Catalina makes changes to how the Finder looks and acts:
- Automatic mode: Now you can automatically switch between Light and Dark Mode depending on the time of day.
- Finder sidebar sync: iTunes is no more. Now you Sync and Back Up Devices from the Finder Sidebar.
- Green button options: A new pop-over simplifies working in split screen and full screen modes by letting you access view options more easily.
Catalina’s system-wide tools gather together previously scattered options, add capabilities for monitoring how you use your devices, and offer new features for people with disabilities:
- Accessibility features: Now you can Zoom In on Tiny Text, Zoom Your Display, Compensate for Color Blindness, Sync Voice- Over Settings with iCloud, and more.
- Apple ID preference pane: Your Apple ID is the key to everything from your App Store purchases to iCloud. Catalina adds a new Apple ID preference pane that lets you see all your info in one place.
- Family Sharing preference pane: Your loved ones can share digital media and more without having to share an Apple ID. The new Family Sharing preference pane brings together all the options.
- Screen Time: Whether you’re trying to get your kids’ screen time under control or your own, Screen Time can monitor and limit access to categories of apps across all devices that use the same Apple ID.
- Voice Control: Catalina’s blockbuster accessibility feature packs enhanced dictation powers and adds spoken controls for launching, managing, and navigating your Mac and its apps.
Here’s a look at what’s new in your Apple apps:
- Books, TV, Music, and Podcasts: The overloaded iTunes app is no more—Catalina splits it into four apps, three of them new, each with a specific focus.
- Find My: The iOS apps Find My iPhone and Find My Friends come together as one on the Mac with new features like offline device tracking.
- Mail: Mail adds new tools for dealing with emails you don’t want. Such as Mute Over-Active Mail Message Threads, Block Mail Messages from a Sender, and Unsubscribe from Mailing Lists.
- Notes: Notes boasts enhanced search tools, more checklist options, a visual Gallery view, and new sharing options.
- Photos: Catalina redesigns the Photos app to better organize the tons of images most Mac users now have and highlight the best ones. It also lets you view and edit Memory Movies.
- Reminders: Apple’s to-do list app gets one of the biggest over-hauls in Catalina, adding smart lists, faster reminder creation, attachments, nested reminders, and more.
- Safari: Safari includes new site-by-site preferences, an updated Favorites page, easy access to Picture in Picture (even, finally, for YouTube videos!), and the power to see open tabs in search results.
Chances are you have more—maybe a lot more—than one Apple device. Apple continues to make it easier to use them together:
- Approve on Apple Watch: Don’t have a Mac with Touch ID? Now you can use your Apple Watch to quickly verify your identity when installing an app, using passwords, unlocking settings in System Preferences, and more.
- Continuity Sketch: Wish you could add a drawing to a presentation or document? Use this feature to switch over to your iPad or iPhone, sketch something out with your finger or Apple Pencil, and insert it directly into a document on your Mac.
- Sidecar: Perhaps the most wow-worthy Catalina feature, Sidecar lets you use an iPad to extend or mirror your Mac’s display. Free up space on your main monitor by dragging windows or palettes to your iPad. Pair Sidecar with an Apple Pencil and a compatible app to do even more amazing things.
- iPad Apps: As of macOS Catalina, Apple has made it easy for developers to release popular iPad apps on the Mac. This means you’ll be able to download a wide variety of them—including DC Universe, Twitter, Morpholio, and Post-It. Look for new arrivals in the App Store.
Catalina includes new tools and behind-the-scenes updates geared to make your Mac safer and more stable:
- Privacy preferences: Apps can no longer access files and folders, or record your keystrokes or screen without explicit permission.
- Activation Lock: If your Mac has a T2 Security Chip, activation Lock prevents anyone from using your computer if it’s lost or stolen.
- A separate system volume: Catalina runs in its own read-only volume, so your system files stay separate from all other data on your Mac and nothing can overwrite them accidentally and that makes it more resistant to hacks and malware. Apple does some magic behind the scenes to make it appear as though your disk has the same structure it always did. This volume should not affect the way you partition your disk, install Catalina, or perform other day-to-day activities. However, if you open Disk Utility—or if you mount your Catalina drive on a Mac running an earlier version of macOS—you’ll see two volumes where you’d normally expect one. The one with the name you expect (such as “Macintosh HD”) is the read-only system volume; the one with “Data” appended (such as “Macintosh HD – Data”) contains everything else, including all your user-created data.
- KEXT protection: Some peripherals and third-party apps use a type of software called a kernel extension (KEXT). KEXTs have low-level access to macOS, which means if something goes wonky with one of them, everything comes crashing down. When you install and approve one in Catalina, an alert warns you these won’t run under future versions of macOS.
- Enhanced Gatekeeper: As of Catalina, the collection of security features called Gatekeeper not only checks apps when they first launch to ensure they’re not malware, but also reassesses them periodically to ensure they remain legit. This has created more security notifications than before. Some notifications create confusion based on the wording and what the app is asking to do.
Catalina also includes some other notable changes:
- 64-bit apps only: Catalina now supports only 64-bit apps, so any older 32-bit apps you may have will no longer work unless the developers update them for Catalina—a highly nontrivial undertaking. There are several techniques you can use to identify which of your apps are 32-bit and therefore need to be upgraded or replaced. One way is to open System Information (in /Applications/Utilities), select Applications in the sidebar (under Software), wait a few moments while the app examines your disk, and then look in the “64-Bit (Intel)” column of the table. Apps with “No” in that column won’t run under Catalina. But there’s a better way: download the free Go64 app by St. Clair Software (developers of Default Folder X and other highly regarded Mac apps, https://www.stclairsoft.com/Go64/index.html). Open the app and click OK. After a few seconds, it lists all your 32-bit apps (including those, marked with an alert icon, which contain one or more 32-bit components), along with helpful information like the date you last used each one and a link to each developer.
- Dashboard: Dashboard has been removed. It had been decreasing in popularity for quite a few years, and hadn’t received much development attention. Now Dashboard and its widgets are just gone.
- Command line changes: The default shell used by the Terminal app has changed from bash to zsh (though bash is still present, at least for the time being). Meanwhile, support for scripting languages such as perl, python, and ruby has been deprecated. Even though those, too, still come with Catalina, Apple has said they’ll be removed from a future version of macOS, which means that if you want to use them, you’ll have to download and install them separately.
Before Upgrading to Catalina
- Check for 32-Bit apps: Remove, replace, or use a virtual machine/separate OS volume.
- Update third party apps: Go to the App Store or download the latest version from the developers website.
- Review your media configuration: For most people using the default configuration, moving to the new apps will be seamless. This effects those who have moved the default folder location or use third-party apps to manage media such as TuneSpan.
- Backup: Create a clone of your startup drive.
- Decide on how to upgrade: Choose between an in-place upgrade or a clean install. For most people, an in-place upgrade will work the best.
Reference: Take Control of Catalina
Charging Your Devices