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Five best things about MacOS Catalina

Your Mac is getting a huge update, thanks to Catalina, the next version of MacOS that Apple will ship this fall.

2019-06-05-14-21-55

Catalina is the name of the next version of MacOS.

Apple

Your MacBook, iMac or -- lucky you -- beastly Mac Pro is going to get a big boost this fall with MacOS Catalina. With the Mac update, Apple will replace the iTunes app with three separate apps: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. The update will also let Mac users run iPad apps they can download through the Mac App Store, and use an iPad as a second screen, much in the way you might use a monitor. And while Apple debuted MacOS Catalina at its annual WWDC conference for developers, its implications touch nearly every Mac owner around the world.

This year's annual Mac update from Apple will keep things interesting with a renewed focus on services, an important part of the way that Apple keeps its user base loyal. The Silicon Valley bigwig may pale in comparison to Microsoft users globally, but Apple has always used its apps and services ecosystem to create an aura of cult status. The excitement of Mac owners in using Apple's new tools is key to the company retaining its reputation among app-makers and fans.

MacOS Catalina is also coming to the MacPro, the $6,000 tower computer for pro users, which pairs with a $5,000 Pro Display XDR monitor and an optional $1,000 stand. (You can see what the Mac Pro and Pro Display look like on your desk for free.)

Here are the five biggest things coming in Catalina, along with everything else in the new Mac operating system that should make your Mac life a little better.

At its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple unveiled the next major revision to MacOS.

James Martin/CNET

1. iTunes replacement

For years, iTunes served as Apple's digital hub, helping you buy, manage, play and sync your digital content. But iTunes years ago started to sag under the weight of all its responsibilities and became for some more trouble than it was worth. With Catalina, Apple is breaking up iTunes into three separate apps that will each take on some of the burden that iTunes had carried. Taking over the music portion of iTunes, Apple Music will offer a player, store, and library for organizing all your songs, albums and playlists. Apple TV will handle all your movies and shows and manage the Apple TV channels you subscribe to. It's also where you access Apple TV Plus, the company's new streaming service. Apple Podcasts is designed to manage the podcasts you subscribe to and let you listen to episodes. And everything is synced through iCloud, so no more fussing with iTunes to keep all your devices up to date.

2. iPad apps on the Mac

We caught a glimpse of the future in Mojave last year, when Apple brought four iOS apps to the Mac: News, Stocks, Voice Memos and Home. With Catalina, Apple is opening the MacOS to all iPad developers through a tools called Catalyst, which will help them build apps that can run on both iPad and MacOS devices without a lot of extra effort. And it's good news for Mac users, who should gain access to a broader selection of apps.

3. Sidecar

And it's not just iPad apps coming to Catalina; it's the device too. With Sidecar, Mac users will be able to extend their desktop by turning an iPad into a second screen or use it as a tablet pad with Apple Pencil.

4. Accessibility

Apple is greatly expanding the MacOS accessibility controls in Catalina. With the Voice Control, you can take command of MacOS, iPadOS and iOS devices using your voice instead with a mouse, trackpad and keyboard and add custom words so Voice Control can recognize words you commonly use.  The built-in assistive technology will use Siri's speech recognition engine, and all audio processing will happen on your device, keeping everything off Apple's servers to guard your privacy.

Now playing: Watch this: Apple previews MacOS Catalina
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5. Screen Time

To help you get a grip on time you spend with your device, Catalina's Screen Time app will monitor and let you take control of your and your family's Mac time, similar to what you can do on iPhone with iOS 12. You will be able to schedule downtime for anyone in your family and limit which apps you or your kids can use. Wth Communication Limits, you'll be able to set limits on who your kids can chat with and when along with manage your kid's contact list.

What else is coming in MacOS Catalina

Along with the major additions, Catalina will bring a basket of improvements, from tighter security to improved photo editing.

  • Security and privacy. Catalina will include an activation lock, like used on iPhone and iPad, to ensure only you can erase and reactivate your Mac if you've lost it. And an enhanced Gatekeeper -- which checks your installed apps for malware --  will monitor newly installed apps for security issues.
  • Photos. Photos in Catalina will have a new tab for browsing your photos. And the app will organize your photos by bay, month and year.
  • Notes. The updated Notes app will have a new gallery view and offer shared folders for collaboration.
  • Reminders. The redesigned Reminders app will have new edit buttons and Siri will be integrated to make suggestions.
  • Safari. Apple's web browser  will open your start page quicker, offer Siri suggestions and warn you about weak passwords.
  • Mail. With the Mail, you'll be able to more easily block senders, mute threads unsubscribe from commercial email lists.
  • Find My. Catalina will combine Find My Phone and Find My Friends into a single app. And you'll be able to locate offline devices via their Bluetooth signal.
  • Approve with Apple Watch. If you have an Apple Watch, you can use it to authenticate your Mac.
  • Apple ID info. Catalina will give you access to your Apple ID info through System Preferences.
  • QuickTime Player. Do you use QuickTime for video playback? With Catalina, you'll get Picture in Picture (PiP).
  • Home. You'll be able to securely record video to iCloud when a HomeKit-enable camera detects activity and view the video via the Home app.
  • International. Catalina will offer expanded multilingual support.
  • iCloud Drive. For iCloud, you'll be able to share folders with a private link.
  • Restore from a snapshot. if a MacOS update disagrees with your third-party software, you can revert your system back to snapshot of your computer you had before updated.

Originally published June 3, 11:48 a.m. PT.
Updates, 3 p.m.: Adds system requirements; June 5: Includes more details; June 8: Adds details. June 11: Added details.