Apple has officially released macOS Catalina (version 10.15). Here’s our pick of the best new features, advice for those who should hold off upgrading, and some handy tips.
Starting with Catalina, iTunes has departed from macOS. The 18-year old software that began life as a music player and turned into a Swiss Army Knife of online services + iOS backup tool has been replaced by separate apps for each purpose – Music, TV, and Podcasts. You can now sync your iPhone or iPad directly in the Finder – more about that below.
Note that in order to get the new apps, you must upgrade to macOS Catalina. Users of macOS Mojave (version 10.14) and earlier will continue to use iTunes as before.
If you’re a Windows user, iTunes lives on in its current form (TIP: Use the packaged app from the Microsoft Store instead of the standalone installer to keep your system nice and clean).
Your iPad is Now a Monitor
The new Sidecar feature lets your idle iPad become a second display for your Mac, either mirrored or extended, wired or wireless.
However, this can only be used on a combination of the following –
with an iPad that supports Apple Pencil, running the new iPadOS –
Apple Pencil integration lets you use the iPad to write and draw in apps on the connected Mac – perfect for Photoshop, Illustrator, and annotating PDFs.
The connected iPad will also display a Touch Bar for macOS apps that support it, similar to the one found on newer Macbook Pros.
It is now possible to control your Mac entirely with voice commands.
Upgrades to the Siri speech recognition engine make for more accurate dictation.
Security and Privacy Improvements
Some under-the-hood and not-so-glamorous stuff that is making a welcome difference –
Can I Upgrade My Mac to Catalina?
macOS Catalina is compatible with the following machines –
TIP: Don't Upgrade Just Yet If...
You Rely on 32-bit Apps
MacOS Catalina removes support for 32-bit apps completely. You may have seen a nagging reminder box while using macOS High Sierra or Mojave if you use certain 32-bit apps a lot.
Before you upgrade, find out what 32-bit apps you have installed by going to Apple Menu > About This Mac > System Report > Legacy Software. All apps in this list are 32-bit.
If you don’t see the above option, go to Apple Menu > About This Mac > System Report > Software > Applications. Expand the box till you see the ’64-bit’ column on the far right and click its header to sort the list. Any apps marked with ‘No’ are 32-bit.
Time to upgrade those apps or find a 64-bit replacement that does the same thing!
You Use Adobe Software
If you are dependent on Adobe apps to do your job, hold off with the Catalina upgrade for now. Legacy Creative Suite apps (pre-Creative Cloud) are 32-bit and will no longer work. Adobe is also reporting issues with other apps that may contain 32-bit licensing components and have set up an official support thread.
You Use Microsoft Office for Mac 2011
All Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 apps are 32-bit. The suite reached end of support and hasn’t been updated since September 2017. For improved security and ongoing updates we recommend upgrading to the latest Office 365, which is compatible with Catalina.
You Use Reminders on Old Devices
The Reminders app has been given an overhaul that requires a combination of macOS Catalina and iOS 13 for syncing to work properly. If any devices running an older OS are brought into the mix syncing will likely be disabled. See the Apple support article here.
A temporary workaround is to access Reminders in the browser at icloud.com.
You Are a DJ
If iTunes library XML files are an essential part of your workflow, they will be sorely missed in Catalina. Best to wait until a usable fix appears. More details here.
TIP: How to Backup Your iPhone in Catalina
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