Apple's new Project Catalyst team explains how easy it'll be to port iPad apps to the Mac

12.9-inch iPad Pro
12.9-inch iPad Pro (Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

What you need to know

  • The team behind Project Catalyst opened up about the project of portning apps from the iPad to the Mac.
  • They expanded about what the process will be like and how they decided to hone in on iPad apps over iPhone.
  • Through the process, developers will be able to select the proper settings to ensure a seamless interface exchange.

Apple has long sought to bring the success of iOS apps to the Mac. It introduced porting last year, but this year, with a new initiative called "Project Catalyst," it introduced a new way that enables porting apps from the iPad to the Mac much more easily and quickly. Ars Technica recently spoke with the team behind the new program exploring how the idea came about what quirks it had to work out to make porting possible.

We learned at WWDC this year that one major component to that push is called Project Catalyst, which enables porting iPad apps to the Mac relatively quickly.App developers can start doing this now with the beta version of Xcode, the development environment Apple maintains for making apps for its various platforms. To much fanfare on the WWDC stage, Apple claimed developers simply need to open their iPad app project in Xcode and click a single check box to be able to build a Mac app. Of course, it won't always be/quite/that simple—but it's closer than you might think.

The developers talked about how the app would transition from a touch-based interface to a mouse-pointer one.

Mac app runs natively, utilizing the same frameworks, resources, and runtime environment as apps built just for Mac. Fundamental Mac desktop and windowing features are added, and touch controls are adapted to the keyboard and mouse. Custom UI elements that you created with your code come across as-is. You can then continue to implement features in Xcode with UIKit APIs to make sure your app looks great and works seamlessly.

The team also talked about the decision to focus the port to iPad apps, not iOS ones which outnumber that of Apple's tablet. Here's what Todd Benjamin, Apple senior director of marketing for macOS had to say:

Just design-wise, the difference between an iPad app and an iPhone app is that the iPad app has gone through a design iteration to take advantage of more screen space. And as you bring that app over to the Mac… you have something that's designed around that space that you can work with and that you can start from.

The team will take feedback from users to see what works and what doesn't and see if the porting process is being done in a satisfying manner.

"Then we come down to customers' reaction and ratings and all of that kind of stuff," Pruden answered. "Which hopefully will drive the right behavior for a developer, which is to do the work and do it right and don't be lazy."

The piece sheds a spotlight on all the inner workings of Project Catalyst and how instrumental it could be in adding even more apps to the Mac. It gets into more detail about all of the funcitons of porting an app and how to make it properly work on a Mac. It is definitely worth a read.

Danny Zepeda