We’ve been really enjoying our time with MacOS Catalina so far. Apple has made a number of improvements to its operating system that really make a difference to the way you use your Mac, from simple things like helpful new views in Notes and Photos to more control in the form of Screen Time.
But nothing’s perfect, and that’s definitely the case for MacOS Catalina. Apple had a great opportunity to fix some of the glaring issues left over from MacOS Mojave, but for whatever reason those problems have persisted. While they’re not “game breaking,” we still wish Apple had fixed them in Catalina. The good news is it’s not too late! Because Catalina is still in beta, we could see some of these things changed. But as of now, here are five things we wish MacOS Catalina had fixed.
Mojave’s Project Catalyst apps still need an overhaul
MacOS Mojave was the first Mac operating system to introduce Project Catalyst apps, which use the same code base on both Mac and iOS. The idea is that it’ll help developers easily get their apps from Apple’s mobile platforms to the desktop, with Apple’s own News, Home, Stocks and Voice Memos leading the way in Mojave.
The problem was that they just didn’t feel very Mac-like. They broke with long-established Mac design conventions, in some cases feeling like they were simply lazy iOS ports rather than well thought out apps at home on Mac computers. That this was the case with apps made by Apple — you know, the company that’s meant to be a design visionary — was worrying to say the least.
Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi has gone on record to say that improvements will be coming in Catalina to the original Project Catalyst apps, but so far very little has changed in the public beta. Moreover, the new Catalyst apps released in Catalina — Music, Podcasts and TV — have a lot of problems themselves, and still don’t feel at home on the Mac. If Federighi’s improvements simply make Mojave’s Project Catalyst apps look more like the Catalina ones, we’re not sure that’s a real improvement.
Finder could do with some tweaks
Let’s be clear: I like Finder. It’s a perfectly acceptable file browser, and helps you get from point A to point B with minimal fuss. But at the same time, it could be more than just fine with a few simple tweaks — tweaks that are sadly lacking in MacOS Catalina.
We’ll take an example from Windows. Let’s say you’re browsing a folder for your latest project in Windows Explorer, and then want to save a Word document to that folder. Windows lets you copy the folder’s location from Windows Explorer and then paste it into the save dialog in Word, quickly taking you to the correct folder.
In Finder, you can’t do that. Sure, you can drag and drop the location’s icon from its Finder title bar into the save dialog, but that’s nowhere near as quick. It involves some fiddly dragging and dropping and moving the Finder window to make sure it’s not in the way of the dialog box, exacerbated if you’re using a trackpad rather than a mouse. We get it — this is Apple’s solution, but it’s not exactly obvious that you need to drag a tiny icon into the app you’re using, is it? We find the Windows solution much simpler.
App Store editorials need to be easier to find
A couple of years ago, Apple gave its iOS and Mac App Stores a major overhaul. Alongside a new design came a greater emphasis on editorial content, with daily round-ups of useful apps, each organised along a theme.
These are great, and really aid discoverability. This is a problem that has plagued the App Store for years, but the round-ups help to surface new apps you may never have found otherwise.
The problem is that these round-ups are ephemeral. Once they’ve slid off the App Store’s home page, they’re very difficult to find again. While you can share and view them in a browser, you only get a brief preview that doesn’t even tell you what apps are included. If you didn’t have time to read them the first time or forgot a useful-looking app included in one of the articles, you’re stuffed.
It seems like this would be such a simple tweak for Apple: Publish the round-ups in full on the web and make them easier to find on the App Store. We understand that Apple wants you to read these stories in the App Store itself, but the Mac App Store is gigantic, and finding apps can be damn-near impossible at times. Come on Apple, make life a little easier for us.
Apple Maps needs a web app
Speaking of things missing from the web, let’s talk about Apple Maps. Apple has taken the laudable step of positioning Apple Maps as the privacy-minded mapping app, in contrast to Google Maps’ data-guzzling bad habits.
In Apple Maps, personalized data (such as when you should leave for an appointment) is only stored on your device and not on Apple’s servers. Any info the app collects (like search terms, traffic data and navigation steps) is given a random identifier that can’t be tied back to your Apple ID; the end result is that no one can work out where and when you like to travel (and thus when your house might be empty and ripe for burglary), not even Apple.
But while there are Mac and iOS apps for Maps, there’s no web app. While this may seem small, it’s significant. Let’s say you’re at a relative’s house who owns a Windows PC. You’re leaving in an hour and want to see what the traffic will be like, but Apple Maps on iOS doesn’t let you do this. Seeing as your relative doesn’t have a Mac, you have to use Google Maps on their PC — and give up on Apple’s stringent privacy features in the process.
It’s small things like this that can undercut Apple’s otherwise commendable privacy efforts. It’s made even stranger by the fact that Apple already has a load of its native apps on the web in iCloud. If anyone can use apps like Pages and Numbers for free in iCloud, why can’t they do the same with Maps?
Auto fill is missing from Mail
When it comes to my emails, I’m a shameful heathen and use Gmail more often than I use Apple’s Mail app. One thing this has highlighted to me is that Google has really nailed it when it comes to auto filling messages in Gmail.
As you start typing a message in Gmail, you’ll get suggestions on what to type next. For example, you could end a message with “Thanks, I’ll” and Gmail will suggest you finish it off with “let you know if I need anything else.” To enter that text, you just need to tap Tab and it’ll be filled out for you.
It’s the same with email headers: Gmail automatically suggests titles based on the message content. It doesn’t always get it right, but the results are usually acceptable if you need to get a message quickly out the door.
What’s more, if you’re feeling really lazy then Gmail has pre-filled quick responses that can be fired off in just a click. If a colleague has sent you a file you need for work, Gmail will give you three buttons with standard responses like “Thanks!” or “Much appreciated” that can be quickly clicked and sent off into the ether.
In MacOS Catalina, Mail doesn’t do any of these things. Don’t get me wrong, Mail is a great email app, but adopting some of Gmail’s auto fill features would go a long way to making it even better.