At WWDC21, Apple announced macOS Monterey, the latest version of its operating system and some of its 'new' features. But did you know that you can already experience many of these features in macOS today?
FaceTime Portrait Mode
The new Portrait mode feature in FaceTime blurs your background.Camo already has a "portrait mode"with zoom and pan to keep the focus on you, rather than your background.
Voice Isolation Mode
Microphone mode uses machine learning to identify ambient noises and block them out, which is great for calls when you can't get to a quiet place.Krisp is an AI-powered app that removes background noise and echo from meetings leaving only human voice.
iCloud Private Relay
No, Apple's Private Relay is not a VPN. iCloud Private Relay service prevents networks and servers from monitoring a person's activity across the internet. The full details aren't known yet but from what I've read, it's essentially an onion router. The largest and best-known implementation of onion routing is The Onion Routing project, aka Tor project. Apple's routing uses two hops; Apple provides the first, and "independent third parties" provide the second.
To accomplish this (and more, like geo-blocking bypass, which Apple won't do) you can use Tor over a VPN.
First, you'll want to connect to your VPN, which I currently recommend PrivadoVPN. I won't get into the setup, which can be found here. The VPN encrypts your traffic whiles hiding your Tor activity from your ISP. Using Tor exit nodes randomizes your outgoing/egress digital footprints. Brave Browser's Private Window with Tor Connectivity(Option-Command-N) makes the Tor part super simple for web browsing.
There's plus' and minus' to both. Apple will likely "just work", whereas Tor can sometimes be sketchy as the promise of complete anonymity attracts many malicious users, which can raise eyebrows on some servers you visit.
PrivadoVPN supports OpenVPN and has something like 175 servers in 42 countries all over the globe, it's a solid choice. Just using a VPN service like PrivadoVPN will in most cases be good enough for most users.
Hide My Email
Another security-focused/privacy-focused feature in macOS Monterey is Hide My Email which allows you to create unique, random email addresses that forward to your personal inbox so you can send and receive email without having to share your real email address.
I have been doing this for YEARS. When I sign up for a new service or whatever, e.g. jamwirebeats.com, I'll use a custom email address for that site, i.e. email@example.com.
- Can easily filter or create special rules for email processing
- Can easily 'kill' an email address if someone starts spamming or their email CMS database gets compromised
- Give yourself the ability to figure out who is potentially selling your email
- An extra layer of security when sites use your email address as a username. Instead of using the same email as a user name, each site will have a unique user name
So how do you do it?
Services like Gmail, Fastmail, Microsoft 365, etc. allow Plus Addressing by simply adding a “+tag” after your username and before the “@” sign in your email.
For example, firstname.lastname@example.org can use the Plus Addressing feature when signing up for Starbucks rewards as email@example.com.
For my personal domain, I use a catch-all and direct all emails to your 'real' email. Personally, I use Google Workspace for email. When I want to send from that personalized email, I use Gmail's alias. Adding alias in Gmail can be a bit of a pain and there's a limit of 50... Some email clients, such as Airmail, allow you to create arbitrary alias, which is nice if you use an email client.
Mail Privacy Protection
In macOS Monterey Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email.
If you're a Gmail or Google Workspace User, like me, and you use Chromium-based browser, Brave is my browser of choice, you can accomplish this now using the PixelBlock Chrome Extension for Gmail.
PixelBlock blocks email tracking attempts used to detect when you open and read emails and displays a 'red eye' when it finds and blocks a tracking attempt inside of an email.
The Firefox Gmail equivalent is Ugly Email.
Now... to tell you the truth, while pixel trackers are 'ugly' (cough)evil, I'd be lying if I didn't enjoy making use of Mailtrack's service when desperately wanting to know if someone opened my email 🙊 . Don't hate the player hate the game?
SharePlay Music Playback
This is another one of those where I can see Apple's implementation of this being a "just works" feature, but little did you know that Spotify Premium can already do this... it's called Group Session, it's also a beta feature
I actually tried this out last summer with my buddy Brandon. It was a LOT of fun actually. That said, I haven't done it since. Why? IDK, partly due to my personal time priorities/constraints restricting my ability to sync with others but also likely because it's not dead easy. The instructions are not too difficult and are as follows:
- Open Spotify and play something.
- Tap at the bottom of the screen.
- Tap START SESSION under Start a Group Session.
- Tap INVITE FRIENDS. Here you can:
- Share with any social or messaging app listed
- Choose Copy Link to send your own way
- Show them a Spotify code which they can scan to join
If you are a Spotify Premium user, give it a go though, it's fun.
Universal Control gives you the ability to use a single keyboard, mouse, or trackpad between your Mac and iPad devices.
When you move from your Mac to your iPad, the cursor for your mouse or trackpad transforms from an arrow to a round dot, automatically changing shape to the one that is best suited for the device.
This is something that I have been doing quite frequently with my keyboard and Mac's Bluetooth via an app called KeyPad.
What I didn't know until writing this blog is that not only can I use my keyboard, I can also use my mouse with KeyPad 🤗 , if only I can remember Option-Command to activate the mouse.
While, again, I assume Apple's implementation will "just work", KeyPad is not limited to Mac and iPad. I currently use KeyPad (via shortcuts) with my iPhone(Option-Command-O), iPad(Option-Command-P), and even my old Dell Latitude laptop running Ubuntu Linux with a USB Bluetooth dongle (Option-Command-L). But why, why do I even need to care about this? As the creator of KeyPad's website points out:
- Obviously, a digital KVM – Use your Mac keyboard and mouse to control all your other computers/devices, no need for extra keyboards or reaching over to use another keyboard.
- Privacy – Keep your private Apple Messages on the phone and still use a full keyboard. I love this because if I'm working and my wife messages me, I can just connect to my iPhone or iPad and respond using my company-owned Mac's keyboard.
- Remote Control! I LOVE that I can use my Mac's keyboard to control my Apple TV and Android TV. Entering text using those tiny remotes is terrible. I can even copy and paste!
- Plus expensive mechanical keyboards shouldn't be restricted to one device!
There are other options, I used to use 1Keyboard, Synergy is a software-based alternative, but as Leo points out in the above video, Synergy can be funky to get working consistently. While Apple's implementation looks slick, a shortcut key makes KeyPad a great alternative, especially for a madman with a setup like this
Windows 11 Snap Layouts
Wait, this is about macOS Monterey, Windows 11?
I thought I'd throw in one more feature macOS Monterey left out that newly announced Windows 11 did release, a feature that can also already be done on macOS today, snap layouts.
What are snap layouts? Snapping allows you to move and resize windows in macOS using keyboard shortcuts or snap areas. To accomplish this, I make use of an app called Rectangle. I can't believe Apple has neglected window snapping functionality to be honest.
With a quick shortcut, e.g. Option-Control-Right Arrow, I can move the current, focused window to the right side of my display.
When you have an ultra-wide monitor like my Dell UltraSharp 49 Curved Monitor, snapping is essential, a total must-have.
While I'm sure Apple's release of macOS Monterey will add that typical Apple polish that genuinely distinguishes itself from other companies that don't have such control over both hardware and software, I thought I'd share these alternative methods of getting these upcoming features today. Enjoy.