This year's macOS refresh is macOS Catalina (version 10.15), and we've had different builds of it installed for some time now.
There's plenty to explore in the new operating system. It features the ability to turn an iPad into a second display plus new Music, Podcasts, and Books apps while new security features will keep you better protected and there's also Voice Control so you can control your Mac with your voice.
Here's everything you need to know about macOS Catalina's key new features.
macOS Catalina: Key features
New Music, Podcast, and TV apps
The new OS features Apple Music, Podcasts, and TV apps, as well as a major redesign of the Apple Books app. These apps replace iTunes, which has now been thrown away - we thought it might still be accessible but it isn't.
The key thing about these apps is that they're made with Catalyst, Apple’s new protocol that makes it way easier to port iOS apps to the Mac without any complicated changes.
Music - above - offers basically the same functions as iTunes did. For example, you can still access the iTunes Store (which remains called the iTunes Store). And the app is very similar to iTunes in look and feel, too, just with a little bit of streamlining.
Here's the Podcasts app - again very similar in look and feel to the older interface.
Naturally, all your podcasts will sync between your Mac and iOS or iPadOS devices. If you still sync your media from your Mac to an iOS or iPod device with a cable, you can still do this in the new apps.
When you connect a device to your Mac, it will immediately show up in the sidebar of these new apps (as well as in Finder) so you can backup, update or restore your device in exactly the same way you did before.
Finally, here's the TV app. For now, this is basically a window onto "TV and movies you can buy from iTunes Store" but it is, of course, an app-in-waiting for Apple's subscription TV service, TV+.
Sidecar (iPad external display)
If you own a Mac computer and an iPad, then you've probably heard about Luna Display before. The app enables you to use your iPad as an extension of your Mac desktop. Now, Apple has brought this natively to macOS. And yes, it's wireless. At its heart, Sidecar is essentially another Continuity feature that enables you to share stuff between all your iCloud-connected devices.
You can hover over the green maximise button in the macOS window bar to access options like full-screen mode, new tiling options, and the ability to send the window to an external display. There's also a main control in the Displays menu in the Mac menu bar.
Naturally, Sidecar works with Apple Pencil, so you can draw on your iPad screen and see that appear on your Mac. There's also a MacBook-like Touch Bar at the bottom. A nice way around sticking to your guns and not bringing touch to the Mac, Apple.
Screen Time has now come to the Mac. It's naturally very similar to the iOS app.
You can choose to restrict Screen Time to just what you do on your Mac or sync your Screen Time data with iCloud. There's a breakdown of app usage, too. There's also a new “one more minute” feature that gives you more time to save your work or log out of a game.
You can also schedule time away from your Mac and determine how much time you want to spend within apps, websites or categories of apps. Family Sharing also incorporates new tools for parents to control device access even including who children can communicate with.
A new app. Well, not quite - Apple is merging Find My Friends and Find My iPhone into a single app called Find My. All of Apple’s tracking tools are now in one place, so you can locate both missing devices and loved ones using the same interface - split simply into People and Devices.
The new app can also locate devices that are offline - by sending a secure Bluetooth beacon to other Apple devices, then relaying it back to Apple, and to you - it's a bit like Tile, really. Indeed, we're expecting Apple to announce a Tile competitor soon.
It's all end-to-end encrypted, too.
As on Windows, Voice Control will enable those who can’t operate traditional input devices to control Macs entirely with their voice using on-device Siri speech recognition. This is not uploaded to iCloud, so there are no privacy implications as with other virtual assistants we could mention.
Voice control could be useful for the masses as you can dictate to your machine. You'll also be able to use this feature on both iOS and iPadOS as well.
macOS Catalina: More enhancements
- Photos (above): redesigned browser to showcase your best pictures. This is very similar in look and feel to the redesigned iOS 13 Photos app.
- Safari: features an updated start page that uses Siri Suggestions to select frequently visited sites, bookmarks, iCloud tabs, Reading List selections and even links sent in Messages.
- Mail: block email from a specified sender, mute an overly active thread and unsubscribe from commercial mailing lists.
- Notes (above): brand new Gallery View, more powerful search and collaboration options.
- Siri Shortcuts: Apple is also bringing Siri Shortcuts feature to the Mac. Shortcuts enable you to create unique Siri voice commands that trigger actions in an app. Learn more about Siri Shortcuts.
- Approve with Apple Watch: One of the new security features enables you to approve many security prompts on your Mac simply by pressing the side button on your Apple Watch. This is available on all Macs that have a T2 security chip.
- Reminders (above): redesigned with a new user interface to create, organise and track reminders.
- System Preferences (below): a refresh in layout, with Apple ID and Family Sharing at the top.