What's New in Apple's MacOS Catalina Operating System?

While various betas have been available for developers for several weeks now, Apple have today released the first public beta for MacOS Catalina.

Announced at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) earlier this month, MacOS Catalina gives users “more of what they love”, in Apple’s words. The full version will roll out in the Autumn, but for now, you can play around with the beta version. We’d advise you not to install the Catalina on your main Mac – stick to a secondary device. While our initial testing on a 2015-era MacBook Pro has thrown up no problems, this is by no means the final version of the operating system, and the whole point of a beta is to allow Apple to ring the changes and identify any bugs. There are multiple changes in MacOS Catalina, some pretty revolutionary by Apple’s standards – here’s our rundown of what’s new, although not all of it is available in the beta just yet.

The End of iTunes
iTunes has been the built-in media player for Apple’s desktops and laptops for more than 18 years. First debuting in January 2001, iTunes has seen the release of the iPod, iPhone and iPad. But in MacOS Catalina, Apple are finally bidding farewell to iTunes, to the great relief of many. iTunes has long been criticised for offering a poor user experience, especially since it was required for iPhone users wishing to install software updates until 2011. In addition, Apple have been accused of bloating iTunes with too many features, like videos and podcasts. Replacing iTunes in Catalina are three new apps that split the three main functions of iTunes up; Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. Apple Music handles the traditional music management element of iTunes, and all of your content will automatically become available in the new Music app, including all of your playlists. If you aren’t subscribed to Apple Music, then you can still buy music from the store, or import your own tracks. The Podcasts and Apple TV apps are what you might expect; the latter is a precursor to the Apple TV+ streaming service that is expected to be released in the final quarter of this year. Overall, the move away from iTunes into bespoke apps is a highly welcome one, if a little overdue.

iPad Apps
While the beta version hasn’t got this feature just yet, Catalina will be able to run apps developed for iOS devices. Project Catalyst is a developer toolset, and is designed to allow iPhone and iPad apps to be ported over to Apple’s desktop operating system. From a developer’s standpoint, this is great news – they won’t need to spend their time and money creating two different apps. For Mac users, this is also a win, because it will lead to an increase in Mac apps. Apps that have been discontinued by Apple, like their Twitter iOS app, will be available in MacOS Catalina, and code in the beta version hints at the possibility of Apple porting over versions of Messages and Shortcuts for Mac.

Sidecar allows the user to use an iPad in one of two ways – as a second display, or as a graphics tablet. An iPad can be connected to a Mac via a cable or wirelessly via Bluetooth, as long as the two devices are both logged in to the same iCloud account (we imagine that’s a security feature to prevent people from sharing their screen with you in public). The second screen on the iPad can either be an extension of the Mac’s screen, or a mirror image. While third-party apps that allow screen mirroring have been available for some time, this is the first time Apple themselves have offered this feature. Sidecar will also allow an iPad to be used as a graphics tablet with apps like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, Cinema 4D and Final Cut Pro, including use of the Apple Pencil.

Find My
In light of its use for more than finding just phones, the Find My Phone app has been renamed to simply Find My, and it also adds some new features, too. The new Find My app can be used to find Apple devices even if they are offline, using Bluetooth to send signals that can be detected by nearby devices. These devices will then relay your device’s location to iCloud, so you can view it in the Find My app. Apple have the privacy angle covered too – everything is anonymous and encrypted end-to-end.

macOS Catalina