Apple today officially released macOS Catalina 10.15 to the public. It’s a massive update for the desktop OS, bringing with it plenty of new features to the mix. That includes brand new elements, but also tweaks and other improvements to existing apps as well.
The new software is available as a free upgrade. It’s available to download and install now by opening System Preferences and selecting “Software Update”.
No more iTunes
As far as what’s new, there is quite a bit to go through. First and foremost, Apple is finally ditching the archaic iTunes software and separating the most important elements into their own apps. With the launch of macOS Catalina, Music, Podcasts, and TV will now be separate apps. You will still be able to physically sync your iPhone with your music, if you prefer to do it that way, of course.
With the separate apps, macOS Catalina users will be able to find the content they’re looking for a bit more easily, without having to dig into iTunes. What’s more, Apple Music will make its standalone app debut with the new Music app, and Apple will usher in the future arrival of its streaming service, Apple TV+, with the new TV app, while also providing a one-stop-shop for purchased movies and TV episodes.
(Apple TV+ arrives on November 1.)
Apple Arcade is making its Mac debut, too. This is one of Apple’s newest subscription services, and it provides access to dozens of games that do not have any ads in them, nor any in-app purchases. The service will bring titles from indie developers and huge corporations alike. It costs $4.99 per month, but Apple is offering a one-month free trial for new subscribers.
macOS Catalina also makes it easier than ever before for developers to build apps for the desktop operating system based on their iPad apps. Here’s how Apple describes it:
Experience your favorite iPad apps now on your Mac. With Mac Catalyst, developers can easily create Mac apps from the iPad apps you already know and love. They run natively alongside your existing Mac apps so you can drag and drop content between them. They take full advantage of the larger screen and powerful architecture of your Mac. And because they are built from their iOS versions, they provide a seamless experience across your devices. Enjoy a broad range of Mac apps — from travel, entertainment, and gaming to banking, education, and project management.
Photos, Notes & Reminders
The Photos app is getting upgraded in a big way, too, making it far more immersive than ever before. The new app will not show duplicates by default, reducing clutter, and the app will show larger previews for all of your photos. The app will work harder in the background to highlight the most important events in your life, including birthdays, trips, and anniversaries.
Notes and Reminders are both getting big boosts in functionality. Notes is getting a better search element, making it easier to find the notes you need when you need them. It is also getting a new gallery view. Meanwhile, Reminders has been rebuilt to be more helpful, making it easier to create, organize, and triage reminders on a regular basis.
Sidecar is one of the other major new additions to macOS Catalina, along with the public release of iPadOS back in September. With this feature, macOS Catalina users will be able to use their iPad as a secondary, external display. This feature can make it possible to extend the primary display to the second, or mirror it so you can show someone else what you’re looking at without stopping work on your primary computer.
Apple Pencil users can get even more creative with Sidecar as well, as described by Apple:
Bring the ease and precision of Apple Pencil to your favorite creative Mac apps with Sidecar. Just drag your app window from your Mac to your iPad as you would with any second display. Then use Apple Pencil to design in Illustrator, edit photos in Affinity Photo, or create 3D models in ZBrush. The handy sidebar puts essential Command, Control, and Shift keys right at your fingertips.
Apple Pencil and Sidecar can also make it possible to markup documents.
Screen Time, Apple’s stock app that helps users keep tabs on daily and weekly usage is finally making its debut on Mac with macOS Catalina. Users will be able to monitor their usage in general, and also burrow down to per-app usage as well. Users will be able to schedule downtime and set limits as they see fit. And Communication Limits can help parents choose who their kids talk to during a given time period, or during downtime.
There is a new Find My app, as is the case with iOS 13 and iPadOS. With this feature, Apple is combining the Find My iPhone and Find My Friends apps, and will even let users locate a lost MacBook even if it’s offline or sleeping. This is handled by sending out Bluetooth signals, which can be detected by other Apple-branded products that are nearby. That location will then be sent to iCloud, where the owner can then track down their device.
It’s all anonymous and encrypted end-to-end so no one, including Apple, knows the identity of any reporting device. And because the reporting happens silently using tiny bits of data that piggyback on existing network traffic, there’s no need to worry about your battery life, your data usage, or your privacy.
Approve with Apple Watch means you can authenticate certain actions beyond just approving Apple Pay purchases on your Mac. This means if you have a Note locked, you can authenticate unlocking it just by double-pressing the side button on the Apple Watch, while doing the same to authorize app installations, view your passwords, and more.
macOS Catalina offers a variety of new accessibility features as well, including full support for Voice Over so users can control actions in the desktop operating system with just their voice. Zoom Display and Hover Text are also present in macOS Catalina.
macOS Catalina is a free upgrade on supported devices. It’s available to download and install now.