macOS Catalina: New features and problems mean it’s worth waiting
Apple released the latest full version of macOS for its range of desktop and laptop computers recently. It’s a free upgrade to macOS Catalina as long as you’ve got a qualifying iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro model, with the promise of plenty of new features. Most of macOS’ core applications have been given a significant redesign with streamlined workflows. There’s a new feature called “Sidecar” that lets you use any Apple iPad compatible with the Apple Pencil as a secondary display for your Mac.
Those who disliked how bloated iTunes had become over the years can rejoice, because just like it said it would, iTunes is no longer the one-stop shop for your music, video app and iOS device backup needs. Instead, they’re handled by what are essentially ports of their iOS counterparts, except for device backup and syncing, which is handled directly within the Finder. If you’re an iPhone user on a Windows PC, however, iTunes is still where all of those services reside; it’s only on the Mac side of the fence that Apple’s killed off iTunes.
The general sensible advice on any major update like this is to hold off until the bugs are ironed out. That holds true too for macOS Catalina, because despite a public beta period that undoubtedly quashed a number of software problems, there’s still plenty of reports of unusual app behaviour from early macOS Catalina adopters.
Some of these issues are with Apple’s own included apps, but there’s also the prospect of third-party applications misbehaving, at least until their developers patch around or fix issues with those software packages running smoothly on macOS Catalina.
It’s an issue exacerbated by the fact that macOS Catalina drops support for 32-bit apps entirely. That’s a step Apple underwent some time ago for iOS devices, but the Mac’s history of apps with only 32-bit support stretches back even furhter than iOS. If you do run older apps (and especially if you’re already getting the warning that the app will be “unsupported” on future macOS upgrades, you may find that they don’t work at all once you do upgrade.
To further complicate matters, if they have their own uninstallers, you’ll need to run those before you upgrade, because the odds are pretty good that if the core app itself is only 32-bit, then the uninstaller will be too. You could be left with an app you can’t use or in fact even easily remove from your Mac if you’re not careful!
So how can you know if it’s ever going to be safe to upgrade? Thankfully it’s not too tricky to check your Mac for apps that won’t work under macOS Catalina if you’re using the prior version, macOS Mojave.
Open up Spotlight search by pressing command and the space bar, and type in System Information. Press enter, and it will show you the details of your Mac in a new window. Scroll down to the area headed up with “Software” and there should be an entry labelled “Legacy Software”. These are all the apps you’ve currently got on your Mac that won’t work with macOS Catalina.
If there’s nothing there, you’re at least OK from a direct apps support point of view for upgrading. If there’s lots of applications there that you rely on, the smart move will be to at least check if you can get upgrades to 64-bit versions, or find equivalent applications that will fulfill the same purpose.