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by Tom Nelson

For some reason, it seems as if iTunes is the app people love to hate. So when macOS Catalina drove a stake through the heart of the iTunes app, splitting it into three different apps, I expected peals of joy from the masses. Instead, it seems more like a bit of gloom and doom. Many are worried about their vast collections of music already stored in iTunes becoming inaccessible, or that the new Apple Music app is going to cut them off from music not originating with Apple.

Fear not; the Music app is akin to iTunes, retaining many of the same features, though the interface has been modernized, requiring some effort to adjust to for diehard iTunes users.

Using the Apple Music App

When you upgraded to macOS Catalina, the Music app acquired your existing music collection. Every song you purchased, ripped, or uploaded; no matter how you acquired the tune, if you imported it into your old iTunes library, it will be available in the new Music app. You’ll also find your playlists, ratings, and any music file metadata, such as composer, writer, lyrics, or artwork, that you may have.

You may notice some content appears to be missing. Actually, Apple just reorganized things a bit, and some media types are now handled by the new Podcast and TV apps, as well as the Finder.

The Music app is dedicated to music, including content stored locally on your Mac, as well as music you may have in the cloud, such as from iTunes Match or from the streaming Apple Music service (subscription required).

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A typical Music app display showing the user’s music library organized by album. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Music app interface is much easier to use than the cumbersome iTunes app. It has three basic panes:

Toolbar: Located on the top of the Music app window, the toolbar contains the basic playback controls: volume control, current track info, and an Up Next menu and Lyrics menu.

Sidebar: Located along the left side of the window, the Sidebar is used to control the type of content that will be displayed in the main viewing pane. Currently the sidebar allows you to select from the three basic Music app services: Apple Music, the subscription streaming service; Library, which allows you to access both local music and music you’ve stored in iCloud; the iTunes Store, which lets you purchase new music.

There are other optional categories that can appear in the Music app sidebar, depending on how you use the app. If you have playlists, they will be listed in a Playlist category, and if you connect an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, it will be listed in the Devices section. CDs or DVDs will appear in the Devices section as well.

Main Viewing Pane: This centrally located windowpane lists the content of whatever function you’ve selected in the Sidebar. You can browse Apple Music content, select Apple Music Radio channels to listen to, see your music library lists by artist, album, song, or by recently added, visit the iTunes Store to purchase new music, or manage your playlists.

Playing Your Music Library

Use the sidebar to select one of the possible Library functions: Recently Added, Artists, Albums, or Songs.

The main pane will display your library content as selected in the sidebar.

  • By Album: Hover over an album title to display a Play button.
  • By Artist: Select an artist’s name to view all of their content. You can click the Play button and select individual albums and songs, or click the Play button at the top of the page to play all of the artist’s content.
  • By Song: Double-click or tap an item from the song list to start playing the music.

You can also use the Sidebar to select a playlist, which will provide the options to play the playlist in the current order, or to shuffle the list when it plays.

Playing the Apple Music Service

If you’re an Apple Music subscriber, you’ll find the usual controls for the streaming service in the Music sidebar:

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Apple Music’s subscription service is available from the Music app’s sidebar. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

For You: Apple Music can use your musical history, that is, the songs and artists you’ve already been listening to, to suggest new artists or songs you may enjoy.

Browse: The Apple Music subscription service has over 30 million song titles. Go ahead and browse through them. Apple Music will lend a hand, guiding you through the vast music collection, organizing music genres, tastes, what’s new, recently added, or updated. Or, you can plow ahead on your own.

Radio: Beats 1 is the primary radio offering, with DJs from around the world programming music content to match your preferences; or, you can be bold and strike out to find new curated selections of music, interviews with leaders in the music industry, music news, and more.

The Radio offering is much more than just a music channel. It’s a great way to be exposed to new music as well as listen to your old favorites.

iTunes Store

Not much has changed with the iTunes Store; you’ll find the usual Best of the Week, Top Songs, Top Albums, featured new music, and music by genre. You can still buy and redeem gift cards.

You can access the iTunes store from the Music app sidebar.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

 

 

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by Tom Nelson

We all have favorite apps that we tend to install right away on a new Mac. For the most part, these are the apps we use every day to assist us in how we use our Macs. Your favorites may include office suites, photo organizers and editors, video editors, audio production tools, developer tools, or your favorite collection of games.

There’s another category of apps that tends to get overlooked but is no less important in helping you use your Mac for your favorite activities. These apps range from utilities that help you perform tasks or help troubleshoot and keep your Mac in good shape, to apps for lesser-known activities but ones that just may pique your interest.

10 Uncommon Mac Apps You Should Consider

This is my list of 10 uncommon Mac apps that deserve a tryout. You may not find all of them to your liking; you may not even agree that an app is uncommon, but I think that a few of these apps will have you wondering why you haven’t heard of it before.

Stellarium: https://stellarium.org

Stellarium’s view of the sky as it would be seen from our backyard. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium app for the Mac. There are also versions available for Linux and Windows, as well as a web-based version. Stellarium includes a basic catalog of over 600,000 stars, as well as an extended catalog of 177 million stars. You’ll also find 80,000 deep sky objects, with an extra deep sky catalog that contains an additional one million objects.

Stellarium excels at many levels but is a real champ at helping you to learn your way around the sky, discover the constellations, identify the planets, and explore deep space objects, all using a photorealistic representation of the nighttime sky from your location, or for that matter, any location on earth, and from any time, past, present, or future.

Cost: Free

KStars: https://edu.kde.org/kstars/

KStars provides a free graphical simulation of the night sky, allowing you to view the cosmos as seen from anywhere on the earth, at any time. The KStars database includes 100 million stars and 13,000 deep space objects, along with all the planets, moons, the sun, and known asteroids and comets in the solar system.

Besides letting you view the night sky on your Mac, KStars tells you “What’s Up Tonight” to let you know about interesting events in the night sky. KStar can also be used to control planetariums, telescopes, astrophotography, most CCD and DSLR cameras, focusers, and filters.

KStars is a great tool for those who wish to do a bit more than just identify nighttime objects.

Cost: Free

SoundSource: https://rogueamoeba.com/soundsource/

SoundSource’s control panel lets you control audio settings on an app-by-app basis. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The sound control panel you always wished your Mac had. SoundSource allows you to control audio on a per app basis. You can set the volume level as well as the audio device to use for each app you use. Send your music to your USB speakers, but when you switch to FaceTime for a chat with friends, you can have the audio routed to your headset and SoundSource will remember and make the change for you every time.

SoundSource not only lets you route audio input and output, but you can sweeten the sound using the ten-band equalizer, balance control, and support for Audio Unit effects.

I can’t imagine using a Mac without SoundSource’s superb audio control capabilities.

Cost: $29.00; free trial available

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

macOS Catalina has some interesting new features, including Screen Time and Sidecar, and new apps, including Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV, that essentially replace iTunes. But behind the scenes, macOS Catalina has a number of new security features designed to ensure the Mac remains a safe and secure environment, protecting users from exploits and malware without creating obstacles or placing limits on how you can use your Mac.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the security changes in macOS Catalina, and how they’ll affect users and developers.

macOS Catalina Security

Catalina’s security is spread across a number of areas, including:

System security: Protects the foundation of the operating system.

Data protection: Protects user data from unauthorized access.

App security: Protects a Mac and its users from malware, and ensures apps run in a secure environment.

Device management: Prevents unauthorized use of Macs (and other Apple devices), and allows data to be wiped on lost or stolen devices.

The security features included with macOS Catalina are designed to address one or more of the categories noted above.

System Security

There are a number of changes to the system designed to protect the integrity of the system and keep it safe from malware and wayward apps.

Read-Only System Volume: The startup drive is no longer a single volume; it’s now made up of two APFS volumes: a read-only system volume that contains the macOS, and a data volume that contains all of the user’s data, documents, pictures, user installed apps, just about anything that isn’t part of the macOS.

ReadOnlyVolume640.jpg

Disk Utility shows that the single Macintosh volume you see in the Finder is actually made up of a read-only volume (orange) and a data volume (red). Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

By mounting the system volume as read-only, it’s nearly impossible for any type of malware, or for that matter, a wayward app, to change or compromise the system.

One way to think of this is as an enhancement to SIP (System Integrity Protection), which was used in previous versions of the OS to protect specific directories used by the OS. With Catalina, the entire system volume is protected; not just individual directories.

The read-only system volume prevents any changes to the system, other than those delivered by signed code from Apple, which can perform updates to the volume.

The read-only system volume and the data volume are part of an APFS volume group and appear as a single volume in the Finder. The Mac performs this trick using a new type of file linking system known as firmlinks. Firmlinks have many uses, but one that is used in Catalina is to map various files and directories on the system volume to writeable shadow locations on the data volume.

The read-only system volume and writable data volume, along with the new firmlinks, have implications to how backup systems perform. Make sure your preferred backup system is macOS Catalina-ready before committing to using Catalina beyond a testing or evaluation phase.

Kernel Extensions: Kexts (kernel extensions) are slowly being replaced with system extensions, which will exist outside of the protected system volume. Catalina will be the last macOS that will run existing kexts. Developers working on new drivers (a common use for kexts) will need to use system extensions, which run in user space instead of within the system kernel.

Existing kernel extensions that were installed prior to the installation of Catalina will be able to run, though they may be subject to User-Approved Kernel Extension Loading. Even if you were using a kext previously, you may need to obtain an approval the first time it’s loaded.

Installing kexts or system extensions will likely require a restart of the Mac.

Moving kexts to system extensions that run as separate processes outside of the system ensures that if something is wrong with an extension, either from poor design or an attack from malware, the system itself is not affected.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

 

by Tom Nelson

A bootable version of the macOS Catalina installer is one of the often-overlooked tools a Mac user should have on hand before upgrading to or performing a clean install of Catalina. The bootable installer you create in this guide will be housed on a USB flash drive, but you can use any bootable device you may have lying around, including internal or external drives.

Image of a small OWC flash drive

A bootable flash drive is the preferred method, however; here’s why:

  • It’s small and easy to store in a safe place.
  • It’s inexpensive. You can buy a new USB flash drive large enough for this project for less than $10.
  • All current Macs support booting from a USB port. Macs with Thunderbolt 3 can also use a USB flash drive as bootable media (an adapter may be required).

Why Make a Bootable macOS Catalina Installer?

There are multiple reasons for having a bootable macOS Catalina installer. The four primary reasons are:

  • It allows you to perform a clean install of the operating system on your Mac using the existing startup drive. By booting to the installer, you can perform a full erasure of your normal startup device before installing the new OS.
  • It lets you install the OS on multiple Macs without having to download the installer multiple times.
  • It allows you to archive a copy of the macOS installer, which you may need if you ever want to downgrade to the version on the installer. You may have noticed that with each new version of the macOS that’s released, there are usually some users who have one or more issues with it and wish to return to a previous version. This can usually be done provided you have a copy of the installer for the version of the Mac OS you wish to return to. This bootable installer meets that requirement.
  • It can be used as a bootable troubleshooting tool, letting you access the same apps that are found in the Recovery Volume.

What You Need to Create a Bootable MacOS Installer

The list of items needed to complete this project is fairly basic, and I suspect you may already have everything you need.

A connection to the Internet: You’ll need an Internet connection for downloading the installer from Apple.

A USB flash drive: 8 GB is the minimum size required, at least for all the versions of the macOS through macOS Catalina. Future versions may require larger flash drives, but for now, 8 GB is big enough. Going larger isn’t a bad idea, though; you can use the extra space on the flash drive to store apps and utilities you may need for troubleshooting purposes.

You should also consider using a fast flash drive. A USB 3 flash drive with fast read speeds would be a good choice.

CatalinaInstaller640.jpg

Be sure to quit (Command + Q) the macOS Catalina installer if it starts up after the download is completed.

A copy of the macOS Catalina installer.This is usually downloaded via the Software Update preference pane (macOS Mojave and later), or the Mac App Store (macOS High Sierra and earlier). If you’re working with the beta of the OS, you can find the downloadable version either on the Apple developer site, or Apple’s public beta web site.

About 30 minutes of your time: The amount of time it will take is difficult to estimate; making the bootable flash drive is dependent on the speed of the flash drive you’re using, and whether you’re including the time it will take to download the installer, which is dependent on your Internet connection speed and how much traffic exists when you’re downloading. So, take my 30-minute estimate with a grain of salt.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

The Apple Maps app has been included with the Mac OS since the release of OS X Mavericks. The Maps app provides mapping services that include directions, turn-by-turn navigation, transit time for car, public transit, and walking, 3D modeling of terrain and buildings, trip planning, Flyover, traffic, and quite a few other features.

MapsIcon256.jpg

While the Maps app for the Mac is a powerful mapping tool, it really shines when paired with an iPhone or iPad as a navigation aid. You can even make use of an Apple Watch to guide you to your destination.

Maps History

The Maps app hasn’t always been a hit; some would go so far as to say the original implementation was a flop, with so many errors in the underlying map base that it wasn’t uncommon to hear about people being directed onto farms, or into fields or lakes as part of a route to get from here to there.

Over the years, Apple has been making improvements to the Maps app, adding features and correcting underlying problems with the map base. Eventually, Apple came to the conclusion that mapping was more than a feature needed for Apple devices; it was a core technology needed for the future of Apple.

In 2018, Apple announced that it was rebuilding Maps from the ground up, using mapping data that it was generating from Apple mapping vehicles, as well as crowd-sourced location data gathered from participating iOS users.

Apple has already started rolling out the new mapping data, incorporating it into current versions of Maps, and slowly replacing the mapping data provided by third-party sources, such as TomTom.

Using Maps

We’re going to take a look at a few of the features found in the Maps app for the Mac, specifically for versions included with macOS Sierra and later, with an emphasis on Maps 2.1, which was released with macOS Mojave.

Maps has many uses, including looking up locations, making travel plans, and getting directions. The Maps search bar is likely to be where your trip begins.

If you haven’t already done so, launch Maps, located in the /Applications folder, or click on the Maps icon in the Dock.

Search: Maps includes a search bar located front and center at the top of the Maps window. Click in the search bar and enter the location you’re interested in. You can try searching on addresses, business names, parks, schools, street names, cities, states, and countries.

As you enter the search criteria, Maps will generate search suggestions. You can select from suggestions as a shortcut to entering a full name.

If the search query returns a result (and it usually will), Maps will display the location and drop a red pin, indicating its exact location on the map.

Favorites: Over time you’ll likely build up a number of locations you keep returning to. You can make returning to these locations easier by adding them to your list of Favorites.

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Store the places you keep returning to in your Favorites for quick access. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

  • Add to Favorites: Favorites are added from within the information card associated with a red pin or a pin you drop on the map. Click or tap the information icon in the banner next to a pin. If no banner is visible, try clicking or tapping the pin to make it visible. Once the information card is displayed, select the Favorites button to add the location to your list of favorites.
  • Accessing Favorites: In the search bar, click or tap the magnifying glass. From the dropdown suggestion list, select Favorites. A list of your favorite locations will be displayed.
  • Deleting or Editing Favorites: Bring the list of Favorites up using the instructions above. At the bottom of the list, click the Edit button. You can delete a Favorite by clicking or tapping the remove (X) icon to the far right of the favorite’s name. You can edit a favorite’s name by clicking or tapping its name and then entering a new name. Click the Done button when finished.

Pins: Pins are used to mark a location and are helpful for getting directions to a location, or as marking points of interest on a route. Pins you add are purple in color, while location pins generated from the search bar or favorites list are red. You can only have one purple pin in a map at a time. Pins you add are temporary, and will be deleted when you quit the Maps app. To make a pin available to use later on, add the location as a favorite.

  • Add a Pin: Place the cursor at the location where you wish to add a pin. Right-click or control-click and select Drop Pin from the popup menu.
  • Remove Purple Pin: Place the cursor over the purple pin and right-click or control-click. Select Remove Pin from the popup menu.

Directions: Getting directions to and from a place are one of the most often used Maps features. Maps offers a number of useful direction options. To access directions, it’s best if you start with the map oriented on one of the start or end points, but this isn’t a requirement.

Directions640.jpg

 Maps supports turn-by-turn directions for driving, walking, and taking public transit. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

  • Select the Directions button in the Maps toolbar or in your Mac’s Touch Bar (if so equipped). If a location pin is currently showing, it will be used as the end point of the directions. If you would like to use a dropped (purple) pin as the end point, select the purple pin’s information banner and choose Directions.
  • Your current location as determined from the Mac’s location service (if enabled) will be used as the start of the directions.
  • You can change both the start and end points by typing in new locations. When you manually enter a start or end point, the text field takes on the same characteristics as the search bar, making suggestions and giving you access to your favorites and recent searches.
  • You can choose to have the directions tailored to driving, walking, or taking public transit by selecting the appropriate button.
  • One or more directions will be listed in the Directions sidebar, each with a time estimate and distance traveled. You can see turn-by-turn instructions for each route by selecting the Details button to the right of each set of directions.
  • Clicking or tapping each step in the directions will highlight that point on the map.
  • Directions Options: You can tailor the directions to avoid tolls or highways, as well as change public transit options, by using the View, Driving Options or Transit Options menu.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Beginning with macOS Catalina and iPadOS 13, the new Sidecar service allows you to utilize your iPad as a secondary screen. If you’re thinking this is not new, that third-party developers have already been providing this service in apps like Duet Display, Luna Display, or Air Display, you’re more or less correct; Sidecar, though, offers a few extra features you’d be hard pressed to find in the others.

But that doesn’t mean you should toss the other dual display apps away. Sidecar has a number of restrictions that aren’t present in its competitors, so either keep those apps around or look into them if your Mac or iPad doesn’t measure up to Sidecar’s requirements.

Special Features

Sidecar sounds pretty good; it allows to use your iPad as a second display. Even better, Sidecar allows you to use the iPad Pencil and, I imagine, other styluses (although I haven’t tried them) as drawing input devices. This means you can open a Mac drawing app on the iPad and use the stylus for drawing, as well as make use of a limited amount of touch-based input from the iPad.

Sidecar isn’t meant to provide a full touch-based interface to your Mac, and so far, at least in the betas, no one will be thinking it does. It does, however, place the Touch Bar controls on the iPad screen even if your Mac doesn’t have a Touch Bar built-in.

You can use Sidecar to expand your desktop and hold an apps tool palettes freeing up screen space on the main display. (Image courtesy of Apple.)

Apple says that any Mac app that supports stylus input will work with Sidecar and will accept the iPad’s Pencil input, as well as Touch Bar input. Apple has a preliminary list of Mac apps that will work with Sidecar, the Apple Pencil, and the Touch Bar on the iPad:

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Affinity Designer
  • Affinity Photo
  • Cinema 4D
  • CorelDRAW
  • DaVinci Resolve
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Maya
  • Motion
  • Painter
  • Principle
  • Sketch
  • Substance Designer
  • Substance Painter
  • ZBrush

Sidecar Requirements

Sidecar appears to be limited to use only with fairly recently released Macs. While Apple hasn’t yet released an official list of supported Macs and iPads, Steve Troughton-Smith, a High Caffeine Content developer, suggests that the following Macs make the grade:

  • iMac 27-inch 2015 or later
  • Mac mini 2018 or later
  • Mac Pro 2019 or later
  • MacBook Pro 2016 or later
  • MacBook Air 2018 or later
  • MacBook 2016 or later

So far, a list of supported iPads hasn’t been discovered, but it’s a fairly good bet that any iPad that will support the new iPadOS 13, announced at WWDC in the summer of 2019, will be able to be used as a Sidecar display.

If your Mac isn’t on the list for supporting Sidecar, there’s a simple workaround that, at least in the beta, can get older Macs working with Sidecar with just a Terminal command or two. We’ll present the Terminal workaround a bit later.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Starting with macOS Catalina, Screen Time is making the transition from an iOS app to the Mac. Screen Time can monitor app and device usage. Mac users can think of it as similar to the old Parental Controls used to restrict and monitor Mac usage for children.

Screen Time does a lot more than just limit access, though. It provides daily and weekly reports you can use to see just how you’re using your Mac, as well as any of your iOS devices. That’s right; you can use Screen Time to monitor and set limits for other devices you use, or that other family members use.

Screen Time icon

Screen Time replaces Managed Accounts and Parental Controls on the Mac, though when I looked at the beta of Catalina, I didn’t see any way to transfer Managed Accounts or Parental Control settings to Screen Time. It’s very early in the beta process, though.

Here’s an overview of an early beta of Screen Time and what it can do for you.

Screen Time

Screen Time is both a monitor that can build usage reports for each user account, reporting how much time is spent with various apps, and a way to limit app usage, and limit communications, either in general or from specific contacts. It’s also capable of enforcing some much-needed downtime, ensuring that users spend some time away from their Mac, iPhone, or iPad, doing other things.

All of the Screen Time settings on the Mac are controlled via a preference pane. This includes creating limits, as well as viewing usage reports. In order for Screen Time to do its thing, the app needs to be enabled.

Weekly report showing app usage over the first two days of testing. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Turning Screen Time On or Off

Launch System Preferences by clicking the System Preferences icon in the Dock, or selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

Select the Screen Time preference pane in the System Preferences window.

If this is the first time you’re accessing the Screen Time preference pane, you may see a list of Screen Time features. Click the Continue button.

Click or tap the Options button near the bottom left corner.

Click or tap the Turn On button to enable Screen Time for your Mac, or the Turn Off button to disable the service.

Screen Time Across All Your Devices

Screen Time works across all of your Mac and iOS devices, allowing you to monitor how much time you’re spending with apps, social media, entertainment, or other services, no matter which device you’re using. Screen Time reports are shared via iCloud, and require that you be signed in with the same Apple account on each device.

To enable Screen Time across devices, return to the Screen Time Options screen and place a checkmark in the Share Across Devices box.

Don’t forget you need to be logged into the same iCloud account for sharing.

Screen Time’s Options are where you turn the service on or off, enable other devices to use Screen Time, set passwords, and use Family Sharing to monitor other accounts. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Password Protect Screen Time

Screen Time settings can be password protected, preventing anyone who doesn’t know the password from making changes. This can be helpful for those using Screen Time to monitor and control usage for their children. The password can also be used to extend the time an app may be used. This is a very handy feature when the time limit on an app is up, but you need a few more minutes to complete a task.

From Screen Time’s Options screen, place a checkmark in the Use Screen Time Passcode box.

A sheet will drop down asking for a four-digit passcode to be entered. Supply a passcode. You’ll be asked to reenter the passcode. Once it’s reentered, the passcode will be saved.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

If you’ve been using Macs for a while, you may remember when Microsoft was offering Internet Explorer for the Mac. There was even a 5-year period (1997 through 2003) when it was the default browser for the Mac. Microsoft stopped developing Internet Explorer for the Mac in 2003 when Apple released the Safari browser. The last non-security update of Internet Explorer occurred in the summer of 2003.

It’s been sixteen years since Microsoft has actively been involved in the Mac web browser market, but in late spring of 2019, Microsoft unveiled the Edge browser for the Mac during its developers conference

Microsoft Edge Browser Versions

The preview of the Edge browser for the Mac is currently available in two versions, with a third to be offered soon:

  • Microsoft Edge Canary: This version represents a nightly build incorporating bug fixes, feature enhancements, and performance tuning.
  • Microsoft Edge Dev: This is a weekly build incorporating the most stablechanges to the Edge browser that occurred during the week.
  • Microsoft Edge Beta: Not yet available, this version will be on a 6-weekupdate cycle, and will contain the most stable changes to the Edgebrowser.

The Canary, Dev, and Beta versions of the Edge browser can be downloaded from the Microsoft Edge Insider website. I’ve noticed that there are a number of other download sites offering versions of the Edge browser for the Mac. I advise only acquiring the preview or beta versions of the Edge browser directly from the Microsoft Edge Insider site.

Microsoft Edge Canary

We’re going to use the Canary version of the Edge browser for this mini review and benchmark because we want to have the most current version with as many bug fixes in place as possible. This also means we’ll be working with a version most likely to have issues of some type. But that’s OK; we knew before we started that Edge is currently in a pre-beta state.

Edge has multiple layout options including the Inspirational one shown here. This layout option includes a background image and quick access to often used web sites. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Speaking of bugs or issues, I was pleasantly surprised at how robust the current version of the Edge browser is. During benchmarking and daily use it distinguished itself as being very stable and performed well in our basic benchmarks.

There were a few blips; a few times, Edge wouldn’t quit without being forced to, and some preference settings don’t seem to actually work yet. But overall, it’s a very impressive preview.

Some of that isn’t surprising; after all, at heart, Edge is running an open source Chromium engine, the same rendering engine that powers Google’s Chrome browser. Microsoft is adding interface elements for the Windows and Mac versions, and tweaking performance for a good fit with Microsoft’s own family of web apps.

Edge Features

Although this is just a preview, Edge has been developing at a fast pace. The current version of Edge has Touch Bar support, updated keyboard shortcuts that match up to what Mac users will be expecting, and media casting, which allows you to play videos or audio on an external device.

You’ll find all the usual browser features, including bookmarks/favorites, tabs, private browsing, muting tabs, pinning tabs, a download manager that can track downloads by file types, and a handy Task Manager which conceptually is like the Mac’s Activity Monitor, but only tracks Edge-related processes. Also recently added is basic support for the Mac’s Dark Mode.

Edge’s Task Manager allows you to keep track of browser performance; it also provides the ability to end individual processes that may be causing issues. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

I tried a few Edge extensions available from the Microsoft store without running into any issues. I didn’t try it, but Edge also allows you to use third-party add-ons/extensions, although that feature is turned off by default. Once the feature is enabled, most Chrome/Chromium-based extensions should work with the Edge browser.

One interesting feature, so far only seen in Edge, is Collections, a tool for allowing users to collect text, images, just about any information you may come across while browsing, and save it in collections. Collections maintains links back to the original website where you found the interesting tidbit.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

macOS Catalina, the new Mac operating system, was announced at WWDC 2019. It has so many new features and changes to existing ones, that it really can’t be summed up in just one article.

So, we’re going to start by telling you how you can get your hands on macOS Catalina, and then we’ll tell you about the features that caught our eyes.

Apple Beta Software Program

There are two ways you can participate in the beta program for macOS Catalina. First, you can become an Apple developer and receive the beta for evaluation. Apple developers already have access to macOS Catalina, as well as a number of other beta software apps. But if you’re not a developer, and you don’t have an app you’re just waiting to unleash on the world, you can still take part in the Catalina public beta program.

macOS Catalina with auto dark mode enabled. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The public beta program is open to just about everyone. You just need to sign up for the program, download the software, and give the beta a try. But remember, this is beta software and can cause issues for you and your Mac. You can find out how to get your Mac ready for beta software in the Rocket Yard guide: How to Get Your Mac Ready for the macOS Mojave Beta.

And yes, that’s for last year’s Mojave beta, but the same principles apply.

The macOS Catalina public beta is expected to be available sometime in July, so if you’re interested in trying out the beta, sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program now.

And now, some of our favorite new features.

Sidecar

Using multiple displays with your Mac is nothing new; even the ability to use an iPad as a display has been around for a bit, using third-party apps such as Duet Display, Luna Display, or Air Display.

Now Apple is getting into the act with Sidecar, a feature of Catalina that allows you to use your iPad as a secondary display for your Mac. Sidecar can work wired or wirelessly with your iPad, and will also allow the iPad to be used as a drawing tablet and touch input device. The touch input can be used with any app that supports touch-based input, including those that make use of the Touch Bar found in the newer MacBook Pros.

Project Catalyst

Project Catalyst is not a feature you’ll actually see, but you’ll make use of its capabilities. Project Catalyst is a development tool that allows developers to easily port their iPad apps to the Mac OS.

The News app is an example of an iOS app making the transition to the Mac. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you’re using macOS Mojave, you’ve already seen what Project Catalyst can do; it was the method Apple used to bring News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos iOS apps to macOS Mojave.

Now Apple will put Catalyst in the hands of Apple developers and allow them to take their existing iOS apps and transition them to run under the Mac OS.

What Catalyst is not is an iOS emulator that can run iPad or iPhone apps on the Mac. Developers will have to do some work to allow their apps to make use of Mac features that aren’t available to the iOS version of their apps.

Catalyst is by no means a simple recompile, where the developer hits a few switches and the iPad app magically becomes a Mac app. But it does make the process easier by reusing the vast majority of an app’s existing code.

Look forward to a flood of great iPad apps making the transition to the Mac.

Music, Podcast, Apple TV apps

Say goodbye to iTunes; it’s dead, an ex app, it’s pushing up the daisies, and not a minute too soon in the view of many Mac users, including me. In its place, Apple announced three new apps: Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV.

The Music app is focused on organizing and playing back your music no matter what the source. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Music app gives you full access to your existing music library of both purchased music and tunes you added via other methods.

The iTunes Store is available for buying new content; access to the Apple Music subscription service is still available, too.

Podcasts allows you to access the podcast library that was once part of iTunes. The Podcasts app adds browsing, viewing chart toppers, and seeing curated content from Apple.

Apple TV is a lot like the Apple TV app found in iOS devices, or in the Apple TV streaming device. The new Apple TV app gives you access to TV and movie content that used to be in your iTunes library. You can also browse new content and TV channels, such as HBO, Showtime, or Starz, rent or buy new release movies or TV shows and watch content in 4K HDR format.

Apple TV gives you access to all the TV shows and movies you may have rented or purchased, as well as an ever-expanding collection of Apple-curated content. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you used iTunes as a method to sync content between your iOS device and your Mac, that function has been picked up by the Finder, which will now have syncing options in the Finder sidebar.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

The 2019 edition of the Mac Pro saw the light of day at the WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) last week. It’s a remarkable powerhouse that does justice to the Mac Pro model line, and certainly to its name.

At a starting price of $5,999, the Mac Pro is targeted at multimedia pros and those with scientific computing needs. And while at first glance the starting price may seem steep, it’s actually in the ballpark when compared with competing products from other manufacturers.

And that $5,999 price is only the beginning; the keyword for describing the new Mac Pro is expandability. Apple may want to call this a modular design, but the rest of us recognize this Mac Pro as the logical extension of the older Mac Pro, where expandability was one of its chief assets.

In this Rocket Yard guide, we’re going to delve a little deeper into what Apple has revealed about the new Mac Pro to see if it is the Mac pros have been waiting for. Since Apple hasn’t released all of the technical details about the Mac Pro yet, we’re going to be doing a bit of speculation, so with that in mind, let’s take a look.

Return of the Tower

Gone is the cylindrical form over function design of the 2013 Mac Pro. Some have even said the 2019 Mac Pro’s tower case is a return to the earlier cheese grater design that has been around since the Power Mac G5. There’s certainly a resemblance, but the new Mac Pro goes well beyond just looking like the older and much loved Mac Pro models.

The new Mac Pro uses a stainless steel space frame chassis and aluminum case to provide tool-less access to its internal parts. The motherboard is designed with the processor and PCIe expansion bus on one side, and memory and storage on the other. Removing the aluminum case provides 360-degree access to all the internal modules, no matter which side of the motherboard they reside on.

Mac Pro with case removed showing PCIe expansion and MPX modules, cooling fans, and memory slots.

The case is removed with a simple turn of a recessed handle in the top, and lifts off easily, revealing the Mac Pro’s elegant modular design. By the way, turning that access handle also performs a shutdown, and turns the power off to the case, so no hot swapping of internal components.

Measuring 20.8 x 17.7 x 8.5 inches, the Mac Pro at first glance seems large but it’s a relatively compact tower case when you consider it houses a 1.4 kilowatt power supply, and can contain a quad set of graphics cards and still have free PCIe slots available.

If at 40 lbs., the new tower weight seems a bit much, you can optionally add wheels to allow you to roll the Mac Pro about your studio or lab as needed.

The front and back of the case use a perforated panel resembling a cheese grater. Those perforations are not a design element but are used by the cooling system: three large fans that quietly push air from the front, across the CPU and GPUs. An additional blower pulls air across the memory, storage, and power supply, exhausting heat out the back of the case.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog