macOS Catalina: 5 Things Web Developers & Designers Should Know

macOS Catalina is here and available for download, and you’ve no doubt heard all about the breakup of iTunes and the new consumer-oriented entertainment apps shipping with the system.

But what do developers, designers, and other tech professionals need to know? We run through the key points.

32-bit Support Ends with Catalina

Are you relying on some older, obscure native app for a specific function, as so many developers and designers do? Your Catalina update could throw you a wildcard: it’s the first macOS release that drops support for 32-bit apps.

During the setup process, you’ll be given a list of installed apps that will no longer open after the update. If you want to keep using that tool, it’s time to hit up the developer for a long-overdue update… or stay on Mojave for a while longer yet.

A Cross-Platform Catalyst

Mojave brought iOS ports of the News, Stocks, Voice Memos and Home apps to macOS. In Catalina, Apple is opening the tools that enabled these ports up to developers under the name of Catalyst.

While this doesn’t directly affect web development work, it does make iOS a more attractive native development platform, which may inform your future platform choices. And if Apple’s plan to reinvigorate stale macOS third-party app development with some of the action from iOS works, you could incorporate better productivity and development apps into your workflow in the near future.

For now, Catalyst is available to developers of iPad apps — we expect that to broaden in the future.

Voice Control

Catalina offers accessibility improvements in the form of improved Voice Control for those who have difficulty seeing, or using keyboards and mice.

Of course, developers should ensure that their apps work as well as they can with this tool, because it’s the right thing to do.

Developers are known for their love of keyboard shortcut mastery, but no doubt the ability to create custom commands has inspired determined lifehackers. What if you never had to take your cursor or eyes off of VS Code to run other frequent workflows?

We look forward to seeing what the community comes up with.

Screen Time

Do you waste too much time using your computer for mindless entertainment, forcing you to stay up late making up the time productively?

Or are you a workaholic who just can’t find the will to shut off and disconnect?

If you’re like most of us in the industry, you’re a mix of the two. Catalina introduces a variant of the Screen Time app that’s been on iOS for a couple of years now.

Screen Time for macOS provides you with visual analytics that help you understand the way you’re spending time on your device, which can often lead to some unexpected epiphanies. It also lets you schedule downtime, forcing you off the computer and into the real world at the right time.

As with iOS, you can also set time limits for specific apps, and there are some ways to moderate your web content usage without outright blocking your web browser from opening.

Sidecar: The Most Expensive Secondary Display You’ll Ever Own

For developers, designers, and all other web professionals, the real headline feature of Catalina is Sidecar. Sidecar turns your iPad into a secondary display for your Mac, and it’s really easy to enable (provided you have the requisite tablet, which is not included with the operating system update).

The best reason to use Sidecar over a standard display is Apple Pencil integration. Designers will love the ability to draw directly on the screen when using Sketch and Illustrator without switching devices all the time. You can even mirror your Mac’s screen if you’d like an unobstructed view of what you’re sketching on one side.

Most of us will use Sidecar as a place to dump Slack or a terminal window, but in any case, it’s clear it’ll be the most beneficial update for many of us.

How’d You Go?

Let us know how you went with the upgrade, and what you’ve enjoyed most so far. We always recommend waiting a few days for the bugs to shake out — especially with Apple’s recent track record — but initial reports suggest the release version is pretty solid after all.