The macOS Catalina.
The Sidecar feature allows users to mirror what they have on the main screen to the iPad.
Browsing photos in the macOS Catalina gets better and easier.
Sidecar with iPad.
Screen Time feature.

WHEN Apple announced the macOS Catalina at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June this year, one thing that made many Mac users excited was the operating system ability to increase productivity in a very different way.

Besides having the cool wall paper of the Catalina island that changes its surrounding environment colour based on the time of the day, one of the new features introduced is a functionality called Sidecar. Like its name suggests, this feature allows users to to extend their iMac or MacBook display with their iPad as the second display. They can mirror what they have on the main screen to the iPad or use both sceen to work on something.

This may not appeal to the non-creative users, but those in the creative line understand the wonders of having two screens for working. It’s a common sight to see graphic artists or video editors working on two screens at the same time.

However, for them (the artists) this can only be done in the office or at home as it is not practical to carry two big monitors around, but the new macOS Catalina, their iPad can now act as the second screen.

What’s interesting abut this feature is that users can position their iPad on either side of iMac or MacBook, and move the cursor from one screen to the other. The dock and menu bar can be positioned on either screen, and apps can be placed as desired by dragging them back and forth.

Let’s say you’re editing a photo or video using Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, you can place all the tools and palettes on one screen and use the second screen as a clean space for the photo or video, which in way makes your screen less cluttered.

And since the iPad and MacBook are highly portable, you can take and do your creative work anywhere, even in cafes or at a hotel lobby.

On the Beta version of the macOS Catalina, I could do this easily and surprisingly there was no without hiccups. The Beta version run smoothly.

Another feature of the Sidecar feature enables users to the Apple Pencil for tablet input on Mac apps for the very first time. The sidebar and Touch Bar controls let users create without taking their hands off iPad. And they can interact using multi-touch gestures such as pinch, swipe, and zoom; as well as new iPadOS text editing gestures like copy, cut, paste, and more.

Connecting the two devices is also easy where you can connect your primary and secondary screens wired and wirelessly.

Apple Pencil usage

The Sidecar feature also brings the intuitiveness and precision of Apple Pencil to Mac apps.

Here you can use Apple Pencil for tablet input to draw in Illustrator, for example, or edit photos in Affinity Photo, manipulate 3D objects in ZBrush, and more.

Apple and third-party Mac apps that support stylus input already work with Apple Pencil, including Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and Maya. With Apple Pencil, the user can also select menus and click user interface controls like they would with a mouse.

There is also the sidebar which is designed to help users create with Apple Pencil without moving their hands from the iPad.

Users can access frequently used modifier keys like Command, Option, Control, and Shift with one hand while drawing with the other.

For example, while sculpting a model in ZBrush, an artist can use the modifier keys in the sidebar to zoom, rotate, and pan around their model as they draw with Apple Pencil. The sidebar contains other handy controls, such as an undo button that lets users quickly go back a step.

Sidecar uses virtual display technology to send a second, virtual display to an iPad using an encrypted encoded stream. The low-latency connection sends display video from Mac to iPad, and tablet events from iPad to Mac. Sidecar leverages the same technology as all Continuity features, using Bluetooth for initial detection, and then point-to-point Wi-Fi for data transfer once connected.

Entertainment

In the new macOS Catalina, Apple has replaced iTunes with its entertainment apps, such as Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and the Apple TV app.

This clearly will make accessing and enjoying the entertainment services easier and faster.

For example, Apple Music now has over 50 million songs, playlists and music videos. And users will have access to their entire music library, whether they downloaded the songs, purchased them or ripped them from a CD.

With the increase in streaming services, Apple TV may have many subscribers. The Apple TV app features Apple TV channels, personalised recommendations and over 100,000 iTunes movies and TV shows to browse, buy or rent — so users can enjoy 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos-supported movies.

Meanwhile, the popular Apple Podcasts app 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 categories, curated collections by editors around the world and advanced search tools that can find episodes by host, guest or even discussion topic.

With the macOS Catalina, users can now enjoy Apple game subscription service, Apple Arcade. In Malaysia, the service costs RM19.90 per month and subscribers will have access to over 100 games, which playable also on their iPhones, iPads and Apple TV.

Among the games include The Enchanted World, Patterned, Overland and Card of Darkness.

Apple Arcade subscribers also 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 and play any Apple Arcade game right from the App Store’s brand-new Arcade tab.

Well-organised Photos

Browsing photos in the macOS Catalina gets better and easier.

The photos are organised by day, month and year views so it’s easy to find photos you want to see.

Besides that, photo previews are larger to help you distinguish between shots. Now, Photos uses intelligence to find the best part of your photo in previews, so you see the full, unedited version when you open the photo.

One interesting feature in Photos is the automatic playing of Live Photos and videos as you scroll.

Besides that, the Photos app can now understand who’s in your photos and what’s happening to highlight important moments like birthdays, anniversaries and trips, and it also intelligently showcases the best shots in your library, removing duplicates and clutter.

Tech for the less fortunate

In move to let technology to be experience by everyone, the Cupertino-based company has created Voice Control, a feature designed to empower those who can’t use traditional input devices to control their Mac, iPhone, and iPad entirely with their voices.

This many need a bit of time to master, but once they have it mastered, they can traverse and control the entire screen with just their voices, giving them full access to every major function of the operating system. Additionally, users can gesture with their voices to click, swipe, and tap anywhere, so they can do everything someone could do with a mouse or with touch.

Voice Control gives users with motor limitations full and comprehensive access to the user interface (UI), so they can easily traverse the screen and accomplish complex actions with their voices, from dragging onscreen items to selecting unlabelled buttons.

For example, users can quickly interact with the system and apps through common navigation commands using their voices. For example, users can say “Open Apple Pay,” “Take screenshot,” “Mute sound,” “Save document,” “Search for ” in Safari, or “Scroll up or down” in Apple News.

In situations where users don’t have navigation commands, they can use a number overlay. Saying “Show numbers” assigns numbers to all clickable or tappable onscreen items, and users can then say a number to select the item they want. Item Numbers automatically appear in menus and are especially useful for selecting unlabelled buttons and disambiguating between a series of unnamed elements, such as photos.

Besides that, they can also have editing capabilities where they can replace one phrase with another. For example, saying “Replace ‘I’m almost there’ with ‘I just arrived’” will replace “I’m almost there” with “I just arrived”.

This is one feature that will touch people’s heart and show how technology can affect mankind is a meaningful way, giving the less fortune almost the same capability as the normal being in handing computers and be productive.

And for those who like the Screen Time feature on their iPhones to see reports on their phone usage, it's now on the macOS Catalina.

Besides that, the Family Sharing feature, parents can also have a look on their children's activities across all the family's Apple devices.

Conclusion

The macOS Catalina is, in short, is a great upgrade from the macOS Mojave. It does not only let users to be more productive, but let those who can't use the Mac before to use it and be as capable as other users.

The OS is available for download for free starting today.

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