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Hands-on: macOS Catalina top features [Video]

After going hands-on with iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, it’s now time to lend attention to macOS Catalina top features. This latest Mac software update is headlined by the dissolution of iTunes in favor of three new standalone apps for Music, Podcasts, and TV.

macOS Catalina, which checks in at version 10.15, also adds the ability to authenticate passwords with an Apple Watch and use an iPad as an external display. Watch our hands-on video walkthrough for a look at the top macOS Catalina features, and be sure to subscribe to 9to5Mac on YouTube for more hands-on videos.

Catalina dynamic wallpaper

Like every major macOS release, there’s a new wallpaper to be found with macOS 10.15. The wallpaper, a beautiful photo of Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California, is quite mesmerizing. The wallpaper is enhanced by its dynamic night/day versions

iTunes breaks up

It’s been long-rumored, but iTunes is finally a thing of the past courtesy of macOS Catalina. In its place are three new apps for Music, Podcasts, and TV.

Video: macOS Catalina top features

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New Music app

The new Music app is beautifully-simple, and devoid of all of the former iTunes bloat. The macOS Catalina Music app is largely focused on Apple Music, and whatever music you have in your library. You can, however, still manage to navigate to the iTunes Store if you prefer to purchase music instead of rent it from Apple Music. In the menu bar, simply navigate to View → Show iTunes Store.

Music app macOS 10.15

New Podcasts app

After several years of existence on the iPhone and iPad, there’s finally a standalone Podcast app for the Mac.

Podcast app macOS 10.15

New TV app

The TV app is a go-to source for streaming Movies and TV Shows. It’s also where you go to access collections of previously purchase iTunes movies. TV features ‘Apple TV Channels’ third-party subscription service integration, and it’s where you’ll go to enjoy Apple’s new Apple TV+ subscription service when it launches later this fall. It also supports playing 4K HDR movies on macOS for the first time.

TV app macOS 10.15

Finder device management

Since iTunes is no more, Apple relocated iOS device sync and backup functionality to the Finder. Simply connect an iOS device, and it’ll show up under the Locations section of the Finder sidebar.

Finder device management Catalina


Photos in iOS 13 got a major enhancement, and many of the same enhancements found in iOS make their way to macOS. One of my favorite new additions is the new Days tab, which presents an attractive overview of your photos in chronological order, while automatically hiding duplicates and less relevant images. The new Photos app also features auto-playing Live Photos and videos (without sound) as you browse through your library.

Photos app catalina


Like Photos, the macOS Catalina version of Notes receives many of the same enhancements found on iOS. Improvements include shared folders, a new gallery view, new checklist options, and improved search capabilities.

Notes app catalina


Rebuilt from the ground up, the Reminders app is a much more capable tool than the app it replaces. Users now have access to four easy to interface with Smart Lists, along with customizable lists that can be grouped together.

Additional enhancements include the ability to use natural language to create new Reminders, sub-task creation via indenting, messages integration, and more. Be sure to check out our full iOS 13 overview for a more in-depth look at what the updated Reminders app brings to the table.

Reminders Catalina


Keep better track of how you use your Mac with the new ScreenTime utility found in System Preferences. ScreenTime allows users to monitor app usage, establish downtime, set up app limits, restrict communication, and much more.

ScreenTime macOS 10.15

Security & Privacy

macOS Catalina include new permissions for Screen Recording, Files and Folders, Input Monitoring, and Speech Recognition. These changes serve to further secure your Mac from misbehaving apps that like to take liberties with your data.

Privacy and Security macOS 10.15 Catalina

One of the coolest new macOS 10.15 features is the ability to respond to password prompts via a double press of the Side button on a paired Apple Watch. This makes tasks like unlocking the Security & Privacy section of System Preferences even easier.

Apple Watch security Catalina


Although it’s still quite buggy, which is to be expected given the beta status, the potential of Sidecar is huge. This is a new technology that allows your iPad to act as a portable external display and input device for your Mac. Not only can you extend or mirror your Mac’s display via a wired or wireless connection, but you can use an iPad similarly to how you might use a Wacom tablet in supported apps when paired with Apple Pencil.

sidecar macOS 10.15

iPad apps

Although iPad apps for macOS are not yet available publicly, this is a promising new source of applications for Mac users. Of course, games and media apps make all the sense in the world, but I’m also excited to see what productivity app developers might bring over with such an opportunity.

iPad apps 10.15

9to5Mac’s Take

macOS Catalina is a big update and is shaping up to be a major shift for the Mac in a number of ways. The most obvious shift is due to the the axing of iTunes, an app that has been growing for the last 18 years.

Then there is Sidecar, which seeks to establish additional synergy between iPadOS and macOS. Mac users who might not have seen the need for an iPad before may now be tempted to go for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, since it provides users with a large, portable, secondary display.

Finally, there is the upcoming ability to run iPad apps natively alongside traditional Mac apps. Not only will that bring a wealth of new games to the Mac, but it might prove to be a good source of more productivity-oriented apps.

What is your favorite new feature in macOS Catalina? Sound off down below in the comment section with your thoughts on our list of macOS Catalina top features.

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Avatar for Jeff Benjamin Jeff Benjamin

Jeff produces videos, walkthroughs, how-tos, written tutorials and reviews. He takes pride in being able to explain things in a simple, clear and concise manner.