macOS Catalina's Biggest Changes: What to Check Out After Upgrading

macOS Catalina, which came out on Monday, is the newest version of the operating system that runs on the Mac. Catalina brings some significant changes, including the removal of the iTunes app, a new Sidecar feature, an updated Find My app, and more.

In our latest YouTube video and in the article below, we're going to go over some must-know ‌macOS Catalina‌ features that will be useful to those who have just updated and want to familiarize themselves with the changes.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

  • No More iTunes - Apple removed iTunes in ‌macOS Catalina‌, splitting it up into three new apps: Music, TV, and Podcasts. These three apps offer all of the functionality that was previously in iTunes, so you can still get to your music library, access TV shows and movies you purchased, and listen to your favorite podcasts. You can still make iTunes Store purchases, too.

  • Finder Syncing - Since there's no iTunes app, you won't use iTunes to manage your devices that are plugged in. Instead, when you plug in an iPhone or iPad to your Mac, you'll see it in the left side of the Finder window where you can get to all the same controls you had in iTunes.

  • Apple Watch Password Authentication - You've long been able to unlock a Mac with an ‌Apple Watch‌, but in ‌macOS Catalina‌, the ‌Apple Watch‌ can also be used to authenticate passwords or approve app installations when you double tap on the Side button. This is especially handy on Macs that don't have Touch ID. Get to the settings by opening up System Preferences and choosing the Security and Privacy section.

  • ‌Sidecar‌ - ‌Sidecar‌ is a new feature in ‌macOS Catalina‌ that lets you use your ‌iPad‌ as a secondary display. The easiest way to activate ‌Sidecar‌ is to click on the AirPlay icon on the Mac. If you have a Sidecar-compatible ‌iPad‌, it will show up in the list of available devices. ‌Sidecar‌ is limited to newer Macs and on the ‌iPad‌, it only works with iPads that support the Apple Pencil. Make sure to check out our Sidecar guide for more info.

  • ‌iPad‌ Apps for Mac - Apple in ‌macOS Catalina‌ introduced new "Catalyst" developer tools that are designed to make it easier for developers to port their ‌iPad‌ apps to the Mac, which means you can expect some of your favorite iOS apps to be available on the Mac. Catalyst apps are still rolling out, but some high-profile options are already available like GoodNotes 5, Carrot Weather, HabitMinder, and more.

  • ‌Find My‌ - There's a new ‌Find My‌ app on the Mac, which brings a dedicated app for finding friends and devices for the first time. ‌Find My‌ combines ‌Find My‌ Mac and ‌Find My‌ Friends, so it's the one-stop shop for whatever you're looking for. ‌Find My‌ even lets you find your Mac when it's closed and has no WiFi connection by leveraging a Bluetooth connection to other iPhones and Apple devices that are nearby. The new ‌Find My‌ capabilities give you a better chance of finding a lost or stolen device.

  • No More 32-Bit Apps - ‌macOS Catalina‌ does not support 32-bit apps, which means some older apps might not work after upgrading. This mostly only applies to apps that haven't been updated in a long time, but it's still something that may take users by surprise. For more info, make sure to check out our 32-bit Mac app guide.

Many of the apps on the Mac have been overhauled with new features. Reminders, for example, has a whole new look and an easier to use interface, while Photos has a new view that organizes everything by day, month, or year. Notes lets you share folders for the first time, and there's a Picture by Picture option in Safari.

For a full rundown on all of the features that you'll find in ‌macOS Catalina‌, take a look at our macOS Catalina roundup.

Related Roundup: macOS Catalina

Top Rated Comments

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19 weeks ago
Pretty meh release from a user experience point of view for me as a power user (and using it for work heavily)... I'm not really interested in dumbed-down iPad apps on my Mac, nor the explosion of iTunes (which I never used) into multiple apps in my dock - though they're easily removed. Screen time is irrelevant to me (I don't get why adults need something that's basically a parental guidance tool to control themselves :)). On the UX side Mojave was much bigger for me with its dark mode and selectable accent colours.

But there's lots of goodness under the hood though! More security with read-only OS partition, single-sign-on plugins that fix the mess that SSO was on Mac (especially when apps start supporting it), managed Apple IDs for work, user enrolment (though it'll need another iteration to be actually useful).

Another negative though is the many added dialog boxes with apps asking for permission to send notifications. You totally get swamped with them after the upgrade (which is a bit stupid considering how Apple made fun of Windows Vista's frequent UAC popups ('//')). They should have just enabled all of the pre-existing apps by default (as it was under Mojave!) and let the user disable them if needed through the preferences panel. The same with the "<app> wants to access Documents" - if I didn't trust an app I wouldn't install it in the first place :rolleyes:. Really missing a "I know what I'm doing - stop bothering me" option - which incidentally Vista DID have :p
Rating: 22 Votes
19 weeks ago
My opinion of using Catalina for a couple of hours, compared to Lion, Mavericks and – the newest one I run – High Sierra: it is as beautiful as useless. Finder syncing UI sucks big time: I don't see anything what's on my iPhone unlike I was able to in the "bloated" iTunes. Could go on and on but I stop here. It's not an upgrade, it's a downgrade, so I upgraded by returning to High Sierra and sticking to triple boot with the other two OSes that I still use and that give me more usage benefits than this abomination of software. Real shame on Apple.
I don't give a dime about sidecars, screentime, catalyst crappy apps, Apple Watch link. This is not productivity.
Rating: 18 Votes
19 weeks ago
Possibly the first OS since Lion that I’ve not been excited about. I mean they actually removed features from music, and the new Photos app is a step backwards from what was almost perfect.
Rating: 12 Votes
19 weeks ago

I like how the wallpaper flashes off and on three or four times as my 2012 mini is shutting down. Now that’s classy!
There is no more attention to detail.

I wish MacOS was on a two year release cycle...
Rating: 11 Votes
19 weeks ago
Surprised that so many people started to love iTunes, Dashboard and all of 32-bit apps since October 7.
Rating: 10 Votes
19 weeks ago
Best change for me - can’t use my Mac mini, can’t even downgrade properly to Mojave. It’s probably the time to finally jump ship.
Rating: 9 Votes
19 weeks ago
It's been a great update for me.
Rating: 7 Votes
19 weeks ago
Not one of Apple's better updates from the look of things. Seems like more people are having trouble updating than usual, and the removal of 32-bit execution, Dashboard, iTunes, and legacy AirDrop in one update is a tough pill to swallow. Then there's the planned obsolescence going on with the Mac Pro 5,1, which I'm definitely not happy about...

My hope for the Sidecar feature has been overshadowed by these issues unfortunately. I will be keeping Mojave on the iMac.
Rating: 6 Votes
19 weeks ago

Music app is ok but I hate that I can't remove the apple music section since I use Spotify for streaming.

Actually, you can turn off Apple Music for good: luckily, the Music preferences are similar to those in iTunes, so launch them, go to the pane "Parental Control" or "Restrictions" and make sure the option "Apple Music" is selected. A screenshot for reference below.

Rating: 6 Votes
19 weeks ago
You know you're struggling when the list of 7 things to check out includes "lots of your old apps don't work any more." A thrilling improvement.

Also interesting that UHD support for the Apple TV app isn't included - nobody in the forums seems to be able to get it to work. Does this mean the Macrumors staff can't either? Can anyone?
Rating: 6 Votes

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