With the launch of macOS Catalina, the promised wave of iPad-derived Catalyst apps has begun with a twinkle at enterprise Mac deployments.
Catalyst is a work in progress
Having toyed a little with some of these apps, I think it's fair to describe Catalyst as a work in progress. While it makes it easier for developers to migrate iPad apps to the Mac, there are some inconsistencies. But it looks like Apple is aware of these and is committed to meeting those challenges.
Todd Benjamin, macOS product marketing director, says Apple is listening to developers and users and promises to provide them with “additional resources and support to help them create amazing Mac experiences with Mac Catalyst."
In other words, Apple is committed to evolving the tools it provides.
Future improvements are likely to include the addition of more AppKit APIs to Catalyst, enabling developers to create more complex and nuanced apps, so the future looks good. It just needs building.
5 Catalyst apps to explore today
Apple has created a Mac App Store section where it is profiling select Catalyst apps, though not all such apps are included. (If there is an iPad app you use that would be useful on a Mac, you should check with the app developer to see whether they plan to make it available on both platforms.)
Anecdotally, I think many developers are waiting to see what the first ports are capable of before committing valuable resources – so they’ll be keen for user feedback to help them decide when, or if, the time is right.
[ Further reading: The wireless road warrior’s essential guide ]
Meanwhile, here are a smattering of Catalyst apps that may come in useful to iPad/Mac using enterprise professionals.
1. GoodNotes 5
GoodNotes 5 is a brilliant note taking app that lets you create notes on your iPad as if you were working with digital paper. It also offers a powerful iCloud-based document management system and notes are searchable using OCR.
There is a limitation to the Catalyst version in that while you can write with an Apple Pencil in GoodNotes on your iPad, you can’t do so on a Mac, where you must use a mouse, trackpad, or your (somewhat ironically) your iPad running in Sidecar mode.
However, the introduction of Mac support for the app should be useful to any mobile professional who may use their tablet to take notes on the road, then sit down at their Mac to tie all the information together. It costs $7.99.
This is a very useful app if you are managing teams. Crew is already in real-world use at some Dunkin Donuts, Planet Fitness, Wendys, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut franchises,
Crew seems particularly focused on retail deployments and includes management, messaging, engagement and scheduling tools. As the developers behind Crew explain it: “Crew is the first communications app designed specifically for the millions of workers who don’t have ready access to effective communication technology on the job.”
The move to make the app available on Macs absolutely reflects the growing use of Macs in enterprise IT. You can begin using the app for free, but you’ll need to pay for additional features.
3. Jira Cloud by Atlassian
A brilliant project management app, Jira Cloud is capable of scaling up to handle very large teams and is packed with tools and features to make task and project management as easy as those complex tasks can be.
This means you can handle multiple tasks, receive messages and notifications and collaborate on files, customize workflows and monitor things like customer feedback, service levels and project time.
It’s the kind of application project managers can live inside and now works just as well on a Mac, iPad or iPhone. The app is free to download but the service itself costs from $10/month.
A lot of users seem to like the Post-it app for macOS. It lets you work with images of real notes captured with your camera, as well as virtual notes. This makes the app useful for brainstorming and the digital notes can be arranged, refined, organized and shared with teams, or exported to applications and cloud services.
It famously took the company just one day to port the iPad app to the Mac. And while it’s possible that more sophisticated note taking and brainstorming apps are available, this is also a great example of a distinctive brand finding a unique way to build business relevance in a digital age. Here’s the app.
5. Four Zoho apps
India’s Zoho Corporation has gone for Catalyst in a big way, introducing four apps: Sign, Invoice, Expense and Inventory. Each one links up to the relevant parts of Zoho’s cross-platform business-focused management toolkit, but is focused on the task.
Zoho Sign, for example, makes it easy to sign and share documents in a number of ways, including through cloud services, while Zoho books is an easy-to-use online accounting solution that streamlines bookkeeping and expenses/income tracking.
Zoho clients include (among many others) Amazon, Hyatt, L’Oreal, Suzuki, Netflix and Renault, so it is fair to see the decision to make these apps available to Macs as a reflection of how Apple’s solutions are now in wide use across enterprise IT.
These first few enterprise-flavored apps may not change the world overnight, but I think their existence demonstrates how Apple is moving to amplify Mac adoption in the enterprise on the back of the success of the iPad.
I also believe that enterprises with their own proprietary iPad apps may want to take a look at the early iterations of Catalyst apps as they assess the benefits of introducing Mac versions of those apps to the increasingly Apple-centric world of enterprise IT.