macOS Catalina has continued to move much iOS functionality onto the Mac, including the ability to port iPadOS apps. iTunes is gone, replaced with Music, TV and Podcasts. iOS backup in now in Finder and Sidecar turns supported iPads into a secondary monitor.
The end of support for 32-bit apps in macOS 10.15 is probably most significant for legacy users more likely to be using 32-bit apps.
Mac hardware and macOS made the jump from 32 bits to 64 bits a long time ago, but Catalina will be the very first version of macOS that is totally unable to run 32-bit software. — iMore
Catalina will be the last version of macOS to use legacy system extensions. Most active vendors have already made this change, but it may require you to pay for an upgrade. An example of the warning:
The Internet is the best source for help with your challenges other than Mac user groups.
- Apple — the place to start for Mac products and information.
- Apple Services Status — status of Apple services in the cloud.
Switching to a Mac
The Mac provides a stable platform for those that dislike the direction Microsoft has taken with Windows 10 or those that need to run both Windows and Mac on the same machine.
[T]here's a simple reason to buy a MacBook. They last twice as long. — ZDNet
A common misconception about Macintosh hardware is that it's more expensive than equivalent PC hardware. In fact, that's not true. If you compare spec-for-spec Mac hardware against the equivalent premiere PC hardware like the Microsoft SurfaceBook or the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you'll find that the pricing is similar. — ZDNet
High-end Mac laptops (e.g. the 15" MacBook Pro) can be quite pricey, but are aimed at those that need the extreme performance in a laptop. Apple's 2019 MacBook lineup: Which one to buy? (video)
The switch from Windows to OS X has really paid off for me from a reliability standpoint. Sure, the Mac ecosystem is far from perfect, and there are still plenty of annoyances to contend with, but I'm wasting a lot less time hand-holding systems these days. — ZDNet
The integration with iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad make it even more attractive if you run those devices. You can even run Windows on a Mac by using Boot Camp or on a virtual suite like Parallels.
Should you switch? Have a look at When replacing your Windows 7 PC: Should you switch to Windows 10 — or a Mac?
High end Windows-based ultrabooks are priced near (or even above) similarly equipped MacBooks and MacBook Pro machines. — ZDNet
There are online resources and books to help you in the transition.
- macOS. It's why there's nothing else like a Mac.
- New to Mac includes how to set up your new Mac and tips for Windows switchers.
- Move your data from a Windows PC to a Mac from Apple.
- Use your Apple Keyboard in Windows with Boot Camp from Apple.
- Which Mac to buy? 10 tips to help you decide.
- How to move from PC to Mac from Macworld.
- How to switch from PC/Windows to a Mac as painlessly as possible.
- A complete beginner's guide to macOS: Get started in just 1 hour.
- 7 Advantages you probably don't know about switching to Mac from PC.
- 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts business users need to know.
- Amazon has several books about switching from a PC to a Mac.
You need to be running security (antivirus) software on your Mac.
The use of security software for Mac OS X should not fail due to false vanity. — AV-TEST
Once of the reasons people love Macs is because of its reputation for lacking security vulnerabilities compared to Windows.
Macs No Longer Secure
That is no longer true. Security threats to Apple devices and computers have significantly increased in the last few years.
The Malwarebytes researchers, however, concluded that what the 2019 threat landscape tells us as we move further into 2020, is that "it's time to take a good hard look at Mac security and finally get serious." — Forbes
With Increased Popularity Comes New Threats
With the increased popularity of Macs has come a new set of security threats (see sidebar).
- Apple security shock as Mac threats outpace Microsoft Windows by 2 To 1.
- Mac OS X isn't safe anymore: the crapware / malware epidemic has begun.
- Mac internet security threats show malware aimed at Mac is rapidly increasing.
- Mac OS X in the crosshairs — 18 malware scanners put to the test.
- Mac vs. PC security: Which is better?
- A data-stealing Trojan aimed at Mac users.
Don't Be Part of the Problem
Verify any links sent via email before you click on them and be wary of websites or sudden warnings that “you're infected.” Know how your security software provides protection and alerts so you can identify fake warnings.
Be aware of what you're sharing on social media and how it could affect your security and privacy. Too many people post answers to common security questions.
Install Security Software
I strongly recommended that you install security protection onto your Mac.
- Macintosh OS X Security: Understanding the platform and usage (second lesson and third lesson).
- Apple security updates direct from Apple.
- Tips and tools to help Mac users protect their data and communications.
You'll find a listing of Mac security software in the software section.
These news sources will keep you informed about what is new and upcoming regarding the Mac.
Tips & Tricks
- How to clean a MacBook screen and Mac accessories.
- MacPaw How To has hints on dealing with lots of issues.
- Lifewire's Mac How-Tos.
- 62 OS X El Capitan tips and tricks.
- Switch to Mac: How to find your favorite Windows features in OS X.
Mac Online Communities
- Info-Mac the original Mac online community.
Information About Older Macs
These are sites don't appear to be maintained but still contain useful information:
- FAQs.org — Macintosh — various FAQs for the Mac (last updated 1995).
- apple-history.com provides information on Apple computers and products by date, family and processor type (last updated 2015).
- Info-Mac Archive (last updated 2007).
Feeling nostalgic or curious about early Macs?
- Making the Macintosh: Technology and culture in Silicon Valley is an online project documenting the history of the Macintosh computer.
Macs are very reliable, but sometimes things go wrong.
- MacIssues — how to use, troubleshoot, and repair your Mac.
- MacIssues on Twitter (@mac_fix_it) has news and troubleshooting for Macs, OS X, iPods, iPhones, & more.
- Apple Apps Support — all the topics, resources, and options you need for Apple apps.
- If you cant send or receive email on your Mac.
- Diagnose problems with your Mac.
- Office Mac Help is a resource for Microsoft Office on the Mac.
- Word for Macintosh.
Apple has a Force Quit option for programs that don't respond to a normal shutdown request. This should be your last resort option.
Traditionally, the only option for a hard drive was a spinning magnetic platter. Today, SSDs have changed that but you need to be aware of the risks and benefits of each choice.
- Mac Fusion Drive vs SSD vs hard drive: Buying guide.
- How to recover data from damaged Mac or external drive.
Backing Up Your Mac
If your hard drive fails, you'll lose all your data and perhaps the information necessary to recover your computer. Backing up your Mac stores that information so that you can recover. You might want to read a bit about backups to fully understand the main concepts and risks.
- Back up your Mac with Time Machine.
- Restore items backed up with Time Machine.
- How to restore Mac files from Time Machine.
- How to back up Mac — the four best data backup methods for Mac users.
- The best backup software for Mac 2018 — alternatives to Time Machine.
Backing Up Your Email
- How Time Machine and other backups handle email.
- How to back up your Mac OS Mail folder.
- Restore mailboxes and their content.
- How to manually restore your Mail folder from Time Machine.
- How to recover a Mail folder from Time Machine in macOS.
- How to recover files using Time Machine, including email.
- How to back up or copy your Mac OS X Mail Address Book.
Basic Mac Software
This Mac software listing is not extensive but provides some basic apps. Try these resources:
- Apple downloads page lists Apple's products.
- The The Apple Store app (download via iTunes) provides a more secure source for software. If given the choice, look there for apps.
- MacUpdate provides ratings and discounts.
You need to be running security (antivirus) software on your Mac. The effectiveness of security programs varies. See this not all products as effective.
Many Mac OS X security products adversely affect system performance. These reviews may help you decide:
- 16 macOS Mojave for consumer and corporate users.
- The best MacOS antivirus software for home users.
- Malware statistics includes stats for Macs.
- Best antivirus software and apps 2019 from Tom's Guide.
The recommendation is mainly based upon comparing the reviews and personal experience. I'm unlikely to recommend a product that causes your system to slow down considerably or which provides poor protection, but it is a balancing act. Here's some notes from the 2018 Tom's Guide reviews:
Kaspersky Internet Security offers both the lowest system impact and some of the best malware-detection rates recorded. It even provides extra security features, including parental controls and options to lock down your webcam and stop websites from tracking your browsing activity. If you're willing to pay to protect your Mac from malware, Kaspersky Internet Security is the best option available.
Avast Free Mac Security caught 99.9 percent of all malware, packs in a password manager, barely leaves a smudge on system impact and doesn't charge a dime. If only it caught 100 percent of malware, as Kaspersky did.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is one of only a few solutions we tested that offers perfect malware detection. Further, its modern, streamlined interface places on-demand scans front and center. Last year's winner dropped from first place, though, because its system-impact scores didn't match the flawless marks posted by Kaspersky.
Norton Security Deluxe may offer excellent protection, but it charges more (after the first year) than its competitors do, without offering as many perks. Still, always-on-call customer support is a nice thing to have if anything ever goes awry.
OS X's built-in firewall provides only inbound protection. There is no outbound protection and provides no additional protection if you're behind a router.
- Little Snitch provides both incoming and outgoing firewall protection and includes a network monitor.
Photo & Graphic Design
Affinity products are extremely powerful and very reasonably priced.
- Affinity Photo (CA$69.99, no subscription) is professional photo editing software for the Mac. In the works for 5 years, it has an incredibly intuitive interface. System requirements.
- Affinity Designer (CA$69.99, no subscription) is professional graphic design software for the Mac. Affinity Designer won the 2015 Apple Design Award, “honoring outstanding design and innovation.” System requirements.
- Safari Browser is the Mac OS X default web browser and supports the latest standards and features.
- Firefox Browser is available for Mac OS X 10.2.x and later.
- iCab Browser. This alternative browser for the Mac is highly customizable and includes image filtering, which eliminates banner ads.
- iCloud includes email, calendar and more. Available for OS Lion 10.7.2 or iOS 5 or better.
- Mozilla Thunderbird is available for Mac OS X 10.2.x and later. Not recommended for large amounts of mail. Installing Thunderbird on Mac.
- Spark: Love your email again is probably the easiest and most innovative free email client. Available for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Android. Web and Windows support is pending.
- Postbox (US$29.99 per year) may provide a Thunderbird alternative to those looking for something similar but with more features.
- Spark for Teams US$7.99/month/team member adds the ability to share and discuss email with your teammates to Spark.
- AirMail is a new mail client designed with performance and intuitive interaction in mind. Available for macOS (US$26.99) and iOS (US$4.99).
- The Best Email Client App for Mac has the best, easiest and most powerful choices for Macs.
- What's the best email app for macOS? — 9to5Mac.
- Best free email for Macs 2019 — Macworld.
- The 8 Best Free Email Clients for Mac in 2019 — Lifewire.
- Interarchy professional Mac FTP (US$64.00). (Note: there was an expired certificate for the site when last viewed the download page.)
- FileZilla (free) is the recommended FTP client for casual users.
- FileZilla Pro (US$19.99) is a professional FTP/S, SFTP client for Windows, Mac OS X or Debian Linux. Heavily optimized for speed, it can also connect with many cloud servers.
Manager is free accounting software that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.
- It includes modules such as cashbook, invoicing, receivables, payables, taxes and comprehensive financial reports.
- The Desktop edition doesn't support multi-user capabilities. If you require multi-user access, you will need to sign up for Cloud edition and your data will be stored in the “cloud” rather than on your computer.
- VLC media player is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols.
Office Suites & Editors
LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice: Free Office Alternatives
LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice provide the core features of Microsoft Office and both are free to download, use, and distribute. More on the differences and history here.
System Requirements for Mac OS X
- macOS 10.9 (Mavericks) or higher.
- Intel processor.
- 512 MB RAM.
- Up to 800 MB available hard disk space.
- 1024x768 graphic device with 256 colors (higher resolution recommended).
- OS X 10.7 (Lion) or higher.
- Intel Processor.
- Free memory of 512 MB RAM.
- 400 MB available disk space.
- 1024 x 768 or higher resolution with 16.7 Million colours.
About the Java Requirements
Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice will run without Java for most users but certain features depend upon Java, particularly the database program.
For certain features of the software — but not most — Java is required. Java is notably required for Base — LibreOffice System Requirements
Java is required for complete OpenOffice functionality. Java is mainly required for the HSQLDB database engine (used by our database product Base) and to make use of accessibility and assistive technologies. Furthermore some wizards rely on Java technology. — Java and Apache OpenOffice
See Oracle's Java Downloads for All Operating Systems page for information specific to Mac OS X.
- Able2Extract Professional is a powerful professional PDF program that allows you to do almost anything with PDFs. Strongly recommended. See my review of Able2Extract Pro 12 for details and full system requirements.
- A full license costs US$149.95.
- A 30-day subscription costs US$34.95.
HTML and Text Editors
- BBEdit ($49.99 USD) is an excellent HTML text editor.
Notes, the Mac OS X built-in editor, was improved greatly in El Capitan, but you might find one of these products better for your needs.
- TextWrangler is now free, and considered the replacement for BBEdit Lite. There is a TextWrangler FAQ that should answer questions about the intended market for this product and the advantages of moving to the full-featured BBEdit.
- BBEdit Lite is discontinued. There is still a download available here, which you'll need if you are not running OS 10.
Your Mac has utilities built in that do much of what is done by these third-party utilities, but sometimes they simplify the process.
When deleting files, be careful to avoid system files and files related to programs as they may not run properly (or at all) if you do). Duplicate files on the system may be named the same but used for different purposes.
- CCleaner for Mac protects your privacy and makes your Mac faster and more secure.
- CleanMyDrive 2 is great for copying files to thumb drives including removing hidden junk files from external drives.
- AVG Cleaner tracks down forgotten duplicate files.
- AppCleaner can help uninstall apps that distribute many files throughout your System.
- StuffIt Expander opens compressed RAR and ZIP files.