Your MacBook is about to run cross-platform iPad apps much better

Ever since launching Mac Catalyst with MacOS Mojave in 2018, Apple’s project to port mobile apps to the Mac has been something of a mixed bag. With the latest update to the Mac operating system, though, things might start looking up.

That’s because the MacOS Big Sur 11.3 beta introduces a few much-needed changes to the way iPhone and iPad apps look and feel on the Mac. For instance, iPad apps will take up more screen space rather than a miniature box, as was often previously the case. Many iPad apps running on the Mac cannot be resized, which makes this size problem more pronounced. Hopefully, this latest beta will make that less of an issue.

Elsewhere, the MacOS 11.3 beta improves the way touchscreen controls are translated onto Macs using keyboards, mice, and trackpads. There is a new preferences pane containing options for “touch alternatives,” allowing you to set substitutes for taps, gestures, swipes, drags and more. You can enable multi-finger gestures by holding the Option key and using the trackpad, too.

These changes are welcome, and are another step in the right direction after Apple made major improvements to its own Mac Catalyst apps with the release of MacOS Big Sur. We expect to see further progress as third-party developers spend more time improving their cross-platform apps.

Apple's Andreas Wendker speaking at WWDC 2020

These are not the only changes contained in the MacOS 11.3 beta. The latest Big Sur update also brings with it tweaks to several built-in Apple apps. For instance, the Reminders app now lets you sort your tasks by title, due date, priority, or creation date. You can also now print your reminders if carrying a digital copy of them is not practical.

Safari’s customizable start page — a new feature in MacOS Big Sur — is now even more adaptable. Whereas previously you could add and remove sections for your favorite websites, Siri suggestions, your reading list, and more, you can now rearrange these sections into your preferred order. Even more promising, developers will be able to use a new API to create their own Start Page extensions. There is also a web speech API that allows websites to integrate speech recognition.

Apple Music and News also get a few small tweaks, such as a new shortcut to the Made for You playlist in Music and changes to the design of the Apple News+ tab in News. Finally, Big Sur now supports the latest Xbox and PlayStation DualSense controllers — good news for Mac gamers.

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