The latest Operating System for your Mac. The high points, and what it means for you.
Apple has just released its latest operating system for your Mac, called macOS Catalina. This is a major update, not one of the minor incremental updates you might see occasionally.
This post is not a full breakdown. In fact I have not installed it yet, and I’ll tell you why. I’d just like to point out the high points as I see them, and talk a little about whether you should update or not.
One of the biggest changes we see in Catalina is The End of iTunes! That’s right, the music player that started it all is no longer. Some of us remember using it as SoundJam in the 90’s before it was bought by Apple and re-purposed as iTunes. Then came the iPod and everything changed...
Over the course of time, iTunes gained new duties and features. It became somewhat, shall we say, BLOATED. It had to be all things Music Library, Store, iPhone/iPad manager, etc. I would say that at about the same time that Apple disallowed opening of separate windows a few years ago was when the writing was on the wall: this thing is too huge to be contained. They tried to simplify it, but only succeeded in making it harder to perform simple tasks.
So I think it’s ok to say goodbye to an old friend. In it’s place are separate applications: Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts. I think we can figure out which is which.
But of special note is that if you were in the habit of sharing files to and from your iPhone and iPad, you now do so in the Finder. That’s right, in the same place as all your other files and folders. Hallelujah! Why they did not do this in the first place, or at least soon after, is beyond me. It always seemed hard to find and very UN-Apple.
Another one of the more interesting new features is Sidecar. Sidecar allows you to use your iPad as a second screen, and drawing tablet. Artists take note!
This functionality has been available through (expensive) third-party apps for a while. But this feature purportedly takes it to a new level. You could use your iPad and Apple Pencil for instance to draw in Adobe Illustrator. You can also mark up a PDF that was sent to you and send it back easily... sign those forms without a round trip to the scanner.
IOS Apps on Mac
If you think your Mac has been looking more like your iPhone / iPad, you’re not crazy. Apple has decided to go full-court press with iOS and macOS integration. It is now possible for iPhone app developers to port their apps to the Mac. Apple had already started that train rolling in Mojave with the News app and a couple others. Now they are making it easier for third party developers.
I would hope Apple doesn’t do something stupid and somewhere down the road get rid of multiple, movable windows altogether, like on iOS. Heresie!
Drop the DropBox
If you’re a heavy Dropbox or Google Drive user, and are looking for an alternative, Apple’s iCloud Drive just got a lot more attractive. One of the major drawbacks of iCloud Drive has been the inability to share a folder with others. Now Apple is promising the same functionality.
...but it won’t be available till Spring.
Time to Upgrade?
Alas, for many of us, maybe not. From time to time an astute user of the Mac has seen these little pop-up windows when you open a given program. The window says ”’(Program Name)’ is not optimized for your Mac. This app needs to be updated by its developer to improve compatibility.”
This has to do with Apple’s requirement that all applications in Catalina now be 64-bit compatible. 64-bit refers to the applications’ ability to handle memory. The old standard was 32-bit. 64-bit means better. It also means that the old copy of Photoshop CS 6 you’ve been using for 8 years is now end-of-life’d. And your old Microsoft Word. And many other audio, accounting, and “fill in the blank here” applications.
To check on your application’s compatibility, you can use System Information. Go to the Apple Menu, select About This Mac, then click on the System Report button. Then select “Applications” towards the bottom of the sidebar. It takes a minute for your information to collect. One of the column headers is 64-bit. If it says “Yes”, you’re golden. If “no”, then you will need to shell out for an upgrade or look for an alternative.
For myself, I am sadly going to let my Adobe Creative Suite go. I’ve used it for work for many years and know it like the back of my hand. But I just can’t abide subscription software. I realize It must be difficult for software developers if a stingy customer like myself never upgrades for years. But I like to buy my tools, not rent them.
In the case of my Graphics programs, I am looking at the Affinity programs from Serif (affinity.serif.com). I have used Affinity Designer, their answer to Illustrator, for the better part of a year on my iPad Pro. While somewhat of a learning curve exists, I have found it to be a real competitor to Adobe’s Illustrator. I purchased the Mac version this past week and will report on that in a future post. I plan to pick up their Photoshop-type product Affinity Photo as well.
Sorry Adobe, my ship is sailing to Catalina!
Not so fast
Actually, my itinerary is set, but my launch date is not. I have a game plan for my Graphics apps, but I still haven’t even looked at my audio apps, etc. Before I upgrade my main work computer, I will want everything to be a go, or as near to it, as I can.
Wait for the .1
This initial Catalina release is also known as macOS 10.15.0. If you use your Mac for work, I generally recommend that you wait till the “.1” release of a new operating system. In this case, that means macOS 10.15.1. These early “bug-fix” releases usually happen within a month or so.
Should I stay or should I go?
A popular misconception is that an upgrade to your older computer will always slow it down. That is now rarely the case. In fact the opposite is more often true. Apple optimizes and improves the software for older hardware as well. In particular, memory handling is much better.
Security features are also improved with each system release. We Mac users take for granted the fact that we don’t have to run always scanning anti-virus software. Security features are built into the system to make this so. Take advantage of them.
There are many other productivity features I haven’t mentioned that are also appealing. When this release comes about, and you are ready to take the plunge, I say go for it.
Tony Jillson - Make your Mac Sing!