Two Great MacOS 13 Ventura Reviews

When iPadOS gets released, I read Federico Viticci’s review. When a new version of MacOS is shipped, I rely on Andrew Cunningham of Ars Technica and Jason Snell of Six Colors to tell me the good, the bad, and the buggy.

Choice excerpts from Cunningham’s review:

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.


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.


That [System Preferences] 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.”


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 will miss “Preferences”; the word “Settings” feels comparatively mechanical. (Update: Apparently, you can revert this change if you are so inclined.)

This year’s Mac hardware compatibility chart is giving me mild anxiety. My Intel iMac is now one of the oldest models officially supported by MacOS Ventura, and I have known it will become unsupported sooner rather than later ever since Apple launched announced the transition to ARM. I bought it less than four years ago and it is still a fast computer. It is hard to believe it will soon be placed on Apple’s vintage Macs list.

And from Snell’s:

Just these choices make System Settings a usability disaster. It’s good that there’s a search box at the top of the settings list, because the best way to use the app is forget that it has any organizational structure and search for what you want. It would actually be less confusing if Apple removed all pretense of a structure and just had the app feature a single pane with a search box and nothing else.

Some of this confusion could have been resolved with a clear re-think about which settings go where. Someone at Apple could have sat down and outlined a sensible hierarchy for settings, but that clearly didn’t happen. Settings are scattered all over the place, in locations that make very little sense, frequently because they got attached there 10 or 15 years ago in System Preferences.

It sounds like many of the individual bugs spotted in beta seeds have been addressed, but the core concept remains fundamentally flawed. I am obviously willing to learn new things and see what I like about the Ventura way, but both these reviews worry me when it comes to an app I use infrequently but urgently.

Great new default Desktop Picture, though. Wait, excuse me — Wallpaper. You know, for the wall that is on your Desktop.