Best New Features in macOS Catalina for a Mobile Student

#tech #minimalism

As an international university student, I rely on a 13-inch MacBook Pro to get work done wherever I go, whether that be a library, café or in a different country. As such, the highlight of Apple's World-Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2019 for me was the new macOS Catalina.

These are the new features in macOS Catalina are most pertinent for a mobile student.

First things first, the flagship feature this year was stronger cohesion between macOS and (the new) iPadOS.

Project Catalyst

Previously, I wrote about how project Marzipan could bring more iPad apps to macOS and vice versa.

Apple revealed Project Catalyst, which streamlines the process of porting iPadOS apps to macOS. In Catalina, iOS apps like Music, Apple TV, Podcasts, Asphalt, and Jira are coming to macOS.

The impact of Project Catalyst, ironically, will not be felt from an addition of an app, but a removal. Rejoice, For iTunes is officially dead! The bloated software almost as old as myself may finally get its obituary. It won't be missed.

From now on, synchronizing iOS devices will be done in Finder instead. It is a solution so simple and intuitive that I can't believe I presumed Apple would create a “My iPhone” app on macOS.

Thanks to the new Music app, listening to Apple Music (with the obligatory $5/mo student plan) won't be as cumbersome as it used to be.

Music is more lightweight than iTunes and is also built specifically for Apple Music. Still, it is nice that Music still supports integration with local iTunes library, the biggest selling point of Apple Music over Spotify for me.

A revamped lyrics UI is welcome as well. My morning rap jam sessions won't involve clicking a drop-down menu that doesn't stick on top of the screen anymore.


Sidecar allows users to use an iPad as an external monitor to a Mac device, further bringing together macOS and iPadOS.

Sidecar is probably most useful for creative professionals that can draw on the newer iPads' incredible screen and Apple Pencil 2 with an equally powerful desktop graphics software. Although I dabbled in art before, that target audience is not me.

That being said, Sidecar is relevant to anyone annoyed by the sheer lack of screen real estate on a smaller MacBook, like the 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro.

I would often have to open two tiny windows side-by-side, with e-textbook or lecture slides on the left and my notes on the right.

While I could purchase a portable external monitor, a monitor is used for much narrower circumstances than an iPad.

Sidecar is a feature that I definitely will use next year to get through university, most likely with an iPad Air 2 and an Adonit stylus.

I look forward to using my iPad for taking handwritten notes, and my MacBook Pro for programming, all the while taking advantage of extra screen real-estate.

iCloud Drive and Third Party Drive

There are two “hidden” additions to cloud storage that was relegated to the “we won't talk about this on stage” part of WWDC.

You can now share iCloud Drive folders with a private link, a feature that was long overdue. As I rely on iCloud Drive to synchronize my files, this is a welcome change that will streamline collaboration.

For third-party cloud services, a new API makes it possible for developers to integrate their cloud directly into Finder.

Screen Time

The first thing that anyone that wants to adopt digital minimalism should do is to go to Settings > Screen Time on their iOS devices. (Or any equivalent on Android.)

Since Screen Time doesn't lie, the sheer number of hours that you spend on your iPhone is an effective wake-up call to aggressive cut down on phone usage for good.

I remember realizing that I spent a staggering 3 hours per day on WeChat. Admittedly, much of that time was logged while I had WeChat open while working on my MacBook. However, merely having it open so much must have compromised my ability to focus.

As Screen Time on iOS helped me gain some much-needed perspective about my iPhone usage, I expect to utilize Screen Time on macOS as well.

Unsubscribe from Mailing List

In macOS Catalina, will automatically detect and display links to unsubscribe from a mailing list.

I morbidly dread the process of searching for an “unsubscribe” link written in a minuscule font with camouflaged color hidden somewhere in the footer of a mailing list that I mistakenly signed up for by failing to uncheck a specific box in a form with numerous boxes when I made an account for a website that I no longer use.

While a small feature, it is consistent with Apple's efforts to combat digital distractions with Screen Time.

Addendum: Bye bye, 32-bit Apps

With macOS Catalina, Apple is officially killing all compatibility support for 32-bit applications on macOS. This change gives me mixed feelings. While the banhammer was bound to come eventually, I still use one 32-bit application, namely Astrill VPN. I'll have to wait and see when Astrill developers update their macOS client.