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Apple macOS Catalina best features

Today marks the release of Apple's macOS Catalina, the latest iteration of the computer's operating system. And you know what that means: time to set aside an hour where you'll be stuck without your laptop while you wait for the update to install. It's a small price to pay to avoid those annoying reminders that it's time to update that appear in the corner of your screen, and you get a slew of new features and security patches for your trouble. Here are some of the best new features that you'll find in macOS Catalina that you'll want to check out as soon your machine reboots with the update.

Use your iPad as a second screen with Sidecar

Sidecar is one of the most interesting features introduced in macOS Catalina, assuming you're already ingrained in the Apple ecosystem. The feature allows you to use an iPad as a second screen of sorts, turning the tablet into an input device that can be used to interact with apps on your Mac. The feature works with any Mac app that supports stylus input so you can write, draw and sketch directly on your iPad with the Apple Pencil. The feature works with popular third-party apps like Photoshop, Illustrator and ZBrush as well as some of Apple's first-party apps like Notes.

Apple Arcade comes to Mac

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Macs have always had a stigma associated with them for gamers. Apple's laptops and desktops have never been considered machines that are made for gaming, in large part due to lack of support for many major titles. But more and more games have started coming to Mac in recent years, and macOS Catalina brings the introduction of the Apple Arcade to the platform, which may help to put a dent in the reputation that Macs aren't for gamers.

Apple Arcade requires users to pay a subscription fee of $4.99 per month. In exchange, they'll get access to a library of more than 100 games that can be played across all Apple platforms, including on Mac, iOS devices and Apple TV. Your progress will follow you across platform so you can play anywhere, and access to the titles can be shared between six family members through Family Sharing. Apple hasn't released its full catalog of games yet, but it will include exclusives from famous game makers including Hironobu Sakaguchi, Ken Wong and Will Wright. Team Sonic Racing, The Pathless, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Where Cards Fall and Hot Lava have all been confirmed, with many more titles planned for the future. Gamers will be able to play on their Mac and other platforms using including Xbox and PlayStation controllers, so there will be a familiar console feel even as you're playing on your computer.

Improved accessibility features

For folks with hearing or seeing impairments, macOS Catalina comes equipped with new accessibility features that should make the operating system more friendly to use. New voice control features should allow users to completely control their machine using just their voice. Siri has been given an update that allows the voice assistant to better recognize voice commands, as well as transcribe spoken text and allow for text editing via voice controls. Visually impaired users will be able to make use of Hover Text, which displays text larger and in higher resolution so it is easier to read. A new Zoom Display feature also allow users to zoom in tightly on certain elements of the screen.

Screen time monitoring

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Like iOS before it, macOS Catalina now has Screen Time tracking features that allow you to see exactly how you're spending your time on your laptop or desktop. The feature keeps tabs on how long you're spending on certain apps and websites. If you think you're spending too much of your day on certain things like social media, you can set limits on specific apps or entire categories of services. Family Sharing features allow you to monitor the usage of each member of your family and gives parents the ability to limit kids' screen time when needed.

New apps for Apple Music, Podcasts and Apple TV — plus the death of iTunes

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Perhaps the biggest change in macOS Catalina is the introduction of three new entertainment apps. Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV now all have their own standalone apps that allow you to browse the extensive library that each product offers. Apple Music lets you browse more than 50 million songs that are available to stream, along with Apple's curated playlists and your own mixes, assuming you have a subscription to the platform. Apple Podcasts plays hosts to more than 700,000 shows that you can listen to any time and subscribe to so you can download them automatically and get notifications when new episodes are available. Apple TV has more than 100,000 shows and movies that you can watch and will offer personalized recommendations based on your watch history. It will also play host to Apple TV+, which will be available starting November 1.

The introduction of these apps means the official demise of another: iTunes. Apple's flagship entertainment service, which saw massive growth when iPods were still the go-to solution for listening to music, has been on its way out for awhile now, but it will officially be dead once you install macOS Catalina. iTunes was long maligned for being poorly designed, difficult to navigate and full of superfluous features that no one used. (Remember iTunes Ping? Yeah, no one else does either.) The app certainly won't be missed because it was an absolute mess that no one actually liked using, but its death does mark the end of an era. First introduced in 2001, the application was the gateway for many people making the switch over to digital music libraries and was the stepping stone to the streaming era that we live in today. iTunes probably won't be remembered fondly because, again, it was terrible to use most of the time, but it should be remembered for its huge role in bringing about the digital era of media.