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MacOS Catalina Is Now Live. Here’s Everything You Need To Know.

Announced at WWDC 2019, MacOS Catalina has been in the recent months been much overshadowed by Apple’s iPad, iPhone, iPadOS and iOS 13 updates. But the Mac has long been the company’s mainstay.

Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi announces the new MacOS Catalina. Image: Apple

MacOS 10.15 Catalina was announced alongside a spanking new Mac Pro (and Pro Display XDR), and will be available on the company’s litany of Mac devices like the MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, iMac Pro and Mac Pro.

Available as a free upgrade, MacOS Catalina further extends productivity features to Apple’s Mac product category in a variety of ways, although it does make a few compromises along the way.

Everything improved on MacOS Catalina. Image: Apple

1. iPad Integration


The iPad had loomed a close threat as Apple’s dominant productivity tool, but Catalina finally assuaged these fears, for the moment at least. With Catalina’s Sidecar, your iPad turns into a secondary display for your Mac device.

This is especially good news for those who demand on-the-go utility.

Sidecar on MacOS Catalina is one of the headline features. Image: Apple

There’s not much to it. Simply choose to keep your displays on your menu bar, and select your iPad when ready.

Pencil support

With Sidecar, iPad’s recent developements have a whole lot more meaning for Mac natives. Apple has been pushing Pencil compatibility with the most recent iPads ever since the 2017 9.7-inch iPad, and Sidecar means even your 5th generation iPad mini can be used as a stylus input for your Mac.

That’s great news for creatives with the new iPadOS reducing latency for the Apple Pencil from 20ms to 9ms.

Project Catalyst: (Full-fleged) iPad app support

Last year, Apple had attempted to manufacture what were essentially Mac-flavoured ports of iOS apps, starting with Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home.

Last year, Apple released Mac-flavoured versions of News, Stocks, Voice Memos and Home. This year, they’re going for every other app. Image: Apple

While that got off to a rocky start, the project codenamed Marzipan has gone full steam ahead with its official unveiling as Project Catalyst at WWDC 2019.

Project Catalyst, in short, is Apple’s attempt to make it easy for developers to translate their apps between iOS, iPadOS and MacOS platforms. Where in the past entirely separate projects had to be maintained for iPhone, iPad and Mac applications, Catalyst effectively converges developmental tasks by providing third-party developers with an entirely-new Xcode devkit for universal apps.

More Mac apps? Yes, please!

This is significant on several fronts.

Firstly and most importantly, Project Catalyst’s effect on simplifying the app development process means the Mac App Store will be rejuvenated with a greater variety of apps.

It would be as easy as now checking “Mac” when developing a new project. Image: Apple

Secondly, it also means that the Mac is further integrated into the rest of Apple’s device ecosystem. The iPhone has been the mainstay of the company’s innovation and development for the past decade, with spillovers to the Apple Watch and iPad – unfortunately just precious little for its MacOS devices.

Project Catalyst would bring a litany of quality iPad apps, including Twitter (welcome back), GoodNotes, Carrot Weather and Asphalt 9. They’re certainly not built for MacOS, but will certainly interface sufficiently with your hardware keyboard and mouse.

2. Godspeed, iTunes

Long the interface between your MacOS device and iPhone, iPad (or iPod), iTunes is no more.

Apple’s iTunes had been the centrepiece of media consumption on Mac, including syncing and backing up iPods, iPads and iPhones. With MacOS Catalina, iTunes is no more. Image: Apple

A clunky, do-it-all interface that lumps TV shows, audiobooks, iPhone backups and yes – a music player, Apple has broken its stranglehold as media centrepiece into three separate apps – Music, Podcasts and TV.

iTunes will find a new life in Music, Podcasts and TV. Image: Apple

Each of the new apps will focus on Music, Podcasts and TV respectively, and will offer dedicated functionality with Apple Music and Apple TV+ subscription services for the best user experience.

This means better navigation, faster performance and use-specific UI for each of the new apps. Podcasts will allow you to search for keywords mentioned during the podcasts, and Music will come with iTunes’ ability to rip CDs.

The new Podcasts app. Image: Apple

Device and backup management is now baked into Finder when the appropriate devices are physically plugged into the Mac, offering the same functionality as iTunes had.

Device and backup management will now be hosted within Finder. Image: Apple

3. Apple Arcade

While Apple TV+ and Apple Music subscription services are handled by the new Music and TV apps for MacOS, the new Apple Arcade gaming service will also be supported on MacOS.

This effectively transforms the Mac into more of a full-fledged entertainment platform, all with the ability to connect a PS4 or Xbox One controller.

Within the new MacOS Catalina App Store, users can find the Arcade section. Image: Apple

4. Everything Else

Voice Control – With accessibility in mind, Catalina gives Mac a better interface for users with visual, motor or other limitations by allowing voice control over a greater degree of actions.

Find My — Like on iOS, the redesigned app combines Find My Friends and Find My iPhone. Improvements have been made specific to MacBook devices to improve their functionality in Find My. With Catalina, MacBooks now send out a secure Bluetooth beacon signal even when turned off, relayed by nearby iOS devices.

Activation Lock – If lost, Activation Lock makes your MacBook much less attractive to thieves by leveraging the T2 chip for security. The MacBook is locked down from bootloaders and installers completely unless signed in with user credentials.

Spillovers from iOS 13: Like on iOS 13, Catalina will introduce a whole new Photos, Safari start page, a redesigned Reminders, gallery view in Notes, and new-to-Mac Screen Time app. Sign in with Apple will also be available for Mac apps in due course.

Some of the redesigns on MacOS Catalina, from Reminders to Photos. Image: Apple

5. Sorry, 64-bit only

While MacOS Catalina offers a plethora of improvements big and small, it does come with a caveat. It will only support 64-bit apps. This means that legacy programmes would not run at all should you choose to install MacOS Catalina.

Users can easily check if they have any non-64-bit programmes by accessing  > About This Mac > System Report > Software > Applications and then sorting the list by the column “64-Bit (Intel)”.

So, if you have any important 32-bit apps, you might want to hold off on updating to MacOS Catalina, or perhaps use a virtualisation software like Parallels for Mac to run previous MacOS versions.

That’s MacOS Catalina from start to finish. Check out our coverage of WWDC 2019 or read our reviews of the hardware launches this September: the Apple Watch Series 5, iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro.

Ian Ling
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

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