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macOS 10.15 Catalina FAQ: Everything you need to know

With macOS Catalina, Apple says goodbye to iTunes and hello to the Music app. An official Apple Podcasts app is also available on the free update.

What's new with macOS 10.15 Catalina?

There are dozens of new features on macOS 10.15. Some are bigger than others, of course.

Three new apps to replace iTunes

macOS Catalina Music app

How to use the Music app for Mac (Image credit: iMore)

Apple has split iTunes into three fresh apps and retired the iTunes name, at least as an app. The apps are: Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV.

Music is a lot like iTunes and even more like the Music app on iOS 13. It offers syncing capabilities for those who still like to sync iPhone and iPad with Mac. For those who love buying music, there's a store built into the app. That store is called ... the iTunes Store!

Apple Podcasts offers an interesting search feature that uses machine learning to help you find a podcast you heard about but forget its name by title, topic, guest, host, and more. Apple says there are now over 700,000 podcasts available.

Finally, the new Apple TV app supports 4K and Dolby Atmos-supported films for the first time on Mac. It looks similar to the iOS version of the Apple TV app.

All three apps — Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV — sync your content through iCloud across your devices. Or sync it from each of the apps if you prefer using a cable.

Updated Apps

Notes app

Existing Mac apps like Reminders got minor updates in macOS Catalina.

In Notes, there's a new gallery view that displays your notes as visual thumbnails, which makes it easier to find specific content. There's also the ability to share notes or entire folders as view-only. With new shared folders, you can collaborate on a folder level with ease. Look for more powerful search functionality as well.

Reminders is completely new in macOS Catalina and includes a new design and more powerful features. These include enhanced Siri intelligence, the ability to add attachments, new edit buttons, and more.

In the Photos app, you'll now find a new Photos tab, larger photo previews, day, month, and year organization, and auto-playing of Live Photos and videos.

Sidecar with iPad

macOS Catalina sidecar

macOS Catalina

With Sidecar, you can use your iPad as a second display for Mac! This feature works wirelessly and wired. Sidecar also lets you use the same Multi-Touch gestures with your Mac that you do with your iPad. Draw and sketch are also supported.

The surprise news here is just how many third-party apps already supporting Sidecar on day one. These include Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer and Photo, CorelDRAW, Sketch, and many more.

Screen Time for Mac

In macOS Catalina, Screen Time makes the leap from iOS. Among the features is the ability to combine limits based on app categories, specific apps, or websites. Screen Time for macOS also lets you control who your child can communicate with and who can communicate with them. There's also One More Minute, a simple way to give your children 60 more seconds before things go dark.

Accessibility

On macOS Catalina, there's Voice Control, a new way to fully control your Mac, iPadOS, and iOS devices with your voice. It's just one of many new accessibility features in macOS Catalina.

Safari improvements

safari on Mac

Safari on Mac (Image credit: iMore)

The native web browser for Mac picks up a few new features in macOS Catalina, beginning with the start page. Joining links to your favorites and frequently visited websites, this page now includes Siri suggestions. These links are based on your overall browsing history, recently visited sites, bookmarks, and more. Safari on macOS Catalina also offers weak password warnings, which pops up when you attempt to create a new password. When doing so, it will help you replace the password with a stronger one. Safari also includes Picture in Picture (PiP) from the tab audio button for the first time.

Find My app

Find My iPhone and Find My Friends have been merged on both Mac, iPhone, and iPad as Find My. The combined app lets you locate the people and devices that are important to you.

Activation Lock

Available on all Macs with a T2 Security Chip, Activation Lock allows you to erase and deactivate your Mac in the event that it's stolen. It's similar to a feature already available on iPhone and iPad.

Screen Time for Mac

One year after it arrived on iOS, ScreenTime is coming to macOS too. The controls allow you to keep track of your usage on Mac and also restrict the content that's available. You can also use ScreenTime to turn off features at certain times of the day.

Approve with Apple Watch

You can soon double-click the side button of your Apple Watch to authenticate on your Mac. In doing so, you can unlock a locked note, approve app installations, and view your passwords in Safari preferences without having to enter one.

Sign In with Apple

With Sign In with Apple, in iOS 13, iPadOS 13, and macOS Catalina, you can use an encrypted "burner" email address (if you will) to sign up for and into services that support third-party sign-on services online. It's a single sign-on service, similar to the way Google and Facebook allow you to use your account credentials to sign up for and sign in to apps and services.

Mail's new tools

The native email app on macOS can now block all mail from specified senders. From there, the emails are automatically sent to your trash folder. The Mail app also (finally) lets you unsubscribe to emails -- just like you can do in iPhone.

Dedicated system volume

Your system files on macOS are now kept in a dedicated, read-only volume that's separated from your other data. This makes it harder for you to overwrite critical files accidentally.

When can I download the official version of macOS Catalina?

macOS Catalina is a free update available in the Mac App Store.

My Mac is old, can I upgrade to macOS Catalina?

The latest Mac operating system will run on the following devices:

  • MacBook (2015 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (2012 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (2012 or newer)
  • Mac mini (2012 or newer)
  • iMac (2012 or newer)
  • iMac Pro (2017 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (2013 or newer)

Lots to see

Which macOS Catalina features are you most excited about seeing?

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

2 Comments
  • SHORT VERSION: So, is there a way to simply opt out of Catalina in the first place? I'm not in a place where I can go "pure 64-bit". If not, then that may be enough motivation to drive me from the platform entirely and into a MUCH earlier, hastier than anticipated (or desired) migration to Linux. --------------------------- LONG VERSION: I'm absolutely, positively not ready to say goodbye to 32-bit support, and view the admittedly cool bevy of things Catalina offers over Mojave as paltry for my use case compared to what I would (or at least MIGHT) have to give up in the process. "Sorry about cutting your arm off. Here's a bag of novelties from the gift shop." Now, to be fair, I'm not too long for the Mac world anyway. My plans were to gently, gradually, gracefully migrate away from Mac and Windows both (over the course of years) for the sunnier shores of Linux. Other than the general internet derping / basic e-mail sorta stuff and Facebooking that I'm pretty platform agnostic about, and do about equally often, and about equally happily on Mac, Windows, Desktop Linux, ChromeOS, and Android (#teampixel), my Mac is mostly for podcasting and what little music production I do, and of course, Windows is for gaming. While Linux is gaining on Windows in terms of gaming at light speed, it's coming from a place of being so very far behind that even at that rate, it's still gonna take a good while yet to get caught up. So love it or hate it (or both) I'm kinda stuck with Windows for the time being. But, in theory, if I wanted to, I could conceivably leave Mac -TODAY- and go straight to Linux. There'd be a learning curve of course, getting used to things that are not GarageBand and iMovie, and hoping the podcast doesn't suffer in the meantime. But the point is that I -COULD-. There is nothing holding me back but comfort and familiarity. There are plenty of programs on Linux that I could use to accomplish the same general goals. I don't NEED Mac or GarageBand / iMovie. Now, my plan was to be off Windows within 5yrs, and be off Mac within 3. That's about how much reasonable usable life my late 2014-model (circa early 2016) Mac Mini [which I'm typing this on] has anyway. I have tons of comfort, familiarity, nostalgia, and of course, gobs of warm, sentimental attachment to both. So I totally didn't want to just quit either one cold turkey. But if Catalina is gonna come in like a tornado, wreck my world, and force my hand, I might be sufficiently motivated to leave MUCH sooner, and MUCH less amicably. And this is a very sad thought for me, because I grew up on Macs at school, and just on a basic aesthetic, and "soul" / "feel" level, I ABSOLUTELY ADORE macOS - even more than Windows, probably. Though to be fair to Windows I do still kinda feels like it has more "depth" (where Mac has more "soul"). Mac entered my life in any meaningful way years ahead of Windows, and as such, has a much bigger piece of my heart. So, in the interest of a much more gradual, graceful, and amicable split from Mac, I 'm VERY MUCH hoping that someone will tell me that by pressing xyz on abc screens, I can [figuratively speaking] tell Apple to "go eff themselves" with this whole Catalina business, and mosey off into the sunset on Mojave. Lemme know, gang! :-) Cheers!
  • The simple way to opt-out of Catalina is to just not install it, I can't remember how long Apple supports OSes for but I wouldn't be surprised if they support Mojave for longer due to it being the last version that supports 32-bit apps. Can I ask what 32-bit apps you depend on? I've always tried to stick to apps which receive up to date support so by the time Catalina came round I had no 32-bit apps left, outside of old Mac-compatible games which will no longer be supported. Apple haven't done this just "because", it gets rid of a load of old architecture which no longer needs to be maintained which in return gives you a more lightweight, secure, and easier to maintain OS, but I can understand it's a difficult transition for some people, especially businesses that use bespoke software