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macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

While the Mac and iPad remain distinct products, Apple continues to bridge the gap between its desktop and mobile platforms. In 2014, for example, it introduced Continuity features like Handoff and Universal Clipboard that enable more seamless experiences across the Mac, iPad, and other Apple devices.

The next step in this process is Project Catalyst, which makes it much easier for developers to extend iPad apps to the Mac.


Starting with macOS Catalina and Xcode 11, developers can create a Mac version of an iPad app using UIKit, an Apple framework that until now was intended solely for iOS apps. Adding macOS support to an iPad app is as easy as opening an Xcode project and clicking the Mac checkbox under General > Deployment Info.

While the Mac version of the app should run after the box is checked, this is not always the case, as the Xcode project may contain code that no longer compiles due to frameworks, APIs, or embeddable content that is incompatible with the Mac, according to Apple's developer documentation:
Most iPad apps are great candidates for adaptation, but a few rely on iPad features that don't exist on a Mac. For example, if your app's essential features require iPad capabilities like gyroscope, accelerometer, or rear camera, iOS frameworks like HealthKit or ARKit, or the app's main function is something like navigation, it might not be suited for the Mac.
Apple has instructions on how to remedy these compatibility issues.

iPad apps ported to macOS run natively on the Mac, utilizing the same frameworks, resources, and runtime environment as traditional Mac apps, according to Apple's developer documentation:
The Mac version of your iPad app supports many system features found in macOS without requiring any effort from you...

- A default menu bar for your app.
- Support for trackpad, mouse, and keyboard input.
- Support for window resizing and full-screen display.
- Mac-style scroll bars.
- Copy-and-paste support.
- Drag-and-drop support.
- Support for system Touch Bar controls.
Apple's updated Human Interface Guidelines are a helpful resource for designing and coding the ideal iPad app for Mac.

DC Universe is an example of a Project Catalyst app coming to Mac

If this all sounds familiar, it is because Project Catalyst is Apple's public-facing name for this initiative, which has been referred to by its internal name of Marzipan until now. Apple's plans to allow iOS apps to easily run on Mac were first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman over 18 months ago.

Apple provided us with a first glimpse of Project Catalyst when it brought the iPad versions of its Apple News, Home, Stocks, and Voice Memos apps to the Mac last year in macOS Mojave. Third-party developers are now able to follow suit in macOS Catalina, which will be released to the public in the fall.

Article Link: iPad Apps Are Coming to the Mac With Apple's Project Catalyst


macrumors 6502a
Oct 25, 2007
Scotsman in New Zealand
I'm going to wait and see on this one. Initially I was enthusiastic but then I realised that some (or many) users might not realise it was an App written primarily for iPad and decide to vent and moan in the reviews about the "weird non standard interface". I'll let the eager ones get burned there first.
On top of that there is also all the 3rd party frameworks which I know won't compile for MacOS since I've already tried using Steve Troughton-Smith's marzipanify.
So not as simple as just clicking on the MacOS radio button in Xcode.
It has potential but I think it needs until WWDC'20 to mature in code and user expectations.


macrumors 603
Sep 8, 2011
The success of this will largely depend on developers.

There are a ton of apps that I would love to have good macOS equivalents of (Overcast, Sprout Baby+, Dark Sky, Channels to name a few), but only if they are truly desktop apps and not just iPad app ports. Meaning, they have to be designed for the larger screen and take advantage of the menu bar, keyboard, and have a UI designed for a mouse.

On the flip size, merely being an iPad app on a Mac (big buttons, no shortcuts, etc.) will be a huge disappointment.
I realised that some (or many) users might not realise it was an App written primarily for iPad and decide to vent and moan in the reviews about the "weird non standard interface".

It seems that will only happen with developers that are lazy. The good ones already know how to build robust Mac and iPad equivalent apps. Take Pixelmator and PDF Expert as prime examples - excellent Mac and iPad apps. But lazily making a Mac app without at all considering the different user interfaces and inputs will surely result in a bad app.


macrumors 65816
Nov 13, 2015
There's nothing you can say that will get me not to believe Apple isn't going to switch to ARM.

Wouldn't it be easier to just keep expanding what the iPad can do? Then letting the Mac market fade away as the market transitions (if it ever does). That already runs ARM and this method wouldn't require them to kill the Mac prematurely.

I think people severely underestimate the value x86 affords the Mac.


macrumors 65816
Oct 8, 2003
This makes me wonder if Apple will someday converge the iPad with the MacBook line. Creating a MacBook with a detachable display (iPad).


macrumors 6502
Feb 12, 2014
This is great news for developers, and by extension, the rest of us. I wonder if it will be exclusive to Apple programming languages, or if it will be possible to do with other development tools.


macrumors 6502a
Jan 30, 2010
Not sure what they want to achieve here. MacOS will now have some simple iOS apps such as weather, notes and others that MacOS App Store is already full of. Porting some productivity apps makes no sense since they either have a desktop version and if they don't have desktop version they will need to change UI to adopt to desktops and that requires lot's of work. That's like developing from Windows x86 to Windows Mobile with it's tiny marketshare. Some developers might do it for the love of Apple while most of them will be strictly business. Some popular mobile apps have already decided to stay exclusive to mobile such as Snapchat.

Maybe they should have tried to do the things the other way around to port desktop apps to iOS.


macrumors 68000
Sep 18, 2013
Slightly confused. This article says ipad app -> macos. Does that include ios -> macos cause ipad has a different os now.


macrumors 68040
Mar 28, 2005
This is probably an obscure reference even for fellow brits, but "you can't have marzipan... marzipan's private!". :D

Ahem. Catalyst is in interesting name given the next macOS being called Catalina. It's like they want to bring back Cat names after all... ! It's also the name of good Star Wars novel that came out around the time of Rogue One, incidentally.

But anyway. This is a good thing, if it makes it easier to bring iPad apps to the Mac, everyone wins, surely? More apps for the Mac, greater possible sales/users for developers for less work than would have previously taken. I don't see many downsides really.


macrumors 6502
May 13, 2019
As long as Apple still allows Mac Apps to be downloaded from the internet, this will be a great option for both developers and consumers!
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