I was dreading upgrading to MacOS Catalina for the longest time because I knew that a fair amount of my older apps won’t run on it. Apple does not support 32-bit apps on the new OS, only 64-bit ones. Office for Mac and Photoshop were my primary apps that were not supported.

Catalina came out on 7 October 2019, and my 12″ Macbook died on me in Kenya on 23 October. I booted up and saw a flashing folder with a question mark and couldn’t do much else; we tried everything but it was hard drive failure. I’m still annoyed that the most expensive Macbook I bought didn’t last five years.

So as you can tell, I had problems. I used a loaner 2018 Macbook Air from the iStore (thanks y’all) and I made a mistake of upgrading it to Catalina when I thought I had the time. Nothing that I needed to use shortly thereafter worked, obviously, as commissions for new work comes suddenly.

It was time to switch to modern apps and embrace the 64-bit life, I suppose; not to be dramatic. A week ago I finally got my own Macbook Air, the 2019 model with True Tone, which incidentally I’m not a fan of that particular setting. It was easier to set-up after I found solutions while using the loaner Macbook Air.

Here are some tips if you still need to upgrade. This is based on my research for me as a freelance journalist where writing and photo editing is important. Everyone should have backups, that goes without saying.


You can buy Office for Mac if you can’t live without it, it’s around R1899 for a single licence for home use. It’s for one person on either Mac or PC with no services included (only Word, Excel, PowerPoint software). If you don’t like that option, you can do an Office 365 Home or Personal solution. If you need it for one person only across devices, it’s R899 a year (or R89 a month), and if you want the family option, it’s R1199 a year (or R119 a month) for up to 6 people. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook. Services are included with both these options are OneDrive and Skype.

You can use Google Docs as a word processor; and Google Sheets for an Excel replacement. It’s free. This was my temporary solution on the Macbook Air loan unit when I had urgent work. I use G Suite on my personal domain for emails, so I had to remember to use a regular gmail address to work from, change it to the right permissions and then share the link. For example, my inbox@nafisa.co.za address runs off Gmail and no matter what settings I choose when composing a story from that account, nobody can edit the document.

The solution I’m currently using is Apple Pages and Numbers app. They are Word and Excel equivalents, but I can save them for these formats. It’s a matter of remembering to save my work in Apple’s format, and before I file I make them Word compatible (docx). I was ready to go the Office 365 route, I will see how long this will last. I may switch if one of my editors say they cannot open my documents, but so far, none have complained.


I used CS6 Photoshop for the longest time. It became familiar to me, I worked fast on it, mainly for print ready images and refused to use anything else, up until last year. Obviously this app not working was a huge problem. I temporarily used Gimp, which I didn’t like. I became slow and couldn’t work like that. My solution was to go the subscription route with Adobe Creative Cloud. I am paying for the Photography package at $9.99 a month, which includes Photoshop, Lightroom and Lightroom Classic, with access on desktop and mobile. I have to point out that Adobe software is still such a pain to deal with but alas I’m willing to do it for Photoshop.

Remember Picasa, by Google? I preferred using it for a quick overview of all the images on my laptop and to make collages. They killed it off like many products in the past and I hung onto it for the longest time. I have not found a replacement; I do not like Apple’s Photos app. But I am not relying on it as much. I make collages on my phone and AirDrop it to my Mac, which I do at least once a month on this blog for my published work.


The single best thing to happen to MacOS in the last decade is the iCloud Desktop. My desktop for the longest time has been on the cloud, which is why it wasn’t so painful to lose my Macbook last year. Most of my data was saved. I pay for 200GB of iCloud storage, which is nothing compared to the peace of mind I get protecting my phone and laptop data. Another favourite app on the cloud is Apple’s Notes app and Voice Memos. I make notes on my phone at events or record interviews, and I can access them directly on my desktop without transferring data. 

I also use Dropbox for sharing work related images, and storing my own pics that I can access from anywhere. They limit your logins to five devices I think, so had to unlink one to get my current Macbook signed on. When you have unlimited fibre, switching to cloud apps is a no-brainer.


I am not going to list every app I use, but worth noting is Daisy Disk. You can easily spot what is taking up space on your hard drive and clear it out, the culprit used to be old backups and TV series/Movies on mine. The app scans your hard drive and displays the results in a colour coded graph. I reviewed the app here https://www.nafisa.co.za/how-to-clean-a-macbook-hard-drive/ on the free trial. The team subsequently reached out to me after that post and offered me a licence to use the app. 

Twitter for Mac returned to the App Store last year, but it’s still garbage so don’t bother (use the web version). I also reluctantly downloaded Whatsapp for Mac. I will likely download Cyberduck when I (urgently) need FTP access to my site. 

This is my basic set-up on my new Air, and I will add more when I realise I need specific apps, but it seems unlikely. I don’t download stuff anymore so haven’t needed those additional apps. I also limit my laptop for work only; it has not come on holiday with me since December 2016.

If after reading this post you are still not comfortable with upgrading to Catalina, I do not blame you. Nobody wants to have their workflow interrupted.