macOS 10.15, otherwise known as macOS Catalina hasn't delivered too many surprises. The widely anticipated breakup of iTunes has happened along with the addition of the new Sidecar feature we heard about a few months ago. Screen Time comes to the Mac, for those wanting to track their time in front of the screen and add some controls to how their kids use their Mac and we also get enhanced security features as Apple continues to use security and privacy as a way to differentiate itself from competitors.
Bye Bye iTunes
It's been almost 20 years since Apple acquired SoundJam MP and rebadged it as iTunes. Over that time, iTunes has morphed and grown to the point where it has become an unwieldy and unreliable pile of software excrement.
iTunes has been replaced by three separate apps; Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts. As the names suggest, Apple has split out the major different types of media it handles into their own apps. That's a good thing in my view as the iTunes user interface was a terrible mess.
Apple Music will retain access to your entire music library. There were some hysterical rumours doing the rounds that suggested Apple would be closing the iTunes Store and people would lose access to their purchased music. But that's not the case. Apple said that you'll still have access to all your music whether you downloaded the songs, purchased them or ripped them from a CD. And, if you're not into music streaming, you can still buy new songs from the iTunes Music Store.
The Apple TV app follows a similar template but focuses on movies and TV shows from both the iTunes Store and from other sources. And, as you'd expect, it will support the Apple TV+ service that will be launched later this year.
Now that the entire iPad range supports Apple Pencil, it makes sense to leverage that as a graphics tablet. Sidecar lets you extend the Mac display and use it as an input device. If an app supports stylus input, you'll be able to use an Apple Pencil.
Sidecar won't require a cabled connection as the link between the iPad and Mac can be wireless as it leans on Apple's Continuity feature.
Other enhancements to macOS Catalina
As you'd expect from a major release, Apple has thrown in a bunch of other additions and enhancements. The value of these will depend on your specific needs. For example, we use Screen Time at home to manage the time our younger kids spend on their iPads (which are required for school). That's now come to the Mac as well as iOS and the newly announced iPadOS.
Security also gets a boost. Gatekeeper, the security feature that ensures only authorised apps can run, now checks all apps for known security issues. And all apps will need permission before accessing user documents. Those approvals can be managed using an Apple Watch.
All Macs with the T2 Security Chip support Activation Lock so you can lock and wipe a stolen or lost Mac.
The new Find My app reports the location of a lost or stolen Mac securely and anonymously to its owner by other Apple devices, even when it is offline.
Photos, Safari, Mail, Notes and Reminders all get a refresh as well.
How do you get macOS Catalina
If you can't wait the developer preview of macOS Catalina is available to Apple Developer Program members at developer.apple.com starting today.
Membership of Apple's developer portal costs $99 per year.
For those that are patient, a public beta program will be available to Mac users later this month at beta.apple.com.
macOS Catalina will be available this Spring as a free software update for Macs introduced in mid-2012 or later.