As expected, Apple announced Project Catalyst Monday at WWDC's annual developer conference. Project Catalyst – formerly known as marzipan – is Apple software that lets you install and use your favorite iPad apps on your Mac.
This is an instantly appealing idea because instead of duplicate apps on your iPad and Mac, you can download the same apps to multiple devices. Project Catalyst is in the same sense as iMessage and Apple's notes app, which sync between your iPhone and your computer.
Although announced today, you will need to wait a bit longer to use the new feature. Let's take a look at what Project Catalyst is, when and why it should interest you.
What is Project Catalyst?
Project Catalyst calls Apple's initiative to bring Apps developed for the iPad to the Mac. In previous reports, it was referred to as Project Marzipan. However, the name for the public is now Project Catalyst.
We got our first look at Catalyst apps when MacOS Mojave launched Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home.
Prior to Catalyst, iOS apps could not run on a Mac (or Mac) because of differences in the underlying frameworks – or due to software code required for apps to work on a single platform. So far, iOS has relied solely on UIKit, while MacOS has used AppKit.
With Catalyst, Apple adds MacOS UIKit elements so that an iOS app can run on a Mac.
Think of It as Universal Apps … on Steroids
When a developer uses Catalyst to create an app for the Mac, he or she can check the Xcode developer program and create the Mac version of the app on behalf of the developer , The app can then be tweaked and customized to enhance the user experience on the Mac. However, the conversion of an iOS app to MacOS has largely been done by Xcode.
In a sense, Project Catalyst apps are universal apps for steroids. If Universal Apps sounds familiar, it's because Apple has been calling apps developed for the iPhone and iPad since the release of the iPad.
Apple showed a screenshot of the upcoming Catalyst app developed by Twitter for MacOS, which is expected to be released together with MacOS Catalina.
Wait, do not we already have universal Apple apps?
Yes, but these apps are currently limited to iPhone and iPad. There are features like Continuity that allow you to talk to your iPhone on your Mac, or to share clipboard content between your iPad and your Macbook. In retrospect, it becomes clear that features such as handing over (for example, opening an email that you see on your iPad on your Mac) were the precursor to genuine universal apps in the Apple ecosystem.
iPhone-only apps do not apply.
Apps designed specifically for the iPhone without an iPad equivalent do not work with Project Catalyst. This decision makes sense given the different layouts when comparing an iPhone and iPad app. One is integrated as a vertical, one-column component, while the other – like a Mac app – has multiple information panels that are always displayed.
When will more iOS apps come to the Mac?
At Apple's WWDC conference last year, the company announced that iOS apps will be introduced in two phases on the Mac. The first was the release of Apple's own apps on MacOS. In the second phase, Apple promised developers to deploy the tools to port their iOS apps to MacOS in 2019.
Project Catalyst is integrated with MacOS 10.15 Catalina. Catalina is currently available to beta developers but will not be officially released until this fall.
Even though MacOS Catalina is released, it may take some time for your favorite apps to appear in the Mac App Store. Developers need to work on updating existing apps or developing new apps during the beta program, which is often reflected after the official release.
Why should you care?
Look at the difference between the iOS App Store and the Mac App Store in terms of quality and quantity, and it quickly becomes clear that the Mac App Store lacks everything. Developers simply do not spend their time developing apps for the Mac.
However, if Apple can provide developers with a simple tool that only takes a few minutes to create a Mac version of their iPad app, the number of high-end Mac apps is likely to increase.
Theoretically, apps like Netflix, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube could land on the Mac. The long-term goal of Project Catalyst is to combine iOS and Mac apps so developers do not have to choose which hardware to support. You create an app once and it works on all your Apple devices. This is a scenario that benefits users and developers alike.
Not to mention that learning to use an app version or finding and sticking to an app you love is very convenient on all your devices.
Published June 1, 2019.
Updated June 3 at 12:44. PT : The official name of Apple has been added, more details.
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