macOS Catalina: macOS 10.15 release date, news and features

macOS Catalina
Image Credit: Apple

macOS Catalina – the official name for macOS 10.15 – has been officially unveiled at Apple's keynote address at its WWDC 2019 conference in San Jose, California.

At the event, Apple's head of software, Craig Federighi, showed off some of the exciting new features of macOS Catalina, as well hinting at the release date – which will be later this year.

Federighi also confirmed that macOS 10.15 Catalina will kill off iTunes in lieu of new apps for Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. Each of these new macOS Catalina apps gain enhanced features that aren't available in the existing versions running on other devices. 

macOS 10.15 Catalina also adds Sidecar, a new built-in tool for using an iPad as a secondary display for your Mac or MacBook device. This feature works both wired and wirelessly.

Apple has also introduced a new feature solely for developers known as "Project Catalyst," which will allow them to seamlessly port their iOS 13 and iPadOS apps to the macOS environment.

At the event, Apple showed off the new Mac Pro 2019, which we expect will launch with macOS 10.15 Catalina already installed.

Here's every major change coming to Apple's OS for Macs and MacBooks in 2019 with macOS Catalina.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? macOS 10.15 Catalina, the successor to macOS 10.14 Mojave.
  • When is it out? Apple says "this fall," so in Q3 2019.
  • How much will it cost? Nothing. Apple software updates are always free.

macOS Catalina Sidecar feature

Image Credit: Apple

(Image: © Apple)

macOS Catalina release date

For anyone that isn't an app developer, macOS Catalina will release "this fall," as Apple promised on stage at WWDC 2019. For those folks not on the northern hemisphere, that means some time in Q3 2019, likely late September based upon previous macOS releases.

However, Apple will be issuing a public beta of the OS later this month, which will be available for anyone to try out at this link. If you're feeling particularly adventurous and have 100 bucks or quid to blow, you can try out the special developer preview beta right now.

For more detailed information regarding just that, check out our guide for how to download the macOS Catalina beta test right now.

macOS Catalina compatibility

Of course, one of the first questions on your mind must be: can the Mac or MacBook I own right now work with this new hotness? Luckily, every piece of Mac hardware that could upgrade to the current macOS 10.14 Mojave will be able to receive the new macOS 10.15 Catalina update. Here's the full list:

  • 12-inch MacBook (2015 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2012 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (2012 and later)
  • Mac mini (2012 and later)
  • iMac (2012 and later)
  • iMac Pro (2017)
  • Mac Pro (2013 and later)
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macOS Catalina

What Apple Music will look like. (Image Credit: Apple)
(Image: © Apple)
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macOS Catalina

What Apple Podcasts will look like. (Image Credit: Apple)
(Image: © Apple)

Goodbye, iTunes – hello, Apple Music, Podcasts Books and TV

WWDC 2019 and macOS Catalina make it official: iTunes is no more ... it has ceased to be. The new apps for macOS that rise from its ashes are Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts – enhanced versions of those that appear on iOS.

Apple Music will allow macOS users access to their entire libraries of music regardless of whether the tracks have been downloaded via streaming. This is also where music ripped from CDs will live, incorporated into the same libraries.

Apple TV will feature the app's channels and more than 100,000 iTunes movies and TV shows to browse, buy or rent. All of this content will be available in 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos audio wherever it's offered. Finally, Apple TV+ will be available through this app once the service launches later this year.

Apple Podcasts brings the service's more than 700,00 podcasts as well as new episode updates to the Mac in a new interface. This version of the app features enhanced search functions that can pull up episodes by hosts, guests or even discussion topics.

Apple Books is the app where you can purchase and listen to any audiobooks, and as with the other new apps, will feature a familiar interface for anyone who is used to iTunes.

Apple has also revealed more information about the apps that will replace iTunes following WWDC and how they will work.

The company confirmed that all your music and playlists will be ported over to the Apple Music app in macOS 10.15 Catalina, and any iTunes gift cards or unspent iTunes credits can be used in the new app.

In macOS Catalina, the iTunes Store can still be used to buy new music, and can be accessed through the Sidebar in the Apple Music app.

You can also subscribe to the Apple Music streaming service through the app – and if you do, you can hide the iTunes Store to simplify things.

macOS Catalina iPhone management

You'll sync your devices via Finder in macOS Catalina (Image credit: Apple) 

(Image: © Apple)

Apple also explained how syncing devices will be handled in macOS Catalina now that iTunes is no more.

Devices will now be synced in the Finder app, and will be able to backup and sync those devices. According to Apple, it will also be easier to drag and drop files for quick transfers as well. 

macOS Catalina Sidecar feature

Apple Sidecar at work in macOS Catalina. (Image Credit: Apple)

(Image: © Apple)

Sidecar turns your iPad into another display

This is probably the most exciting update to macOS with Catalina 10.15: the ability to extend your Mac's display to a nearby iPad wired or wirelessly. Since a fair amount of MacBook users are likely iPad owners, this means that a sizable amount of mobile workers just received a secondary display.

Perhaps even more importantly, this connected iPad can also be used as a drawing tablet with various specifically supported apps. Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Illustrator and iWork are the first apps mentioned to support this feature.

It's currently unknown which iPad models will work with Macs using the Sidecar feature, but it's likely that those models will have to run the new iPadOS releasing later this year.

Apple says that the following Mac apps will support Sidecar's Apple Pencil input and other enhanced features:

  • Adobe: After Effects, Illustrator, Premiere Pro
  • Affinity Designer & Affinity Photo
  • Cinema 4D
  • CorelDRAW
  • DaVinci Resolve
  • Final Cut Pro & Motion
  • Maya
  • Painter
  • Principle
  • Sketch
  • Substance Designer & Painter
  • ZBrush

macOS Catalina screen time

Screen Time for macOS has a special "One more minute" feature. (Image Credit: Apple)

(Image: © Apple)

Screen Time comes to macOS

One of Apple's most impactful changes to iOS 12 was Screen Time, an app that tracks your iPhone or iPad usage time and offers insights into the trends. This functionality will come to macOS with Catalina with a new “One more minute” feature, which gives you more time to save your work or finish up a game.

This information will be synced across your iPhone and and iPad, giving you a complete profile of how often you stare at your collective screens and guidance on what to do with that information. The feature will also include parental controls on time spent using a Mac as well as with whom children are able to communicate with.

macOS Catalina Project Catalyst

Twitter's return to macOS was made possible by Project Catalyst. (Image Credit: Apple)

(Image: © Apple)

Project Catalyst – is this Marzipan?

It appears that what was formerly referred to in rumors and leaks as "Project Marzipan," Apple's master plan for bringing more apps from the iPhone and iPad to the Mac, is now known as Project Catalyst. For developers, it all seems to start with simply checking off a box within the Xcode app in macOS 10.15 Catalina.

Once that is done, a series of new features and protocols become available to the app in the development phase, from which the developer can choose to add to their apps – presumably with additional coding. However, it appears to be rather seamless and speedy, with even Twitter using the tool to quickly bring its native app back to macOS from iOS.

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macOS Catalina

A new desktop theme for macOS Catalina. (Image Credit: Apple)
(Image: © Apple)
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macOS Catalina

The new Photos app organization features for macOS Catalina. (Image Credit: Apple)
(Image: © Apple)
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macOS Catalina

The new Safari launch page in macOS Catalina. (Image Credit: Apple)
(Image: © Apple)
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macOS Catalina

Notes has a whole new look and feel in macOS Catalina. (Image Credit: Apple)
(Image: © Apple)

Other fun improvements

Safari browser will have a new startup page that uses Siri Suggestions to surface commonly visited websites, bookmarks, iCloud tabs and more.

Mail will soon allow users to block messages from senders, mute message threads from issuing push notifications and send unsubscribe requests from within the app to mailing list providers.

Reminders will soon receive an overhaul in visual interface designed to let users more easily generate, track and organize their reminders.