Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Catalyst Apps From MacOS Mojave Not Updated in Catalina

John Gruber on Twitter:

Catalyst apps on Catalina:

News and Stocks: still can’t open articles in their own windows.

Voice Memos: still can’t open more than one recording at a time.

Home: still looks like this.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming macOS Catalina update to its public beta testing group, giving non-developers a chance to try out the software ahead of its fall public release.

Michael Tsai:

It seems to be essentially the same as Developer Beta 2, which is surprising both because that version is a bit rough and because it doesn’t contain the redesigned Catalyst apps that Craig Federighi said would be in the public beta.

Tsai seems to be referring to a story from Jason Hiner of CNet:

Good news. Apple is fixing them. At WWDC 2019 earlier this month, Apple announced Project Catalyst, which streamlines the process for all software makers to bring their own iOS apps to Mac. In an interview with CNET at WWDC, Apple software chief Craig Federighi confirmed that the four iOS apps for Mac released last year will get major updates based on the new technology in Project Catalyst. But he also revealed that the apps will get new designs to make them more Mac-like.

“They’re getting improvements,” Federighi said. “The underlying technology has matured … Some of that is super low-level stuff. Some people have dissected those apps and realized that they were sort of two halves: an AppKit half and a UIKit half, literally running in different processes. That’s all unified now. This has become much more of a native Mac framework … So automatically, the apps we built last year are upgraded.”


“We’ve looked at the design and features of some of those apps and said we can make this a bit more of a Mac experience through changes that are independent of the use of Catalyst, but are just design team decisions,” Federighi said. “When I read some of the initial reviews of those apps, people were saying, ‘Obviously this technology is causing them to do things that don’t feel Mac-like.’ Honestly, 90% of those were just decisions that designers made … People took that as ‘this feels iOS-y’ and therefore they thought it was a technology thing. Actually, it was a designer preference. So part of [the upgrade] is we said we’ve got to co-evolve with our user base around the aesthetics of the Mac experience. And so we made some adjustments to the apps.”

Andrew Cunningham:

I’m told the apps as-is are basically feature-complete. The reporting around that quote overstated/misunderstood what he was talking about, which was mainly the under-the-hood architectural stuff that’s already in the betas.

Hiner’s quotes from Federighi describing the improvements in Catalina for existing Catalyst apps is hard to interpret the way Cunningham’s sources seem to have done. Most of it reads as an explanation of how the underlying architectural improvements have made the MacOS apps, but there’s a clear nod to visual changes in that last sentences I quoted. Alas, there’s basically no difference between, say, News in Mojave and News in Catalina.

The new Catalyst-based Podcast app in MacOS Catalina is better visually — well, for the most part — but it still doesn’t feel like a Mac app, as Jason Snell noted about Music in his preview of the public beta:

Despite being sourced largely from iTunes, the Music and TV apps have been given a new coat of paint, with more colorful sidebars—and the Podcasts app has been designed to match, giving the three media apps a consistency that might surprise you if you think that apps built via Catalyst won’t feel the same as apps built explicitly for macOS.

Music feels like a version of iTunes that’s been heavily influenced by Apple’s decisions on iOS. Up Next and Lyrics panes now slide out over the interface, obscuring what’s behind—essentially the inverse of the old drawer metaphor in the early days of Mac OS X. It’s a decision that makes sense if you’ve got a single-window interface, but I don’t use my Mac in full screen mode and I didn’t mind the popover approach that iTunes took with those windows. The deck chairs have been rearranged on the top-level play bar — Now Playing content is now aligned left, with controls moved to the center and volume to the right.

Podcasts incorporates many of the same attributes, including the excellent consistency between the other MacOS media apps and the infuriating insistence on a monolithic single window app. Apple has been trending in this direction for a while now with pretty much every cross-platform app they’ve built — witness the transition in iWork apps from floating Inspectors to formatting panels. I was rather hoping things would move in the other direction: Mac apps should be capable of having multiple windows by default. At least let users detach panels where appropriate.

My unwarranted hope is that everything is getting rebuilt in SwiftUI and this is only transitional.

Update: Rene Ritchie also says that the four Catalyst apps from Mojave will be receiving little love in Catalina, so I’m not sure what Federighi meant by his comments.