The Best Features Of macOS 10.15 Catalina

Having joined the historic ranks of its predecessors, macOS 10.15: Catalina is no more. Well, we say no more but this highly popular version of the macOS is still proving very popular with a lot of Mac and MacBook users. Why? To answer that question lets got back to the start, Catalina takes its title from a notable place in California. Santa Catalina Island is a beautiful resort 29 miles south-south-west of Long Beach, and is famed for its beautiful harbour.

macOS 10.15: Catalina, looks every bit as gorgeous as its island namesake. It makes several significant changes from macOS 10.14: Mojave, with some great unique apps and features.

The Death of iTunes

iTunes, Apple’s famous app for organising and enjoying your music, movies and TV shows, is to be retired. Given how bloated and unwieldy it had become, this is no bad thing. It’s to be replaced with three apps that should already be familiar to those who use an iPhone or an iPad; Music, TV and Podcasts.

music podcasts and apple tv

The Music app will, of course, take over the audio aspects of iTunes. Freed from the visual and podcasting aspects of the older app, your tunes are far more accessible. It’s far more streamlined than iTunes, and faster too. It’s also better for syncing. In Catalina, when you plug in your iPhone, it appears in the window sidebar in Finder. Click on it, and your syncing options are right there.

Of course, all the features from iTunes’ music section are there. You can still stream from the Apple Music service, with over 50 million songs now available, and your own music library of tunes you bought or ripped from CDs remains intact. You can still buy songs and albums too; the iTunes Music Store is just a click away.

Apple Podcasts is a clean, tidy new app which takes over the podcasting duties of iTunes. There’s over 700,000 shows on offer, and you can be automatically notified of new episodes as soon as they become available. Best of all is the new curated searches. Machine learning analyses the words in each podcast, and makes them searchable. New advanced search tools that can find episodes by host, guest or even discussion topic.

Apple TV is your new home for television and movies. Features from the iOS app such as Watch Now, and your subscribed channels like HBO and Showtime are there, and they look better than ever as Apple TV can now stream in 4K HDR on compatible Macs, and Dolby Atmos audio is available too.

More Screen Space with Sidecar

It’s great to plug a second monitor into your Mac for extra screen space, but what about when you’re out of the house or office and working on a Mac notebook? You can hardly take your monitor with you, but there’s an alternative. With Sidecar, you can use your iPad as extra screen space. This is nothing new, of course; third-party apps have done this for years. But now, it’s integrated into the operating system of both devices, and can be achieved through a cable connection or wirelessly. You can, for example, put your work on one screen and the menu windows on another, or you can mirror your Mac’s desktop on your iPad, so the same thing appears on both.

Affinity Sidecar

But Sidecar is more than just a second screen. You can also use it to utilise the greater precision allowed by the iPad and an Apple Pencil for art projects, with fine edits made on the iPad reflected on the Mac. Naturally, this can only be done with compatible apps, but Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Photo, Cinema 4D, Maya and ZBrush already on board, you’ve a great range to choose from. Sidecar is great for editing videos with Final Cut Pro X too, and you can mark up documents in iWork and Apple’s native apps.

Voice Control: Accessibility in Action

According to Apple’s Craig Federighi, “We believe that technology is most powerful when everyone can use it.” To this end, Accessibility features built into both macOS and iOS help those with disabilities get more from their computers and mobile devices. The Mac is to gain a great new Accessibility feature; Voice Control. This new assistive technology is aimed at people with motor limitations, and is to be introduced to both the Mac and iOS devices.

Voice Control is far more than simple text-to-speech. You can operate your Mac with dedicated commands too. For example, ‘show numbers’ annotates a screen’s tools, so you can press a button or open a menu by simply saying a number. In a demo shown at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference, a wheelchair user dictated and corrected a short piece of text on his Mac, opened the Photos app, chose a photo, pasted it to a message and sent the message itself, all without touching it.

He went on to open Maps, zoom in by overlaying a numbered grid then choosing one, marking a location and sending it from his iPhone. Everything seemed extremely natural, and no slower than clicking and typing. Voice Control is integrated with Apple apps such as Safari, Maps, Music and more, and even in this beta version, it already looks amazing.

Find My… What?

Find My is another new app, and replaces both Find My iPhone and Find My Friends. It’s coming to the Mac and iOS devices. Like Find My iPhone, it’s great for finding Macs and mobile gear that have been lost or stolen, but unlike before, it can even find a device that’s offline and in sleep mode. This is very important for Macs.

When you’re travelling, your notebook is often folded up and asleep in your bag. But in macOS Catalina, even when it’s offline, it can send out a secure Bluetooth beacon that can be detected by other people’s devices nearby. These relay your Mac’s location back to you over the Internet. This entire interaction is encrypted and anonymous, and uses tiny bits of data that piggyback existing traffic. There’s no concerns over battery life, data usage or privacy.

Another unique Mac security measure is Activation Lock, which is available on all Macs with a T2 security chip. If your computer is stolen, you can lock it over the Internet, making it useless to the thief.

Project Catalyst: iPad Apps on the Mac

The release of macOS, Mojave, brought iPad apps such as News, Voice Memos, Stocks and Home to the Mac. The technology behind their conversion is now available to third-party developers. Project Catalyst allows programmers to quickly and easily create Mac apps based on what they’ve already developed for the iPad. With over a million apps already available on the iPad, this could lead to a major influx of great Mac software.


Apple has already been working with leading developers on Project Catalyst apps. For example, Gameloft’s driving game Asphalt 9: Legends has already been converted. According to Gameloft, “We had Asphalt 9: Legends for Mac running on the first day. It looks stunning and runs super fast using Metal on powerful Mac hardware.”

There hasn’t been a Twitter app for a while now, but thanks to Project Catalyst, there will be soon. “We had Twitter for Mac running – including native Mac features – in just days,” said Twitter, Inc. “Now one team can efficiently manage Twitter for iPhone, iPad and Mac.”

Minor App Updates

Several more Mac apps enjoy a refresh with macOS Catalina. Photos and Reminders both have a new user interface, closely resembling their new iOS 13 counterparts.

Safari has an updated start page that uses Siri Suggestions to elevate frequently visited sites, bookmarks, iCloud tabs, Reading List selections and links sent in Messages.

Mail can block email from a specified sender, mute an active thread and unsubscribe from commercial mailing lists.

The Notes app enjoys a new Gallery View which displays your notes as thumbnails, as well as more powerful search tools and additional collaboration options.

If you’ve seen Screen Time on an iOS device, you know it’s a great tool for monitoring how you use your device, and blocking certain apps and functions if you feel you’re using them too much. This feature comes to the Mac with macOS Catalina, and will serve a very similar function.

With Family Sharing, you can use Screen Time to monitor what your kids are doing on their Apple devices, and set limits on how much they can use certain apps too.

macOS 10.15: Catalina is coming to the Mac this autumn, and will be a free update. To run it, you need a MacBook 2015 or later, MacBook Air 2012 or later, MacBook Pro 2012 or later, Mac mini 2012 or later, an iMac 2012 or later, any iMac Pro or a Mac Pro 2013 or later.


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Ian Osborne

Ian has worked on computer and video games magazines since the legendary Crash and Zzap! 64 in the early Nineties, so he’s seen many changes over the years (including an expanding waistline and receding hairline). A lifelong Mac user, he bought his first Mac in the year 2000. It’s a testament to the resilience of the Mac that his mother is still using that computer to this very day.

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