Mac users better prepare for a trip off the mainland. Apple today released the first public beta versions of macOS Catalina, the operating system (OS) update named after Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California, to let non-developers put it through its paces before its official release this fall.
How to Beta Test macOS Catalina
Getting early access to OS updates like Catalina used to require an Apple developer account. Now, even non-developers can sign up for beta access to the updates by signing up for the Apple Beta Software Program here (opens in new tab). You can find out if your Mac supports Catalina by scrolling to the bottom of this Apple page (opens in new tab) and clicking on the appropriate device (all iMac Pros support Catalina).
The Apple Beta Software Program can also be used to access beta versions of iOS 13, iPadOS, watchOS 6 and tvOS 13 before their official debuts. All of the updates are likely to be officially released this fall.
The usual advice regarding pre-release OS updates applies here. Curious users should make sure they back up their devices, and if you aren't prepared for the worst-case scenario, you should probably just wait.
What's New In macOS Catalina
The headline change in macOS Catalina is the long-awaited death of iTunes. Apple separated the venerable app's functions into other parts of the OS. With Catalina, Finder will sync iOS devices, Apple Music will host all music, podcasts will make their way to Apple Podcasts and television shows, movies and original video content will live in the new Apple TV app. Four apps will do what one struggled to accomplish smoothly.
Catalina also introduces Project Catalyst to make it easier to port iPad apps to the Mac, an improved Find My service that supports offline devices and a feature called Sidecar, through which an iPad can be used as a Mac's secondary display. Apple updated many of its Mac apps to maintain parity with their iOS counterparts too and introduced new accessibility features.