Introducing iPad Apps for Mac

Description: iPad Apps for Mac is an easy way to bring your iPad app to the Mac while maintaining your single code-base. Learn about common Mac features that are automatically implemented for you. Find out how to work with iOS-only frameworks and what using them could mean for your app. Hear about some common usage patterns including how to use third-party frameworks and some setup tips and tricks. Get a taste for how you can make your new Mac app feel like a Mac app by incorporating platform-specific features.

Better iPad apps make better Mac apps, however better UIKitForMac apps contain refinement specifically for Macs.

macOS vs iOS Technology Stack

macOS apps vs iOS simulator apps (on macOS) Technology Stack

macOS apps vs UIKitForMac apps Technology Stack

Catalyst goals

  • Easy to get started (one check box in project)
  • One project, one source base, one target (no forks, code duplication etc)
  • iPad app on the inside (runs on UIKit)
  • Mac app on the outside (best macOS experience)

What happens when we tick on the “Mac” check box:

  • We have “My Mac” among our targets
  • A new label under the bundle identifier: this is the Mac bundle identifier which is identical to the iOS one, but with uikitformac. prefix.
  • New macOS-specific capabilities are enabled like:
    • outgoing connections (which iOS apps get for free).
    • other capabilities are automatically enabled based on our usage description in the info.plist (like picture access, location)
  • In Frameworks, Libraries, and Embedded Content Xcode will automatically enable frameworks based on their availability on each platform.


Binary frameworks need to be recompiled for UIKit apps for Macs.

That’s why Apple has released XCFframeworks:

.xcframeworks allow library developers to package a library from multiple platforms into a single distributable bundle that developer can use in their Xcode projects.

MacOS Icon

For adding a macOS icon, all we need to do is check the “Mac” target in the inspector when the appIcon asset is selected: if we don’t do so the Mac app will get the iOS icon, which is very unMac-like.

Things we get for free

  • If we have settings in the, those will be automatically mapped to a Preference menu and will be displayed with a proper macOS style:
  • Touch Bar gets filled with elements from AVPlayer and suggested words from UITextFields.
  • UIDocumentPickerViewController get automatically translated to the macOS file picker
  • Copy and paste
  • Drag and drop
  • Printing
  • Multiple windows
  • Application lifecycle

Things that get ported as-is

In Apple words:

”Trying to give apps full AppKit controls and metrics with represent too much of a disruption. So, individually, UIKit controls and layouts based on them come across as is providing maximal compatibility for your app.“


  • UIControls
  • Custom views

All look exactly the same in catalyst apps as if they were running on iOS.

No custom interaction porting.


When checking for availability, e.g. @available(iOS 8.0), will automatically translate to UIKitForMac as well.

However, if we want to make something available only on UIKitForMac apps, we can explicitly say so:

@available(macOS 10.10, UIKitForMac 13.0) @unavailable(iOS, watchOS, tvOS) 

Or viceversa:

@available(macOS 10.10, iOS 8.0, watchOS 2.0, tvOS 9.0) @unavailable(UIKitForMac) 

Bundle Format

Hardcoding paths is bad, hardcoding paths on UIKitForMac simply doesn’t work as the bundle of the same app will be different in each platform. Use NSBundle APIs instead.

Missing anything? Corrections? Contributions are welcome 😃


Written by

Federico Zanetello

Federico Zanetello

Software engineer with a strong passion for well-written code, thought-out composable architectures, automation, tests, and more.