Need to Move Lots of Data Between Macs? Try Target Disk Mode

We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the number of ways we can move data between Macs. You can send files via AirDrop, attach them to an email message, put them in a Messages conversation, turn on and connect via File Sharing, or use Dropbox or Google Drive as an intermediary, to name just a few of the more obvious approaches.

But what if you have a lot of data—say tens or even hundreds of gigabytes—to transfer from one Mac to another? The techniques listed above might work, but we wouldn’t bet on it. If you had an external hard drive with sufficient free space handy, you could copy all the data to it from one Mac and then copy the data back off to another Mac. To cut the copy time in half, though, try Target Disk Mode instead.

What Is Target Disk Mode?

Target Disk Mode is a special boot mode that enables nearly any Mac to behave like an external hard drive for another Mac. You can connect the Macs using Thunderbolt 3, USB-C (on the MacBook), Thunderbolt 2, or FireWire. It’s best to use the same port on both Macs if possible, but it’s usually fine to use adapters, such as Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter for connecting newer and older Thunderbolt-capable Macs.

Target Disk Mode is nearly universal, easy to set up, and one of the fastest methods of moving files between Macs. Let’s unpack that statement:

  • Nearly universal: Every Mac sold in the last decade supports Target Disk Mode, so you can be sure it will work with any modern Mac.
  • Easy setup: Because Apple has baked Target Disk Mode into the Mac firmware, the version of macOS is irrelevant. There’s no software to configure nor any permissions to worry about. Putting a Mac into Target Disk Mode merely requires holding down the T key during boot or clicking a button in the Startup Disk preference pane.
  • Speed: Because Target Disk Mode on modern Macs relies on a Thunderbolt connection, and you’re connecting one Mac directly to another, you’ll get the fastest transfer speeds in the fewest steps.

You can also use Target Disk Mode on an old Mac to set up a new Mac with Migration Assistant, repair its drive using Disk Utility, or possibly even boot another Mac with it. Booting one Mac from another in Target Disk Mode works best if the two Macs are of the same model and vintage and are running the same version of macOS, but it might work even if those facts aren’t true.

Step-by-Step Instructions

To use Target Disk Mode to copy data between Macs, follow these steps:

  1. On the source Mac, either:
    • Restart the Mac, and once it starts booting, hold down the T key until you see the Target Disk Mode screen with a bouncing Thunderbolt logo.
    • Open System Preferences > Startup Disk, click the lock button and enter your administrator credentials, click Target Disk Mode, and then click Restart.
  2. Connect the source Mac to the destination Mac with an appropriate cable. The source Mac’s drive appears on the destination Mac’s Desktop like an external hard drive. (If the source Mac is running macOS 10.15 Catalina, two drives will appear on the destination Mac’s Desktop: DriveName and DriveName – Data. The first is Catalina’s system volume; you’ll find all your files and folders on the Data volume.)
  3. Move or copy files as desired.
  4. When you’re done, press and hold the power button on the source Mac for a few seconds to shut it down.

If you have hundreds of gigabytes to transfer and either of your Macs is a notebook, it’s best to connect it to power to avoid draining the battery before the copy finishes.

Minor Gotchas

Two things can complicate putting a Mac into Target Disk Mode: FileVault and a firmware password. Both are easily worked around:

  • If the Mac is encrypted with FileVault, hold down the T key at startup like normal, but then enter the administrator password for that Mac to complete the switch to Target Disk Mode.
  • If the Mac has a firmware password, press the Option key while the Mac is starting up and enter the firmware password when prompted. Then press the T key to continue booting in Target Disk Mode.

Also, the Apple USB-C Charge Cable that comes with the power adapter for the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models doesn’t support Target Disk Mode, so if that’s the cable you were planning to use, sorry, but you’ll need to buy a real Thunderbolt or USB-C cable.

Despite these small caveats, Target Disk Mode is one of the unsung innovations that has made Macs easier to use for decades, and it’s well worth keeping in mind whenever you need to move lots of data between machines.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

In Case of Emergency, Create an iPhone Medical ID

Accidents, particularly those involving automobiles, are all too common, and while no one plans to be in one, you can prepare for the eventuality. If you end up in a state where you can’t speak with emergency responders or are too shaken up to share your details clearly, your iPhone can provide them with essential medical information. Emergency responders are trained to know how to access these details.

Apple makes this possible via the Medical ID feature of the Health app, which you can use to record medical data and emergency contact information (this is sometimes referred to as “ICE information,” where ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency”). Once you’ve entered all this information, emergency responders can use your iPhone to learn about your medication allergies and other conditions, plus contact your family. This data could also help a Good Samaritan return a lost iPhone. (Unfortunately, the Health app isn’t available on the iPad.)

To set up or edit your Medical ID, follow these steps (in iOS 13; they’re slightly different in earlier versions of iOS):

  1. Open the Health app and tap the Summary tab at the bottom.
  2. Tap your profile picture in the upper-right corner.
  3. Under Medical Details, tap Medical ID.
  4. Tap Edit in the upper-right corner.
  5. Make sure the Show When Locked switch is on.
  6. Enter all the relevant details about your medical conditions, medications, allergies, and so on.
  7. Specify one or more emergency contacts. These must be people in the Contacts app with phone numbers; if the right people aren’t there, add them first. You can’t select your own card in Contacts, so consider making one for a fake person called “If Lost, Please Call” and listing a different phone number at which you can be reached.
  8. Tap Done.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to use someone else’s Medical ID information, but you should know how to do so. You should also teach family, friends, and colleagues how to find and use this information. Should you come across a bicyclist who has had a bad crash or a similar situation, follow these steps:

  1. With a locked iPhone that uses Touch ID, press the Home button to display the Passcode screen. For iPhones with Face ID, press the side button and swipe up from the bottom.
  2. On the Passcode screen, tap Emergency in the bottom-left corner to move to the Emergency screen. If needed, call 911 from this screen by tapping Emergency Call.
  3. Again at the bottom left, tap Medical ID to display the Medical ID screen, complete with all the details that person entered into the Health app.
  4. From that screen, you can share the information with EMTs or other first responders so they’re aware of any serious conditions or allergies that would affect treatment. You can also call any emergency contacts listed by tapping their numbers.

Please, enter your medical and emergency contact details into the Health app right now, and spread the word to everyone you know. It could save your life, or help you save someone else’s!

(Featured image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay)

You Can Now Access Flash Drives on an iPhone or iPad—Here’s How

An unexpected and useful feature of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 is also nearly invisible, and for most uses, requires a special adapter. With this feature, the Files app now can “see” external storage devices.

That’s huge—now you can move data to and from an iPhone or iPad using standard flash drives, SD card readers, or even powered USB hard drives. It’s also a great way to play videos and other data that won’t fit in the available free space on your device. (You’ll still need an app on the iOS device that knows how to open the files—for videos, try VLC for Mobile.)

iOS should be able to read any unencrypted file system supported by the Mac’s Disk Utility, including the PC-focused MS-DOS (FAT) and exFAT, and the Apple-focused MacOS Extended (HFS+) and APFS. If you’re formatting a drive for sharing with a PC, we recommend exFAT; for use within the Apple ecosystem, use Mac OS Extended.

Necessary Hardware

If you plan to use a flash drive with an iPhone or iPad regularly, it’s worth buying a new MFi Lightning flash drive that you can plug in directly. Apple’s MFi program should ensure that drives with that label meet the necessary power and file system requirements. Or, if you have a 2018 iPad Pro model with USB-C, get a USB-C flash drive.

But what about all those USB flash drives and hard drives you already have? To connect those to a Lightning-based iPhone or iPad, you’ll need Apple’s $39 Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. For the USB-C iPad Pro models, any USB-C hub with a USB-A port should work.

There is one big gotcha, which is that many USB flash drives require 500 milliamps (mA) of power, which is more than the iPhone or iPad can provide. When that’s the case, iOS will usually alert you to the problem (or the drive simply won’t show up in Files). You’ll need to provide extra power by plugging a standard Lightning-to-USB cable into the adapter and a power source. That passthrough power should usually be enough to charge the device and run the flash drive, although we’ve seen flash drives that work with the iPhone 11 Pro but not with a 10.5-inch iPad Pro. (Avoid Apple’s older $29 Lightning to USB Camera Adapter, which supports only the slower USB 2 and doesn’t provide passthrough power.)

Happily, flash drives that require only 100 mA of power work fine without additional power. To learn how much power a drive requires, connect it to your Mac, open the System Information app (in the Applications folder’s Utilities folder), click USB in the sidebar, select the drive in the USB Device Tree at the top, and then read the Current Required line.

Accessing Your Drive

Once you’ve connected a drive to your device, you can access it in Files. On the iPhone, or if you’re using your iPad in portrait orientation, tap the Browse tab at the bottom of the screen. On an iPad in landscape orientation, Browse appears automatically in the sidebar.

Either way, you can find your drive in the list of locations—remember that flash drives are often called Untitled or have funky names.

Copying Files to and from Your Drive

The Files app works a bit like the Mac’s Finder in that it lets you copy files by dragging or by using Copy and Paste. This latter approach is often easier:

  1. In Files, navigate to the file you want to copy.
  2. Tap and hold it until a popover appears with commands.
  3. Tap Copy in the popover.
  4. Tap the Browse tab to return to the Browse screen, and then tap your flash drive.
  5. Tap a blank spot in the flash drive’s directory, and then tap Paste in the popover.

Moving a file works similarly, except that once you tap Move in the popover, iOS displays a list of destinations.

Dragging to copy a file is easier on the iPad if you open two Files windows showing different locations in Split View. With Files as the frontmost app, swipe up to reveal the Dock, and then tap and hold the Files icon briefly so you can drag it to the left or right edge of the screen. Then, to copy files, simply drag them from one view to the other.

Even without Split View, you can also drag to copy files on the iPhone. Tap and hold the file you want to copy, but instead of letting up or working with the popover, start dragging. Then, with another finger (your thumb may work well), tap the Browse tab to switch back to the Browse screen, and then keep dragging the file onto your flash drive. If you’re dextrous, you can even tap the flash drive with another finger to open it—do this to nest the dragged file into a sub-folder on the flash drive.

Obviously, you can also use the commands in the tap-and-hold popover to perform numerous other actions on files. These commands include Duplicate, Delete, Info, Quick Look, Tags, Rename, Share, Compress, and Create PDF.

One last thing. On the Mac, you need to eject external storage devices manually by dragging their icons to the Trash, Control-clicking them and choosing Eject, or pressing Command-E. Once you’ve done that, you can unplug the drive. Happily, that’s not necessary for drives mounted in iOS—just use common sense and don’t remove a flash drive while files are being read or written.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

iOS 13 Makes Editing Text Easier

Let’s be honest—text editing in iOS has never been anywhere near as good as it is on the Mac. We may be more accustomed to our mice and keyboards, but the Multi-Touch interface has always been clumsy when it comes to text. Apple keeps trying to improve iOS’s text editing features, and iOS 13 (and iPadOS 13) brings some welcome changes in how we go about positioning the text insertion point, selecting text, and performing the familiar options in the Mac’s Edit menu: Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo/Redo. Has it caught up with the Mac yet? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, once you’ve learned the new techniques.

Note that these changes apply only to spots in iOS where you’re entering and editing text, not selecting and copying static, read-only text such as a Web page in Safari. And even when you are working on a Web page where you can enter and edit text, the site may override iOS’s text handling.

Insertion Point Positioning

Positioning the insertion point on the Mac is easy—you move the cursor to the right spot and click. In previous versions of iOS, you could tap to put the insertion point at the start or end of a word, or press and hold briefly to bring up a magnifying glass that let you put the insertion point anywhere, including within a word. It was slow and awkward, and made better mostly by trackpad mode, which you could invoke by long-pressing the Space bar.

iOS 13 improves positioning by letting you press and hold the insertion point to pick it up and then drag it to where you want it. This approach is much easier and more sensible than the previous method.

Selecting Text

On the Mac, you can select text with multiple clicks, by clicking and dragging, or by using the keyboard. In iOS, however, text selection has always been tough—you could double-tap to select a word, but anything else required subsequent moving of start and end markers. (On an iPad with a keyboard, you could hold Shift and use the arrow keys too.)

Happily, iOS 13 improves text selection. To start, you can still double-tap to select a word, but you can also triple-tap to select a sentence (shown below) and even tap four times in quick succession to select an entire paragraph. Unfortunately, these selection shortcuts may not work in all apps, but you can always fall back on the previous approach.

For selections of an arbitrary length, just press, pause ever so briefly to start selecting, and then drag to extend the selection. In other words, it’s as close to the Mac approach as is possible with the Multi-Touch interface. If the selection isn’t quite right, you can adjust the start and end markers.

Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo Gestures

Everyone knows Command-X for Cut, Command-C for Copy, Command-V for Paste, and Command-Z for Undo on the Mac. In previous versions of iOS, those commands were available only from a popover that appeared when text was selected, or (for Paste) when you pressed and held in a text area. The only command with a gesture, so to speak, was Undo. At the risk of dropping it, you could shake your iOS device to undo your last action. Not good.

iOS 13 introduces a variety of three-finger gestures to make these commands quick and easy to invoke. Note that you can use the entire screen for these gestures—it’s OK to make them with one finger over the keyboard.

  • Copy: To copy selected text, pinch in with three fingers, or, more likely, your thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
  • Cut: To cut (copy and then delete) selected text, perform the copy gesture twice in quick succession.
  • Paste: To paste the text you’ve copied at the insertion point, reverse the action—pinching out (spreading) with three fingers.
  • Undo: To undo a mistake, immediately swipe left or tap twice with three fingers. You can keep swiping or double-tapping to undo more actions.
  • Redo: To redo the action that you just undid, swipe right with three fingers.

Whenever you use one of these gestures, a little feedback badge appears at the top of the screen to reinforce what you just did.

If you can’t remember which direction to pinch or swipe, press and hold with three fingers anywhere for a second to see a shortcut bar at the top of the screen with icons for Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Redo.

Finally, instead of using Cut and Paste to move a swath of selected text, try dragging it to the new position.

Slide to Type

Various third-party keyboards have provided “slide-to-type” over the years, letting you type a word by sliding your finger from letter to letter on the keyboard without lifting it up in between. But switching to a third-party keyboard meant that you often gave up useful other features, like Siri dictation, so most people stuck with Apple’s default keyboard.

On the iPhone, iOS 13 now lets you slide to type on its default keyboard, and it works surprisingly well. In iPadOS 13, slide-to-type works only on the new floating keyboard you can get by pinching with two fingers on the default keyboard (pinch out with two fingers to restore the default keyboard). When you get to the end of a word, lift your finger to insert it, and then start sliding again for the next word. If you make a mistake, the suggestions above the keyboard often provide the word you want. You can switch between tapping (best for unusual words) and sliding on a word-by-word basis.

Make a mistake with sliding? By default, tap Delete after inserting a slide-to-type word to delete the whole word, not just the final letter. If you don’t like that behavior, turn off Delete Slide-to-Type by Word in Settings > General > Keyboard.

(Featured image by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay)

Everything You Need to Know about Multitasking in iPadOS 13

With this year’s operating system updates, Apple has formally acknowledged that the iPhone and iPad have different uses and different needs. To that end, Apple has given the iPad version of iOS 13 its own name—iPadOS 13.

The big changes include a desktop-class version of Safari that works better with complex Web apps, a redesigned Home screen that sports more icons and Today View widgets, a new floating keyboard you can use for thumb-typing or with one hand, Apple Pencil improvements, and the Sidecar feature that lets you use an iPad as a Mac’s second screen or graphics tablet.

Also important are the tweaks Apple made to iPadOS’s multitasking capabilities. Particularly when you pair an iPad with a Smart Keyboard, you can now get real work done on an iPad more fluidly than ever before. The “hard” part is learning how you switch between apps, display a second app in a Slide Over panel that floats on top of another app, or make two apps share the screen in Split View. Here’s what you can do.

Switch Between Apps

Moving between apps is a key aspect of using the iPad. Apple has provided multiple ways to switch so you can pick those that best fit your style:

  • Press the Home button, and on the Home screen, tap another app’s icon.
  • Swipe down on the Home screen to show Siri app suggestions and search for any app.
  • Within an app, swipe left or right with four fingers to switch to the previous or next app.
  • Within an app, swipe up from below the bottom of the screen to reveal the Dock, and then tap an icon on it. The three rightmost icons are your most recently used apps.
  • After revealing the Dock, keep swiping up to reveal the app-switching screen, then tap an app thumbnail to switch to it. Swipe right to see less recently used apps.
  • On a physical keyboard, press Command-Tab to bring up a Mac-like app switcher. Release both keys quickly to switch to the previous app instantly, or keep Command down while you press Tab repeatedly to move sequentially among the shown apps, letting up on Command to switch. While the app switcher is shown, you can also tap an icon in it.

Display an App in Slide Over

Say you’re working on your iPad, perhaps in Safari, and you want to keep an eye on your favorite weather app (we like Dark Sky) because an upcoming storm might affect your upcoming bike ride. You don’t need to see both apps all the time, but you also don’t want to have to switch back and forth. With Slide Over, you can put Dark Sky in a panel that floats over Safari and then hide and show it.

The easiest way to put an app in a Slide Over panel is to use the Dock, so this technique works best if the app’s icon is already on the Dock. For instance, while you’re in Safari, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to display the Dock. Then touch and hold the Dark Sky app’s icon until it dims slightly. Keeping your finger down, drag the icon over Safari until it becomes a vertical lozenge.

Lift your finger, and Dark Sky appears in Slide Over. (If you get a horizontal rectangle instead of a vertical lozenge, the app won’t work in Slide Over because it needs a larger window.)

If the app you want to put in Slide Over isn’t on your Dock, you can use a two-handed procedure to get it from another location and drop it onto another app. Working on the Home screen or the Siri search screen, start dragging an app icon (it’s OK if the icons start wiggling). Then use your other hand to switch to the other app (perhaps by swiping right with four fingers or pressing Command-Tab on a physical keyboard) and drop it over the other app. Don’t worry if you have trouble at first—it takes time to become accustomed to two-handed usage.

Once an app is in Slide Over on the right side of the screen, you can swipe right on its left edge or the gray bar at the top to hide it, or swipe left on its right edge or gray bar to move it to the other side of the screen. If Slide Over is hidden, swipe left from the right edge of the screen to display it.

If you think Slide Over looks a bit like an iPhone app on your iPad screen, iPadOS 13’s big enhancement will make sense. You can now open multiple apps in Slide Over—just drag a new app over the main app as you would normally. Once you have two or more apps in Slide Over, you can cycle through them by swiping right or left on the thick black bar at the bottom, just like on a Face ID-equipped iPhone. To see what you’ve got in Slide Over, swipe up slightly on that thick black bar to display a Slide Over app switcher; tap any thumbnail to switch to it.

Open Multiple Apps in Split View

Imagine that you want to email someone a photo you took, so you want Mail and Photos showing at the same time. Displaying two apps side-by-side in Split View is nearly the same action as Slide Over. The difference is that, instead of dropping the app lozenge on top of the current app, you drag it to the far left or right of the screen, and drop it once the screen shows a 90/10 split—after you drop, the split changes to 50/50.

Drag the handle between the apps to switch to a 70/30 or 30/70 split; if you drag the handle all the way to one side of the screen, the app that’s shrinking in size disappears entirely. Both apps in Split View have a handle at the top as well, and dragging one of those down slightly converts that app into a Slide Over panel.

Bonus tip: If you’ve become comfortable with Split View, note that you can also grab an app by that handle and drop it to the left or right of another app—switch apps with your other hand—to move it to another Split View space. (You can also drag a Slide Over app’s handle down slightly to switch it to Split View.)

New in iPadOS is the capability to open multiple windows from the same app. Not all apps support this (or Split View at all), but Safari and Notes are good examples of apps that do. To do this, while in the app, bring up the Dock, tap the app’s icon, and then tap the + button in the upper-right corner of the screen.

There are more direct ways of opening multiple windows from the same app too. In Safari, tap and hold the Tabs icon (two stacked squares) and then tap Open New Window to get a second Safari window. You can also drag a tab from Safari’s Tab bar to the side of the screen to open it in Split View.

Similarly, you can drag notes from the sidebar in Notes to open them in Split View, either as a second Notes window within the same space, or as an addition to a new Split View space.

With all these possibilities, it’s easy to get confused about what’s open where. The iPadOS app switcher now displays thumbnails of the Split View spaces so you can switch among them easily.

And if you aren’t sure which space has a particular Safari window, for instance, tap and hold the Safari icon in the Dock (or anywhere else) and choose Show All Windows to see all the spaces—including Slide Over—that include Safari windows (Apple calls this App Exposé).

Take a few minutes and try putting apps in Slide Over and Split View in different ways, since some of the actions require practice before they feel natural. Finally, if combining two particular apps doesn’t seem to work, don’t fret. Apps must specifically support both Slide Over and Split View, and not all do.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Some of Our Favorite Features of macOS 10.15 Catalina

Some of Our Favorite Features of macOS 10.15 Catalina

In a break from Apple’s pattern of alternating cycle of releases, macOS 10.15 Catalina is not a refinement of 10.14 Mojave like 10.13 High Sierra was for 10.12 Sierra. Instead, Catalina boasts significant changes, both obvious things like new apps and less-obvious things like under-the-hood improvements. Here are some of our favorites.

iTunes Is Dead! Long Live Music, TV, and Podcasts

After 18 years of being a fixture on the Mac, the increasingly bloated iTunes has been replaced with a trio of independent apps: Music, TV, and Podcasts. Note that the iOS device syncing features of iTunes have moved to the sidebar in Finder windows.

Major App Updates: Reminders, Notes, and Photos

The ease of telling Siri “Remind me to touch base with Javier tomorrow at 10 AM” has long made Reminders useful, but the Reminders app itself was weak. Apple has overhauled it in Catalina, giving it a completely new interface that lets you create smart lists that collect tasks from multiple lists, add attachments to tasks, and click buttons to add dates, times, locations, and flags to reminders instantly. Best of all, lists finally have their own sort orders! Note that to see some of the new features, you must upgrade your Reminders database on all your devices and those of anyone with whom you share lists, so you may need to wait until everything and everyone is up to date.

Notes gains a new gallery view that provides thumbnail instead of a scrolling list. More practically, you can now share entire folders as well as notes, and for both, you can limit collaborators to read-only mode. If you use lists in Notes, you’ll like the new checklist features for reordering list items, moving checked items to the bottom, and easily unchecking all items to reuse the list.

With Photos, Apple redesigned how the main Photos view displays your pictures. Previously, it started with Years, zoomed in to Collections, and zoomed in again to Moments. Now Photos uses a more sensible Years, Months, Days hierarchy, with Years and Months using a large, easily viewed grid, and Days showing selected thumbnails of different sizes to focus attention on the best images. All Photos still shows everything in a grid. Apple also enhanced the machine-learning aspects of Photos so it can better understand who is in each shot and what’s happening—this helps Photos to highlight important moments and create better Memories. And you can now edit Memory movies on the Mac as well as iOS.

Screen Time Replaces Parental Controls

Last year, iOS 12 introduced Screen Time, which helps you monitor app usage and how often you’re distracted by pickups or notifications. Plus, it lets you set limits on particular categories of apps and make sure you don’t use your device when you should be sleeping. Even better, it enables you to manage what your kids can do on their iOS devices, when they can do it, and for how long.

All that goodness has now migrated to the Mac in Catalina, replacing the old parental controls, so if your middle-schooler needs help avoiding games when homework is due, or in putting the Mac to sleep when it’s bedtime, the new Screen Time pane of System Preferences has the controls you need. It also provides a wide variety of content and privacy controls.

Voice Control Your Mac

Although Apple has buried the new Voice Control settings in System Preferences > Accessibility > Voice Control, if you’ve ever wanted to control your Mac with your voice, give it a try. It’s astonishing, and you really can run through a set of commands and dictation like this:

Open TextEdit. Click New Document. ‘Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent comma a new nation comma conceived in liberty comma and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal period’ Click File menu. Click Save. ‘Gettysburg address.’ Click Save button.

You can even use your voice to edit the text you dictate! Make sure to scan through the full set of commands to see what’s possible, and remember that you can add your own commands.

Enhanced Security and Privacy

Apple continues to improve macOS’s security and privacy controls in a variety of ways:

  • In Catalina, the operating system runs in a dedicated read-only system volume that prevents anything from overwriting or subverting critical files.
  • Kernel extensions, which are often required for hardware peripherals, now run separately from macOS, preventing them from causing crashes or security vulnerabilities.
  • All new apps, whether from the App Store or directly from developers, must now be “notarized,” which means Apple has checked them for known security issues.
  • Macs with Apple’s T2 security chip now support Activation Lock in Catalina, so if they’re stolen, there’s no way to erase and reactivate them.
  • Catalina now plays a mean game of “Mother, May I?,” so apps will have to ask permission to access data in your main folders, before they can perform keylogging, and if they want to capture still or video recordings of your screen, among other things. Apps even have to ask to be allowed to put up notifications. Be prepared for an awful lot of access-request dialogs.

 

Attach an iPad Sidecar to Your Mac

Our final favorite feature in Catalina is Sidecar, which enables you to connect an iPad to your Mac and use it as a secondary screen, either extending your Desktop or mirroring what’s on the main display. It does require a relatively recent Mac and an iPad running iOS 13, but it works either wired or wireless.

On the iPad, you can keep using Multi-Touch gestures, and Sidecar even supports the Apple Pencil so you can use the iPad like a graphics tablet. Apps that have Touch Bar support will display their controls on the bottom of the iPad screen, even on Macs without a Touch Bar.

More Smaller Features

Those are our favorite big features, but Catalina boasts plenty of smaller ones too:

  • A new Find My app combines Find My iPhone and Find My Friends into one.
  • Find My can locate offline devices using crowd-sourced locations.
  • Apple Watch users can authenticate anywhere on the Mac by double-clicking the side button. (Oh, thank you, Apple!)
  • Mail can block email from specified senders and move their messages directly to the trash.
  • You can mute specific Mail threads to stop notifications from chatty email conversations.

Enough! We’ll keep covering new Catalina features, but once you upgrade, spend some time exploring, since there are so many neat new things you can do. And remember, we recommend caution when upgrading your Mac—see our earlier article on that topic.

(Featured image by Apple)