macOS Catalina is now available as a free software update for Macs introduced in mid-2012 or later. It adds support for the new Apple Arcade service, new Mac versions of Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV apps, a new feature called Sidecar, and more.
With a subscription to Apple Arcade for $4.99 per month, users get unlimited access to a catalog of games that can be played on a Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV. Games can even be played across devices, so players can pick up from their last game save, whether they’re at home or on the go.
On Mac, games can be played with keyboard and trackpad or mouse. Many games support controllers as well, including Xbox Wireless Controllers with Bluetooth and PlayStation DualShock 4.
Apple Arcade subscribers get the full version of every game including all updates and expansions, without any ads or additional in-game purchases. Instead of paying up front for each game, subscribers can download any Apple Arcade game right from the Mac App Store’s new Arcade tab.
The service is launching with a 30-day free trial and a single subscription includes access for up to six family members with Family Sharing. Apple says the full catalog of 100 games will be available in the weeks ahead, with more games to come every month.
Three all-new apps — Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV— replace iTunes. The new Music app is fast and features over 50 million songs, playlists and music videos. Users will have access to their entire music library and new music can still be purchased from the iTunes Store.
Apple Podcasts offers more than 700,000 shows in its catalog and the option to automatically be notified of new episodes as soon as they become available. The app also features new show categories, curated collections and search tools to allow users to search episodes by current events, people and even phrases.
The Apple TV app brings together different ways to find and watch movies and TV shows into one app, and features Apple TV channels, personalized recommendations and over 100,000 iTunes movies and TV shows to browse, buy or rent. Apple TV+, Apple’s original video subscription service, will also be available in the Apple TV app for Mac starting Nov. 1.
The new Sidecar feature extends a user’s Mac workspace by using iPad as a second display. With Sidecar, you can use an iPad display for tablet input to draw, sketch or write with Apple Pencil in any Apple or third-party Mac app that supports stylus input. Sidecar runs on a wired connection so users can charge their iPad as they work, or on a wireless connection for greater mobility, using everything from illustration apps and video editing apps to 3D apps, like Photoshop, Illustrator and ZBrush.
macOS Catalina introduces accessibility features such as Voice Control, which allows users to control their Mac entirely with their voice. It uses the latest version of Siri to transcribe spoken text and enable editing text via voice. New numbers and grids provide the tools to interact with virtually any app; audio processing happens entirely on device.
For users with impaired vision, Hover Text displays high-resolution text in a dedicated window when hovering over text and UI elements, and Zoom Display keeps one monitor tightly zoomed in while another at the standard resolution.
Also available with macOS Catalina is Mac Catalyst, a new technology that lets app developers build Mac versions of their shipping iPad apps. Titles such as Twitter, GoodNotes, TripIt from SAP, Post-it, Morpholio Board, Rosetta Stone, Jira, and Proloquo2Go are either available now or will be coming soon.
macOS Catalina brings Screen Time to Mac for the first time. It lets users schedule time away from their Mac, whileApp Limits allow control over how much time users spend with specific apps, websites and categories of apps. With iCloud, Screen Time combines all usage and syncs Downtime settings and App Limits across devices. And with Family Sharing, Screen Time gives parents visibility for their kids’ activities across all of their Apple devices.
There are Security improvements in Catalina. The operating system now runs on a dedicated, read-only system volume, which means it is completely separate from all other data. Apple says nothing can accidentally overwrite critical operating system files.
Gatekeeper, Apple’s technology to ensure only trusted software runs on a Mac, now checks all apps for known security issues, while new data protections require all apps to get permission before accessing user documents.
Every Mac with the Apple-designed T2 Security Chip now supports Activation Lock, just like on iPhone or iPad, so if a Mac is ever misplaced or stolen, only the owner can erase and reactivate it. Approve with Apple Watch also lets users approve specific security prompts by simply tapping the side button on their Apple Watch.
The new Find My app combines Find My iPhone and Find My Friends into a single app. It can help users locate a missing Mac even if it’s offline and sleeping by sending out Bluetooth signals that can be detected by Apple devices in use nearby, and then relaying the detected location of the Mac to iCloud so a user can can locate it in the Find My app.
Photos now features a beautiful new browsing experience that intelligently showcases the user’s best pictures. Safari has an updated start page that uses Siri Suggestions to elevate frequently visited sites, bookmarks, iCloud tabs, Reading List selections and links sent in Messages.
Mail in macOS Catalina adds the ability to block email from a specified sender, mute an overly active thread and unsubscribe from commercial mailing lists. Notes now has a brand new Gallery View, more powerful search tools and additional collaboration options.
Reminders has been redesigned with an all-new user interface that makes it easier to create, organize and track reminders. macOS Catalina can be downloaded at the Mac App Store.