There is much to enjoy about the new Apple Podcasts on macOS Catalina, such as the amount of podcasts choices to stream (700 thousand and counting), ability to create own stations, being able to listen offline all combined with the easy and intuitive nature of the new user interface.
And if you fancy convenience, then it can pick up the podcast where you left it on another device by utilizing the ‘Listen Now’ feature.
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In terms of performance, the app launch speed is impressive and it doesn’t consume too many resources on your machine.
In this short article, we will overview some of the Podcast app features on macOS Catalina and contrast it with the Podcasts functionality in the old iTunes.
- Podcasts on macOS Catalina sit neatly organized
- Subscribing to new podcasts is a click away
- Understanding Podcast app settings in macOS Catalina
- Sort Options for Episodes matched with iOS Podcasts App
- Keep or delete episodes after Playback
- Settings for Podcast shows provide additional controls for customization
- Using Siri with Podcasts app on macOS Catalina
- Sync podcasts in macOS Catalina have been moved to Finder App
- Limited Options in the Beta surrounding Stations, playlists and Shuffle functionality
- In Summary,
- Related Posts:
New solutions to old issues
Over the years, we have seen readers ask the very same questions when it comes to Podcasts.
“I listen to podcasts using iTunes (my only reason to use it), and I am growing to hate it. Is there an alternative that does the following?”
- Will not download the podcast unless I specifically do so
- Will play a podcast to the end and then stop. What happens next is for me to decide, not the app (this is why I cannot stand iTunes anymore)
- Make it reasonably easy to find the podcasts I listen to and add them to a list
- List all available episodes for a podcast, ideally with the summary if that is available
The new podcasts app from Apple on macOS Catalina is the simple and straight-forward answer to all of the above questions and more.
Instead of opening up iTunes and then changing the media-type to ‘Podcasts’, you now open up the new Podcasts app on your MacBook.
The app opens up in seconds and is ready to be used. The app response time is simply refreshing.
Podcasts on macOS Catalina sit neatly organized
The first and foremost thing you notice is how clean the user interface is compared to the old iTunes. Your library is now neatly categorized into recently updated, shows, episodes and downloaded.
In a hurry and want to catch up on one of the episodes that has already been downloaded onto your MacBook? Click on ‘Downloaded’ and there they are all ready to be streamed.
No more navigating hidden menus in iTunes to locate downloaded items.
The search field has been added to the top left corner of the app screen making it a breeze to search for new shows or tracking down episodes in your current library.
The Podcasts store is also available within one click via the Browse button on the main navigation panel.
You can also access the top-charts in the same area. This shows you the top shows in the Apple podcasts store as well as the Top episodes.
Subscribing to new podcasts is a click away
Subscribing to a new show from the store is super easy. Click on the ‘…’ button and choose to Subscribe or click on the +Subscribe button. Adding one of the top episodes displayed in your library is even easier.
Simply click on the ‘+’ button and it automatically adds the episode to your library.
The store browsing and selection features are very much similar to that of iOS 12/13.
If you use the Podcasts app on your iPhone or iPad, you will be very much at ease with the new app on macOS Catalina.
Apple Automatically imports your old stations and podcasts
When you upgrade to macOS Catalina, your old stations and your podcast library is automatically synced and made available on the new Podcasts app.
You don’t have to roll up your sleeves to figure out how to import your old library into the app. That’s a major plus to the new Apple Podcasts app on this new macOS.
Setting up notifications in the Podcasts App
Notifications have been made an integral part of the new app’s design. You can now set up your podcasts to show notifications inside the app when there are new episodes released of your favorite show.
Setting up these notifications is a very straight forward process.
Click on Podcasts > Notifications… and you will see all your favorite stations listed on the screen. Enable or disable the notifications toggle for your shows here.
Episode Notes easily accessible in the main app window
Before you click on an episode to listen, you can now check out the notes that highlight the episode content.
This is similar to the ‘description’ feature in the old podcast on iTunes.
Now the episode notes feature has been placed at the top right corner of the app providing easy access to the notes.
Where is the Up Next queue in the new Podcasts App?
The Up Next queue is located on the right-hand side of the main screen.
When you are playing a Podcast episode and click on the ‘list’ icon at the top right corner of your screen, you will see the up next queue pop up.
One issue with the Up Next queue is that its kind of slow.
Takes a little more time to refresh and there aren’t too many controls to manage the queue in this Beta.
We are hoping that this section will continue to evolve as the app gets finalized to be released later this year.
Understanding Podcast app settings in macOS Catalina
One of the reasons some users hated the old iTunes was due to the complexity around navigation. iTunes tried to do too much within the same app.
You had menus for Music, TV shows, podcasts, backup, restore and everything else within the same app.
By having a unique, standalone app that focuses only on Podcasts, Apple has made accessing personal preferences super easy.
Click on Podcasts on the top menu and then choose ‘Preferences…’
All your Podcasts settings have now been organized into three familiar tabs:
Use the general tab to set up the frequency for when you want to download new episodes of a show as well as control if you want to automatically download new episodes.
The Playback tab provides you with all the controls related to playback which include skip time for forward and rewind buttons, headphone controls and more importantly playback control between episodes.
This is where you choose if you want the app to move on to the next episode and play it automatically or stop the stream at the end of the currently playing episode.
This was one of the major pain points for many users in the old iTunes.
Either it didn’t function properly or people had a hard time figuring out how to set it up on their MacBook.
Continuous playback feature was much easier to set up in iOS 12 in the Podcast settings as opposed to the old iTunes on macOS Mojave.
The advanced tab provides you the ability to control if you want your podcasts to sync across all your devices as well as allow you to choose if a played podcast will automatically be removed from the app.
If your podcasts are not syncing across your Apple devices and you have already enabled Podcasts to use iCloud, this is the setting to check. The ‘sync Podcasts’ option also facilitates the ‘Listen Now’ feature.
No more navigating complex menu options. All preferences are available to you in one central location.
Sort Options for Episodes matched with iOS Podcasts App
The Podcasts feature in old iTunes had sort options by playlist order, podcast title and Recent update at the top menu.
In the new Podcasts app in macOS Catalina, the sort options have been more aligned with iOS 13.
You can either sort by ‘Date Added’ or ‘title’. The sort option is available via the View menu at the top of the screen.
Keep or delete episodes after Playback
Many users like to keep their podcasts organized by deleting older episodes from their devices. This also helps them to manage storage on their MacBook.
In the new Podcasts app on macOS Catalina, you can manage retention or deletion of episodes in a few different places.
Podcasts preferences Advanced tab provides you the ability to automatically delete any episodes that you have already listened to on your device.
You can also manually remove an episode from your downloaded folder by clicking on the three dots at the right-hand side of the episode and choose ‘Remove’.
You also have the ability to control this behavior by each show that you have in your library. The Settings for the shows provide you the options as explained in the next section.
Settings for Podcast shows provide additional controls for customization
The available options to manage your podcast shows are available next to the subscribe button. Click on the three dots and choose ‘Settings’.
This shows you the subscription status, notification status for the show, playback behavior of episodes for the show and a ‘CUSTOM’ section.
Custom provides the ability to do the essentials around downloading episodes, keeping episodes after playback, limit the number of episodes and more.
This option allows you to customize your preferences by each show which is different than the overall options that were available via the centralized Podcasts Preference settings.
Using Siri with Podcasts app on macOS Catalina
You can use Siri on your MacBook to play Podcasts. Click on Siri and say ‘ Siri Play my newest Podcasts’ and it springs into action.
Similarly, you can use Siri to find out which Podcast is currently playing and control the playback speed of the episode.
In our limited testing, Siri misfired when it came to actions around pausing the podcasts.
When requested, it shows ‘Paused’ in the status but the podcasts keep on playing. Similarly, we were hoping for Siri to pipe in the podcasts to our HomePod but we were unable to do so.
Sync podcasts in macOS Catalina have been moved to Finder App
When you connect your iPhone or iPad to your MacBook with a cable and open the Finder app, you will be able to access the function to sync your Podcasts.
This replaces the old iTunes functionality but provides you with the same options that you had before for syncing manually. Check the article below for details.
Click on the Podcasts tab in the Finder’s device browser, and you will see the ability to sync selectively. This helps users who do not use iCloud with their Podcasts app.
Limited Options in the Beta surrounding Stations, playlists and Shuffle functionality
There are still a few areas that are not very clear, probably since this is the Beta version. Although we could see the Stations that we created in Mojave in Catalina, there are no controls to work with the stations.
We couldn’t find ways to create a new station or remove an existing station.
Since we were able to create new stations in the Podcasts app in iOS 13, there is a good possibility that new features will be added before the app is primed for public release in September.
Similarly, there was no way to check for Playlists. When you clicked on options available for an episode, there was no menu item that allowed you to drop the episode into a Playlist.
The macOS Catalina Podcast app design is consistent with the options available in iOS 13 where the available categories in ‘My Library’ are Shows, Episodes, Downloaded Episodes and Station.
The other feature that is missing in the new Podcasts app on macOS Catalina is the ‘Shuffle’ feature.
In the old iTunes, you could right-click on the Podcasts, Stations or your playlists folder and choose ‘Shuffle’ to shuffle the playback. In the new app, we couldn’t locate any options to shuffle episodes.
The podcast transcription search feature is missing so far in the Beta version. That will definitely be an attractive feature if it works well.
The Podcasts app on macOS Catalina has come a long way from being an afterthought element stuck in iTunes to a beautifully designed and intuitive stand-alone app on your MacBook.
If you regularly use podcasts on your iPhone or iPad, the user interface and functions will appear very familiar to you.
On the other hand, if you only used iTunes to listen to podcasts via your MacBook, you will be pleasantly surprised by the performance and usability of the app.
We hope that some of the limited options are just inconveniences of the beta version and the app will continue to improve its offerings as it is made ready for the final release later this year along with the release of macOS Catalina.
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.