apps, they can specify that in their apps’ configuration files.) In four months of testing Ventura, I have yet to encounter an app that prompted additional Gatekeeper notifications after it had cleared them the first time. But it’s worth knowing about, especially for developers who don’t want their users to run into scary, support-ticket-generating warning messages.
Apple pitches Lockdown Mode as an extra layer of “extreme protection” for people who believe they are being specifically targeted by cyberattackers. It does this mostly by limiting your Internet connection and communication in various ways—it blocks most attachments in Messages and no longer generates link previews, it doesn’t allow Safari to use “certain complex web technologies,” it blocks or imposes limitations on FaceTime and some other iCloud features, it prevents USB accessories from being connected while the computer is locked, and it prevents configuration profiles or MDM software from being installed (Lockdown Mode can’t be enabled or disabled by MDM software.) Apple publishes the full details here. Lockdown Mode doesn’t make any additional security recommendations after you enable it—there are no additional suggestions for securing your Apple ID or a prompt to use FileVault to encrypt an unencrypted boot drive. Presumably, anyone wanting to use Lockdown Mode would have some level of familiarity with these tools already. The other big hole in Lockdown Mode on the Mac is that its limitations on Internet content only apply in Safari, not in other browsers. In Safari with Lockdown Mode enabled, the fonts on The New York Times homepage don’t render correctly, presumably because they’re being loaded using something that Lockdown Mode blocks. In Chrome, they render just fine. Apple can’t force third-party apps to change their behavior in Lockdown Mode, and as best I can tell, there’s no public API allowing them to do so even if they wanted to. Just something to be aware of if you think you might benefit from the extra protections.
Ambiguous changes to Login Items
There’s another new kind of security notification in Ventura that, for once, is just about informing the user that something is happening rather than asking them to click through yet another security prompt. Install an app that comes with any kind of background service—an updater, say, for Google Chrome or Microsoft Office—and it will generate a notification that a new background service has been added. The full list of background services is located in the “Login Items” section of System Settings, one of the screens that got tucked away behind “General.” Here, you’ll see information about how many background services are associated with any given app, whether those services apply to all users on the computer or just the currently logged-in user and whether those items are from apps with unidentified developers. Apps in the latter group will have “i” icons next to them that will take you to the folder containing the items in case that might help you identify or delete them. This wording has actually changed a lot since early in the betas, when this section was labeled “Login Items Added By Apps” and listed what each entry on the list did. I find that wording less ambiguous than what Apple eventually settled on, which doesn’t even really clarify what the apps are doing. Some of them do seem to be login items, insofar as they launch without prompting when I restart my computer. But toggling the switch also forcibly shuts off any background processes that are currently running. So is it a list of apps that launch in the background when I log in, or is it a list of permissions that I’m granting to specific apps that want to run in the background? The answer right now seems to be “it’s kind of both.” There’s also a type of launch-at-login app that falls through the cracks here—login items you add to the list yourself but that you’d like to hide at launch. It has been a feature of macOS for about as long as Mac OS X has been a thing, but System Settings doesn’t expose the setting anywhere I can see—ambiguities and regressions that I hope can be addressed as Ventura is updated.
System apps in macOS mostly live in the Signed System Volume (SSV), which prevents third-party apps from tampering with their code. Ventura takes this one step further with something called Launch Constraints, documented here by engineer and security researcher Csaba Fitzl. By default, Launch Constraints will block any macOS system app from running if it has been moved from its default location. In Monterey, if you moved TextEdit or Terminal out of the Applications folder on the SSV, they would still run fine. Not only will those apps refuse to run in Ventura, but the Finder takes extra steps to prevent you from moving the apps using the GUI (in Monterey, you can move apps by holding the Option key as you drag; in Ventura, all the Finder can do is create an alias of the app). This mechanism will protect against a certain kind of sometimes-exploited security hole wherein a system app is moved from the SSV to the user data volume and then modified to run malicious code, taking advantage of the entitlements that macOS grants to system apps.
One of the most Mac-y things Apple has worked on with the Mac in the Apple Silicon era has been its virtualization framework, which makes it dead simple to set up Linux and macOS guest operating systems on top of macOS (macOS guests are only supported on Apple silicon, though CLI and GUI Linux guests are supported on both architectures). Case in point, the proliferation of indie projects that all make it easy to create virtual machines on macOS. Few are as feature-rich as Parallels (which, unlike Apple’s official solution, can support the ARM version of Windows), but most are more streamlined and less janky than VirtualBox, so on balance, it’s a win for casual users of virtualization software. This post has a good overview of some of the features added in Ventura and the potentially useful features that could still be added (official support for snapshots is one). There are some bigger features we can highlight, though. For macOS guests, Ventura adds support for booting to the VM’s recovery partition (helpful for testing and for taking screenshots from within the recovery environment—ask me how I know) and full support for multitouch trackpad gestures as long as the host and guest operating systems are running Ventura or newer.
Linux guests get some good additions in Ventura, too, including both graphics acceleration and folder-sharing support. Ventura also extends Rosetta support to Linux VMs; perform some relatively simple installation steps, and your Arm Linux VMs can run code written for x86 Linux with the same modest performance penalty as you get for running Intel apps on your Apple Silicon Mac. Like Rosetta in macOS, there are limitations (no AVX or AVX2 instructions, for example). But it should be a useful addition given how x86-centric a lot of Linux software still is. Notably, performing these same installation steps on a bare-metal Asahi Linux install also seems to work, and installing the Rosetta packages on non-Apple Silicon Arm devices also seems to work. But it’s up in the air as to whether this is allowed. Proceed at your own risk.
Spotlight searches get a few new tricks. Image results from multiple apps—including Notes, Messages, and the Photos app itself—will show up in Spotlight searches now, and Live Text support ensures that images that contain the words you’re searching for show up, too. You can additionally search for broad terms like “cat pictures,” and Spotlight will try to give you relevant results from your own files as well as the Internet; all of these results can now be previewed via Quick Look with the spacebar if you want to get a closer look. If you’re looking for a shortcut to Shortcuts, Spotlight can search through and run those in Ventura as well—Shortcuts can already be added to the menu bar or the Dock or a bunch of other places in macOS, but the more, the merrier.
The most important addition to Apple’s proprietary Metal graphics API this year is a feature that has become increasingly popular in Windows games over the last few years. Metal 3’s spatial and temporal image upscaling, similar in concept to Nvidia’s DLSS, AMD’s FSR, and Intel’s XeSS, attempts to upscale a low-resolution image to look sharper and more detailed without requiring as much GPU performance as it would take to render the image at a higher resolution natively. This could be especially useful for the Mac userbase, where most GPUs will be the basic versions in the bottom-tier M1 and M2 chips rather than higher-end M1 Pro/Max/Ultra chips. Metal 3 also improves Metal’s support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing and adds fast resource loading that will let games load textures and other data directly from storage. This sounds pretty similar to one of the features Microsoft is offering with the DirectStorage API, which also aims to cut out bottlenecks by taking advantage of the speed of modern PCI Express-connected SSDs. Metal 3 does have specific GPU requirements, but Ventura drops so many older Intel Macs from the support list that most of the ones that run Ventura will still be able to use Metal 3. Apple says the feature requires an Apple M1 or M2, an Intel Iris Plus or UHD 630 integrated GPU, or a Radeon Vega or Radeon Pro (or RX) 5000 or 6000-series dedicated GPU. This mainly excludes 2017 and 2018 MacBook Pros with Radeon Pro 500-series dedicated GPUs.
Live Text improvements
Live Text in Monterey could just grab text from still images, but in Ventura, the feature can also be used to grab text selections from videos. And if your image includes information like flight info or tracking numbers, you’ll be able to click those things to get more information, the same way you can in a text message or email. Ventura adds Japanese, Korean, and Ukrainian text support, too, which is helpful for Safari, where Apple is now using Live Text to translate text in images on websites, along with translating the actual text.
New Siri look
A revised Siri interface that takes up less space. Aside from any new capabilities it picks up in Ventura, Siri also gets an updated look. It’s still a green-and-purple pulsating orb, but now it shows up in the top-right corner of your screen without any kind of border or backdrop behind it. Results are presented differently, too, in separate flyouts rather than one big notification-style message. The biggest functional change is that by default, the Mac version of Siri doesn’t show you a real-time transcription of what you’re saying as you’re saying it, nor does it tell you what it thinks your finished query is. This also means you can’t manually change the misinterpreted text with your keyboard to fix the error. You can revert to the old behavior by turning on Always show speech in the Siri Responses menu in System Settings.
This one isn’t technically a macOS feature, but I encounter it mostly as a Mac user, so it’s going in the grab bag. Newer iPad Air and Pro models—as of this writing, anything with an A12X, A12Z, or M1 chip—are getting a new Display Zoom feature in iPadOS 16. This works the same way as the more space display resolution setting in macOS. The GPU draws the operating system at a higher-than-native-resolution level and then scales it to the display’s actual resolution, resulting in more room on the screen for apps and text and images at the cost of a slightly fuzzier image. When you have the more space option selected in iPadOS, you also end up with more usable desktop space when you connect it to a Mac via Sidecar. The 2360×1640 display on my 5th-generation iPad Air now shows a zoomed image with a resolution of 2746×1908, a roughly 35 percent increase in pixels. Unfortunately, there’s no way to change this setting from within macOS—you can’t use the more space setting for Sidecar and go back to the default zoom level when using iPadOS. But it’s an upgrade I’ve found handy when re-creating a multi-monitor setup away from my desk.
FaceTime calls can now be handed off between devices without needing to hang up and start a new call. If you answer a call on your phone and you want to switch to an iPad or MacBook midway, you can do that now.
Wi-Fi password copying
In the Wi-Fi settings, if you click the Advanced button, you’ll see a list of every Wi-Fi network you’ve ever connected to. Ventura will let you copy the passwords for each of those networks so you can more easily view and share them, which is useful if the automated Wi-Fi password-sharing features aren’t working properly for some other reason. (Also, maybe prune your list of Wi-Fi networks while you’re here?)
No more Network Locations
System Preferences used to have a “Network Locations” feature, where you could set up profiles that would change your network settings based on where you were—for example, if you used a fixed IP address on your Ethernet connection at home but wanted to use DHCP at work or if you wanted your computer to use wired Ethernet first at home but prioritize Wi-Fi at work. I doubt many people will miss this since it’s not as though Ethernet adapters are common on Macs anymore, and you can set different settings for different Wi-Fi networks or Ethernet dongles anyway (your dock on your desk and your USB Ethernet dongle at home can still have different settings). But if you do rely on it, you’ll need to figure out something else.
Another low-key year for Mac software
I wrote the introduction to this review before I had re-read the conclusion of last year’s Monterey review, which is why they’re pretty similar. But Apple’s approach to macOS updates hasn’t changed much, either. Anyone upgrading from, say, a 2015 or 2016-era Mac to a current model will be blown away by the improvements to performance and battery life. They might not even notice that these new Macs can run Ventura instead of being stuck on Monterey. Mostly, Ventura follows the typical pattern for a modern macOS update, adding a couple of medium-sized tentpole things, a bunch of small things, and nothing that fundamentally alters what macOS is or does. Most people will be able to find at least one or two things they like enough to justify the upgrade. Other people will be convinced to pull the trigger because they don’t want iMessage or some other iCloud service to work slightly differently on their iPhones and their Macs. The tentpole features this year feel less than essential, even considered next to something like Monterey’s Shortcuts app or Big Sur’s redesign. Both Stage Manager and System Settings retrofit iPad-style interfaces for macOS, and while I don’t think either is bad (Stage Manager is an interesting alternate window management UI, and System Settings breaks about even as a System Preferences replacement), I also don’t find myself missing them when I go back to Monterey. Introducing Windows-style window snapping would be (in my unscientific estimation) roughly 800 times more impactful and useful than either—and would make Stage Manager feel better, too. But what’s useful and what isn’t is in the eye of the beholder. Continuity Camera and the new gaming features will probably appeal quite a bit to specific kinds of Mac users. Ventura will save you a couple of gigabytes of disk space—or even more if you’re on an Intel Mac. I like the new organizational improvements to Notes and Reminders and the ability to edit iMessages. Passkeys are quietly revolutionary, though they’re hardly exclusive to macOS, and they’ll require developer buy-in before they can reach their full potential. And that’s Ventura in a nutshell: something for everyone, but not one thing for everyone.
- Stage Manager actually has some good ideas, and it runs much better on the Mac than it does on the iPad
- Saves a significant amount of disk space for Intel Macs in particular
- Passkeys support will help push passwordless account support forward
- A pile of small/niche feature additions means you’ll probably find something worth upgrading for, even if the headline features aren’t as exciting this year
- Orange color scheme is fittingly Halloween-y for late October
- System Settings doesn’t fix all of System Preferences’ organization and consistency problems, and some features didn’t make the jump
- Most new apps (Weather, Clock, the Home redesign) still look and feel more like iPad apps than Mac apps