13+ macOS Catalina enhancements you’ll want to use

Apple's latest Mac operating system is about to ship. Here's what you should know to get the most from macOS Catalina when it arrives.

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Apple has promised to ship macOS Catalina in October (the public beta is available available now), and the expectations from the Apple rumor machine is that the new Mac operating system will ship sooner rather than later.

Here are a few of the improvements it offers that you may want to try out and use once it officially arrives.

What Apple told us about Catalina

Introduced at WWDC 2019, macOS Catalina is the latest iteration of Apple’s operating system, with flagship features including:

  • The replacement of iTunes with Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and the Apple TV apps.
  • Sidecar, which lets you use your iPad as a second display and input device.
  • Voice Control.
  • Security and privacy enhancements.
  • Screen Time for Mac.
  • And improvements in Photos, Safari, Mail, Notes and Reminders.

“With macOS Catalina, we’re bringing fresh new apps to the Mac, starting with new standalone versions of Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and the Apple TV app,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “Users will appreciate how they can expand their workspace with Sidecar, enabling new ways of interacting with Mac apps using iPad and Apple Pencil. And with new developer technologies, users will see more great third-party apps arrive on the Mac this fall.”

Those are the major flagship improvements set to arrive soon. But before you upgrade to Catalina, be sure to backup your data. You should also check whether any of the applications you rely on are 32-bit (About this Mac>System Report>Software>Applications and in the last column you’ll see if there are any 32-bit apps). They won't work in Catalina.

In the meantime, here are some of the smaller refinements also coming to macOS Catalina.

App Tiling

You’ll get much more from the window controls. For example, if you hover your cursor over the green button in an application window you’ll now be given a tool to send that window to the left or right of your screen. You can then open another application on the other side of the screen – or use it again to make an application full screen. In Safari, you can use the Tile Window commands in the Window menu for this. (Press Escape to quit tiling.)

Real signatures

To sign a PDF or other document, just access the markup menu, choose Signature and you can then use the signature you have on file or write a new one. If you have an iOS device, you can use that device to write your signature.

[Also read: A first look at macOS Catalina (public beta now available)]

A new media control

Watching video in Safari? Just tap and hold the sound icon you should see in the search/address bar and select Enter Picture-in-Picture.

Installation from your wrist

You can authenticate new application installs using your Apple Watch, which you can also use for authentication each time you are asked to do so.

Back up your iPhone                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

You can still back up your iPhone to your Mac: Connect the device, open a Finder window and you’ll see its icon there. Select it and all the familiar backup tools from iTunes will be available to you.

Add attachments to…Reminders

Reminders has been improved across Apple’s platforms. Mac users can add attachments to reminders, tag people into specific reminders, create smart lists that combine information from multiple lists and add dates, times, locations, and/or flags. One more neat trick: if you tag someone into a reminder you’ll be reminded they have a task booked the next time you speak to them using Messages.

Learn Voice Control

Voice Control on the Mac has become highly capable. You will be able to use it to get tasks done. Enable it in System Preferences>Accessibility>Voice Control. While you’re there, scan through all the different available commands – you can even use Voice Control to open Siri to find items on your Mac, or use grid controls to find specific items on desktops.

Take those permission notifications seriously

Apple has made its OS ultra-secure and now demands applications request permissions for everything from accessing data in folders to capturing images or video recordings of your screen and more. Once you install Catalina, you’ll find a slew of permission requests will be made. My advice? Don’t take these requests for granted and use this as an opportunity to decide whether you want to give apps such access, or if you’d prefer to find a replacement.

Share folders

If you use iCloud Drive, you can now share files and folders from inside that drive with others running Catalina – just use the share menu. Another useful feature lets you Right-click a file that is stored in iCloud and has been downloaded to your Mac and choose Remove Download. This keeps the copy of the item in iCloud, but deletes it from your Mac.

Take control in Mail

You can now block senders, unsubscribe from email lists using the "Unsubscribe" button in the message header, or Mute threads if they get too noisy. All of these features are also available in iOS.

Share Notes

This is quite useful for shopping lists for busy families, but should be of use to anyone attempting to get tasks done. You can now create both shared Notes and shared folders containing multiple Notes in Catalina. Contact them by email, Messages, via Reminders or copy the link to include in some other way.

Screen Time

If you control your use of an application using Screen Time on your iPhone, then you probably should know that use of that application on your Mac will count toward that time – as long as both are using the same Apple ID. So if you set Twitter use to 20 minutes a day – and use it for 10 minutes on your Mac – don’t be surprised if you then find you only get 10 minutes more time with it on your iPhone.

Automate Dark Mode

You can now automate your Mac’s use of Light and Dark modes in System Preferences>General. Just toggle Appearance to Auto and your Mac will switch modes depending on your time of day.

Apple Arcade

Yes, your Apple Arcade games will also be available to Mac. Not only this, but if you have a PS4 or Xbox One wireless remote, you can now use for gaming on your Mac.

Got any other lesser-known macOS Catalina changes you’d like to share? Please let me know.

Also read:

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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