Which of Monterey’s features aren’t available where?

I apologise to those who were expecting to be able to use Visual Look Up, one of the features newly extended in Monterey 12.3. Many of you will have been disappointed to discover that it apparently doesn’t work for you. That’s because it’s only available in:

  • English, in the USA, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Singapore and the UK;
  • French, in France;
  • German, in Germany;
  • Italian, in Italy;
  • Spanish, in the USA, Mexico and Spain.

That’s a much smaller list than Live Text, which is available for eight languages in over thirty countries. Only grammar checking is supported less, as that works with just seven localisations of English. So how come Visual Look Up (VLU) depends on which language you use and where you’re located?

As I explained in my previous article, VLU probably depends on sending Apple’s servers a ‘Neural Hash’ generated from an image, those servers matching it against their database of known images, and returning information about the image for display on your Mac. It’s the last step which appears most important in determining which languages and countries are supported, as someone running their Mac in Japanese isn’t going to find information in English too helpful. Apple therefore needs to localise that returned information, which is going to take time to extend its coverage to more languages. I also suspect the service may have a limited capacity which is being ramped up to cope with more users worldwide.

Apple provides a full list of services available in macOS here, and here for iOS and iPadOS. It’s long and complex, and in many places might seem strange.

Some of you have noticed that VLU isn’t new with 12.3, and those using English in the USA have apparently been able to use VLU since the first full release of Monterey, 12.0.1. What’s confusing here is that Apple’s 12.3 release notes, which are more detailed than many before them, announced:
“This release also includes the following enhancements for your Mac:
Visual Look Up recognises art, landmarks around the world, plants and flowers, books, and dog and cat breeds in your photos so you can learn more about them”
For those of us who hadn’t been aware that VLU was previously available to some users, it looked like a feature newly arrived in 12.3.

Monterey’s new features are even more complicated, though. In addition to those only available for specific languages and locations, others don’t work on all Macs officially supported by Monterey. To check which are available on your Mac(s), Apple’s detailed list is authoritative, and has been updated for changes in 12.3. I also offer my own compatibility chart, in colour:


And for those who prefer monochrome:


This is all particularly unfortunate for Visual Look Up, which is a brilliant piece of engineering, works amazingly well, and is carefully integrated into the three supporting apps, Safari, Preview and Photos. But that integration tends to hide it, particularly when Apple’s documentation doesn’t do it justice. VLU was then buried in the Live Text section of Monterey’s feature list, and only available for some Mac users in the initial release. What turns out to be a major new feature for many users had been left in relative obscurity.