Yesterday, Apple released macOS Catalina to everyone and, unlike iOS 13's release, this is one you should upgrade right away. While Catalina isn't a major interface redesign, and much of the new features are a little more subtle than previous updates, there are still real improvements that you should take advantage of right now.
Here are seven features you should know about, and why you should definitely upgrade.
I wrote about this earlier, but honestly, this is one of the best features ever built into macOS. I like it that much. I guess I should back that up, so I'll just say this: If you have an iPad running iPad OS, you can use it as an extended desktop, or as a mirrored display for your Mac. It's really quite useful when you're traveling and need just a little extra real estate. My favorite part is that it's as easy as using AirPlay without needing additional software or setup.
2. Photos Redesign
This new design might look mostly cosmetic, but it isn't. Apple's new Photos app (on both the Mac and iPhone) now organizes your photos into groups based on when they were taken, and what's in the photo making it much easier to navigate, with duplicates grouped together instead of cluttering up your view. You can control whether you group them by day, month, or whether you still want to view every photo.
3. Mute Your Mail
This feature barely gets a mention. In fact, even in Apple's own press release it's barely more than an afterthought. It's not. It's one of those small details that makes a huge difference. Now, if you find yourself on the receiving end of an over-active email thread, you can simply mute it. That means you won't receive notifications on those emails, but everything else continues as normal. You can also block senders directly from Mail, and the app makes it easier to unsubscribe from marketing emails.
4. Siri Shortcuts
Shortcuts are already available on your iPhone and iPad, but now you can take advantage of Siri Shortcuts to do things like string together workflows on your desktop. I use Siri Shortcuts all the time on my iPad, and I've been playing around with it in Catalina as well. For now, it only works with apps that were brought to your Mac via Catalyst, but that functionality will hopefully expand to other apps you use every day, which could make it a killer productivity tool.
Speaking of productivity tools, Reminders gets an update across all of Apple's platforms. It's easier to navigate and includes better options for creating and organizing your reminders. I've long been a fan of Reminders, especially with Siri, for creating location-based reminders, and the update makes it much easier to keep track of what you have going on.
6. iOS Apps on Your Mac
There's a lot written about the fact that Apple killed iTunes in favor of separate Music, Podcasts, and TV apps. All of these are huge improvements, but the bigger deal is that developers can now port their iOS apps to Catalina through what Apple calls Mac Catalyst. While there are still only a few apps available this way, including Tripit, Twitter, and Jira, Apple says there are more to come. This is good news whether you're a developer wanting to bring your app to the Mac, or a user hoping your favorite iPhone app might actually be useful on your laptop.
7. Activation Lock and Privacy
Apple has always had a focus on helping users protect their privacy, and macOS Catalina is no exception. One of the biggest moves on that front is Activation Lock, which prevents a lost or stolen device from being activated by anyone but the person whose iCloud account is attached to the device.
Catalina also runs on a separate read-only volume, meaning that your personal information and the operating system are kept segregated. And, in the event you do lose your MacBook Air, the new Find My app will still find it even if it's powered off or sleeping, adding a little peace of mind for when you accidently leave it in the airport lounge (not that that's ever happened to me).