The 5 Best macOS Catalina Features

Get the most out of Apple's operating system

If you've just upgraded to macOS Catalina (10.15), it might be hard to know where to start. The update to Apple's operating system brings some big changes to your Mac. Not all of them will be apparent right away.

Here's a rundown of some of the best macOS Catalina features including some information on Sidecar.

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Quick Picture-in-Picture in Safari

Picture-in-picture in Safari in macOS Catalina

You may have a lot of tabs open when you work in Safari. One new feature lets you put one of them to work whatever else you're doing. The audio tab has a new feature that will let you quickly throw a video into Picture in Picture. That means that the video will play in a small window in the corner of your screen. It will even stick around if you leave Safari to work in a different app.

To activate this, start playing the video and click the audio button (the speaker icon) on the far-right side of the tab. Select Enter Picture in Picture to pop out the video. You can use this feature with most video sites, including YouTube, Vimeo, and Netflix.

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Screen Time

Screen Time in macOS Catalina

Users of iPhones and iPads may already know about this feature, which tracks users' app usage and total time on the device. Catalina brings the analytics to the Mac. Along with the usage details, Screen Time also lets you place time limits on specific app categories (e.g., games), block explicit content, and schedule "Downtime" to help regulate how late users in your family can use the computer.

Screen Time is available in the System Preferences. Just like on the iPad, you can lock access to its settings behind a passcode to keep your restrictions intact while other people use your device.

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Weak Password Warnings in Safari

A weak password warning in Safari

Having strong and unique passwords is crucial for online security and keeping others from accessing your data and accounts. In macOS Catalina, Safari will issue a warning when it detects that you're using a password that might be easy to guess.

You'll receive the warnings in the Passwords section of Safari, where you can store login information for quick access to your accounts. The alerts will direct you to change your password at the saved site.

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More Control in Mail

Column View in Apple Mail with the preview window on the bottom

MacOS Catalina brings a lot of changes to the onboard Mail program that bring it more in line with some of the options you have in Messages in iOS. Among these are quickly blocking senders, muting email threads, and unsubscribing from mailing lists and newsletters.

You also have more choices of how you look at your inbox. These options include a column view that fits more messages on screen at a time and an option to put the preview window on the side or at the bottom.

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Sidecar

Sidecar on an iPad

Mac users who also have an iPad will have access to a suite of powerful functions with Sidecar. This feature lets you use the iPad as a second screen and move windows between the two. Sidecar goes beyond screen sharing to let you use your Mac and iPad as multiple monitors.

If you have an Apple Pencil and compatible software, you can use the iPad as a drawing tablet to do heads-up graphic design and art.

You can still mirror your iPad and Mac screens using Sidecar and switch between the two modes quickly, however. Doing so will let you use the enhanced productivity features and then hand off the iPad to show a coworker or colleague what you're working on.