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Posts tagged with "Catalyst"

GoodNotes Transitioning Mac App to Catalyst

Today on its blog GoodNotes shared that the upcoming macOS version of GoodNotes 5 would be based on the iPad app using Catalyst:

Earlier this year, we launched our all-new iOS app GoodNotes 5. It has been rewritten from scratch with a much more stable and flexible internal architecture, paving the way for the future of GoodNotes. Rewriting the iOS app also meant that we had to rewrite the MacOS companion because the new GoodNotes 5 was no longer compatible with the outdated existing Mac app. A lot of people were disappointed that we didn’t launch a Mac app together with the iOS version because they still had to stick with GoodNotes 4 if a Mac version was crucial to their workflow. Thanks to the hard work of our Mac team, we released an early-access version shortly after the iOS launch. This beta version is available for everyone who signs up for access. We shipped updates with new features and improvements on a regular basis and were almost ready to launch it publicly when Apple officially announced the start of “Project Catalyst” during their annual developer’s conference in June. It’s a framework that allows developers to bring their iPad apps to the Mac, with a relatively low effort. It still requires a lot of work to create a great Mac app but at least developers don’t have to rewrite significant portions of the code, as it was the case previously.

We believe that it is a great opportunity for us to unify the GoodNotes experience between iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS and will launch the new GoodNotes for Mac using Apple’s new framework.

GoodNotes is a noteworthy Catalyst app not just because it’s a very popular iPad app, but because it already has an existing Mac app. Catalyst makes the most sense for iPad apps that don’t currently have Mac counterparts, but GoodNotes’ plans demonstrate the advantages offered to other apps too. By adopting Catalyst and moving toward a more unified codebase, GoodNotes ensure that users on the Mac will never be left behind again, because new features can be developed and shipped on both iOS and macOS with little added effort.

Our John Voorhees, in his recent Catalyst story, listed GoodNotes as an example of a Mac app that’s fallen behind its iOS version feature-wise, so it’s great to find out that will change in the near future. The only real drawback, as noted in GoodNotes’ post, is that Catalyst apps will require macOS Catalina to run, so users on older versions of macOS won’t be able to download the new GoodNotes 5 for Mac.

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Ars Technica Interviews Apple Representatives and Developers about Catalyst

Samuel Axon spoke to developers and marketing, developer relations, and engineering representatives from Apple in a story for Ars Technica about Catalyst, Apple's project for bringing iPad apps to the Mac.

Prior to WWDC, Apple gave a handful of companies access to Catalyst. Axon spoke to three of them about their experiences so far. Nolan O'Brian of Twitter, which discontinued its Mac app in 2016, had this to say about the experience:

"What Project Catalyst specifically offers is the ability to use our existing codebase, meaning that we don't have to maintain separate code or a separate team to support Twitter for Mac," he went on to say.

O'Brien said it was relatively easy to get going with the new app: "The surprising thing that got us excited about Project Catalyst was how much of our existing iOS codebase was able to just work."

TripIt and Gameloft had similar experiences bringing their apps to the Mac.

Addressing the concern that Catalyst means the end of powerful AppKit-based apps on the Mac, Shaan Pruden, Apple's senior director of partner management and developer relations, explained that there's a place for ground-up AppKit apps as well as Catalyst apps:

"Good developers will know their audience and their users and what they're going to want," she said. "This just opens the door for lots of people to consider coming that wouldn't have even thought about it before. And I think that's more the target for this particular technology as opposed to someone who has a very complicated, big, heavy-lifting kind of creative app."

Todd Benjamin, Apple's senior director of marketing for macOS, elaborated saying that he:

...believes there are fundamentally multiple types of apps, and they're not mutually exclusive with one another on a platform. And this is key to understanding Apple's approach, here. He said:

I think apps on the Mac have always been these large and complex and highly capable apps that are very broad. And I think apps on iOS by nature are a little bit more focused. They're highly designed. They're very much considered in what they do and how they do it. And I think that's changed how people look at apps, right?

The full story, which is full of detailed developer and Apple insights about Catalyst, is worth a read especially since it demonstrates just how nuanced the issues surrounding Catalyst are.

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Catalyst Can Rescue the Mac and Grow the iPad

At WWDC 2018, Craig Federighi provided a sneak peek at what everyone was calling Marzipan: an as-yet-unnamed way for iPad app developers to bring their apps to the Mac. So, it came as no surprise when Federighi retook the stage in 2019 and revealed more details about the project and its official name: Catalyst.

What caught a lot of developers off guard though was SwiftUI, a declarative approach to building user interfaces that was also announced at WWDC this year. SwiftUI, known before the conference as Amber, its rumored project name, was on developers' radar almost as long as Catalyst, but it's fair to say that few anticipated the scope of the project. The purpose of SwiftUI is to allow developers to build native user interfaces across all of Apple's hardware platforms – from the Apple Watch to the Mac – using highly-readable, declarative syntax and a single set of tools and APIs. If that weren't enough to get developers' attention, using SwiftUI carries the added advantage of providing features like dark mode, dynamic type, and localization automatically.

The message from WWDC was clear: SwiftUI is the future, a unified approach to UI development designed to simplify the process of targeting multiple hardware platforms. It's a bold, sprawling goal that will take years to refine, even if it's eagerly adopted by developers.

However, SwiftUI also raises an interesting question: what does it mean for Catalyst? If SwiftUI is the future and spans every hardware platform, why bother bringing iPad apps to the Mac with Catalyst in the first place? It's a fair question, but the answer is readily apparent from the very different goals of the two technologies.

SwiftUI serves the long-term goal of bringing UI development for all of Apple's platforms under one roof and streamlining it. It won't take over immediately though. There's still work to be done on the framework itself, which Apple will surely expand in capability over time.

By contrast, Catalyst is a shorter-term initiative designed to address two soft spots in Apple's lineup: the stagnation of the Mac app ecosystem, and the slow growth of pro iPad apps. The unstated assumption underlying the realignment seems to be that the two app platforms are stronger tied together than they are apart, which ultimately will protect the viability of their hardware too.

The impact of Catalyst on the Mac and iPad remains murky. It's still too early in the process to understand what the long-term effect will be on either platform. There's substantial execution risk that could harm the Mac or iPad, but despite some troubling signs, which I'll get to in due course, I'm convinced that Catalyst has the potential for meaningful improvements to both platforms, especially the Mac. Let's take a closer look at what those could be.

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