After iTunes: macOS Catalina and the New Media Apps

macOS Catalina was released yesterday, and users are starting to discover this new operating system. It has plenty of interesting features, but there’s one big change for people who use their Macs to manage and play media. iTunes has been replaced by four apps, each of which manages a specific type of content:

  • Music: This app, which retains the core features of iTunes, manages both a local music library and a library in the cloud. It also gives users access to Apple Music, which offers streaming of more than 50 million tracks. The Music app can also store and play back music videos.
  • TV: video management features in iTunes, the TV app lets users manage a local movie and TV show library, as well as providing storage for home videos (these can be videos of your family, as well as rips of DVDs you own). In addition, it is the gateway to Apple’s large offering of movies that you can buy or rent from the iTunes Store and Apple TV+, Apple’s forthcoming streaming service, which will offer original content starting in late 2019.
  • Podcasts: Just as iTunes managed podcasts, allowing you to find, subscribe to, download, and listen to episodes of your favorite podcasts, the Podcasts app does this, and nothing more.
  • Books: The Books app, which has existed for a few years to manage ebooks, has expanded its reach, and now manages audiobooks, which had previously been the purview of iTunes.

In addition, the interfaces of these apps have been simplified, though there are two distinct styles of interface. The Music app is fairly minimalist, with all navigation done from the sidebar, whereas iTunes 12 required a combination of the sidebar, the Media Picker (a pop-up menu above the sidebar), and a series of tabs at the top-center of the window, to navigate different types of content. The Podcasts app presents a similar stripped-down look, but the TV and Books app do have tabs at the tops of their windows to allow you to navigate between local content and that from the iTunes Store.

For while the iTunes name is gone on the Mac desktop, the iTunes Store still exists, and is broken up into content-specific stores in each app (with the exception of the Podcasts app, which features a podcast directory, but doesn’t call it part of the iTunes Store). And the iTunes Store is not going anywhere soon, for two reasons. First, because Apple has a lot of content to sell you; and, second, because Windows users are not seeing this split into four apps. For them, iTunes continues to function as before, and Apple has not said whether they are bringing these new apps to that platform.

There are other changes: features that have been removed or replaced.

But one of the biggest changes is that the locations where media files are stored has changed. This is especially important for people with large libraries, notably with lots of podcasts and audiobooks. These latter types of content are stored on your startup disk, inside you home folder, and it’s not easy to move them to an external drive.

So, before you upgrade to macOS Catalina, if your media is important to you, read the articles linked above so you know what’s changed before you take the leap.

Learn more about the new media apps that replace iTunes in macOS Catalina in my new book, Take Control of macOS Media Apps.