We learned back in June that iTunes as we know it would soon be but a distant memory. And yesterday, iTunes officially met its end with the public launch of macOS Catalina, Mac's latest software.
The new software brings with it a ton of impressive features across the board — and the biggest win? Continuity across devices. Now, the Music, Podcasts, and TV apps appear the same way they already do on your iPhone, and we also now have Find My and Screen Time on Mac as well. Plus, this software has more robust accessibility features than ever. Ahead, the lowdown on all things Catalina.
Music, Podcasts & TV
Oh, iTunes. As a lone surviving vestige of Apple's early aughts glory days, you did us well with your a la carte music offerings. (TBT to those iTunes colorful psychedelic visualizers that I used to spend hours watching. Who else remembers?) But in the age of streaming, you needed to catch up — and thusly, you have been replaced by three separate apps: Music, Podcasts, and TV.
Music looks nearly identical to Apple Music on iOS — with a Browse tab comprised of Daily Top 100s from over 100 countries, music organized by mood, and tons of Apple-curated playlists full of music you can stream and/or download. Of course, for iTunes loyalists not ready to part with Apple's OG music platform, you can still enable the iTunes Store by going to Music > Preferences > Show iTunes Store. Here, you can buy a la carte songs the old-fashioned way.
Podcasts works the same way — instead of living in the iTunes Store like it used to, it's a standalone app that mirrors the iOS one, with over 700,000 shows available to be streamed and/or downloaded. The most impressive feature is its new search capability, which searches through episode transcriptions. Which means you can simply type "Amy Schumer" into the search bar and automatically see not only every podcast episode she's been a guest on, but also every episode where her name has been uttered. (Super handy for when you're looking for a podcast but you can't recall its name.)
And then there's TV. The redesigned Apple TV app has finally made it to Mac. With over 150 video apps and streaming services on the platform and a streamlined interface that makes it really easy to discover new content, it's an ideal home base for when you either don't know what to watch or have too much to keep track of on your queue. There's also a designated kids tab that lets kids and parents choose content to watch by character (it's honestly adorable) or age range — though, unlike the general content on the TV app, the kids content is not personalized.
And then there's Apple TV channels, Apple's new a la carte-style subscription aggregating service that lets users select third-party channels like Showtime, Starz, HBO, CBS All Access, Bravo, and more without having to sign up for more expensive bundle deals (and even more excitingly, without having to use multiple log-in credentials, since you can just use your Apple ID for all of it). There's also Apple TV+, Apple's forthcoming original content service coming out November 1, which you can also access on the TV app. And my favorite part: You can download any of the Apple TV channels and Apple TV+ content for offline viewing. So instead of having to rely on the subpar entertainment options that the airline offers next time you fly, you can just binge Succession over and over again. Basically, if you don't have an IRL Apple TV, now you have one on your computer with the TV app.
And in other entertainment news: Apple Arcade has finally arrived in the App Store for $4.99 per month (which supports up to six users via Family Sharing), with over 100 new games that you can also access on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.
The most important part of Catalina is the new Voice Control, which gives users the ability to access anything onscreen without physically clicking. Once you enable it, if you're shopping online and want to click on particular products, all you have to do is tell your computer to "show numbers," which will then put a numbered flag on anything that's clickable on the webpage. From here, you can direct it to a particular number in order to get a closer look at the product page.
And if there isn't anything clickable on your screen, you can tell Voice Control to overlay a numbered grid on your display, and then to zoom in on certain numbers to look more closely at different places on the screen (for instance, if you're looking at Maps). You can also use Voice Control to transcribe and edit text. To enable Voice Control, go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Voice Control.
If you like using an extra display at your desk (as is the case for most people at my office), listen up — you'll probably want to use Sidecar, stat. It's a new feature of Catalina that lets you use your iPad as a second display for your Mac — so you can use it for additional space, whether you want to look at two apps at the same time or you want more room to draw with your Apple Pencil. You can also use it as a mirrored desktop, if, for example, you're delivering a presentation. To enable it, go to System Preferences > Sidecar, and then choose the device you'd like to connect to.
How To Download
Software updates now live in System Preferences, so if you go to System Preferences > Software Updates, you can get Catalina there. Or, if you opt for automatic updates on your Mac (which you can enable in this same place), your computer should update on its own.