Project Catalyst: Apple explains how porting iPad apps to macOS works

Apple’s freshly minted Project Catalyst team has provided further details on how it’s managed to achieve iPad app porting to macOS.

The macOS store launched in 2011 but has failed to gain the traction of its iOS counterpart. To help fix this, Apple announced Project Catalyst at this year’s WWDC.

Project Catalyst aims to make it easy for developers to port their iPadOS apps to macOS Catalina. Apple claimed basic porting was as simple as opening their iPad project Xcode (currently only in the latest beta version) and clicking a single checkbox.

Ars Technica recently spoke to the Catalyst team for more details.

It’s a contentious matter, but Macs don’t have touchscreens – meaning the interface has to adapt from touch to supporting a mouse pointer. Apple automatically does most of the heavy lifting here.

“Fundamental Mac desktop and windowing features are added, and touch controls are adapted to the keyboard and mouse. Custom UI elements that you created with your code come across as-is. You can then continue to implement features in Xcode with UIKit APIs to make sure your app looks great and works seamlessly.”

Apple decided to focus on porting iPad apps for now rather than iPhone as developers will have already optimised them for more screen space. Cupertino believes most things should just work, but some tweaks here and there may improve the experience for users.

Here are the Mac features that Apple says Catalyst will add when porting from iPad:

  • 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.

You can find Ars Technica’s full interview with the Project Catalyst team, along with the views of some developers with experience of using it, right here.

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