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The safest place to get apps for your Mac is the App Store. Apple reviews each app in the App Store before it’s accepted and signs it to ensure that it hasn’t been tampered with or altered. If there’s ever a problem with an app, Apple can quickly remove it from the store.

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If you download and install apps from the internet or directly from a developer, macOS continues to protect your Mac. When you install Mac apps, plug-ins, and installer packages from outside the App Store, macOS checks the Developer ID signature to verify that the software is from an identified developer and that it has not been altered. By default, macOS Catalina and later also requires software to be notarized, so you can be confident that the software you run on your Mac doesn't contain known malware. Before opening downloaded software for the first time, macOS requests your approval to make sure you aren’t misled into running software you didn’t expect.


Running software that hasn’t been signed and notarized may expose your computer and personal information to malware that can harm your Mac or compromise your privacy.

View the app security settings on your Mac

By default, the security and privacy preferences of your Mac are set to allow apps from the App Store and identified developers. For additional security, you can chose to allow only apps from the App Store.

In System Preferences, click Security & Privacy, then click General. Click the lock and enter your password to make changes. Select App Store under the header “Allow apps downloaded from.”

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Open a developer-signed or notarized app

If your Mac is set to allow apps from the App Store and identified developers, the first time that you launch a new app, your Mac asks if you’re sure you want to open it.

An app that has been notarized by Apple indicates that Apple checked it for malicious software and none was detected:

Prior to macOS Catalina, opening an app that hasn't been notarized shows a yellow warning icon and asks if you're sure you want to open it:

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If you see a warning message and can’t install an app

If you have set your Mac to allow apps only from the App Store and you try to install an app from elsewhere, your Mac will say that the app can't be opened because it was not downloaded from the App Store.*

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If your Mac is set to allow apps from the App Store and identified developers, and you try to install an app that isn’t signed by an identified developer and—in macOS Catalina and later—notarized by Apple, you also see a warning that the app cannot be opened.

If you see this warning, it means that the app was not notarized, and Apple could not scan the app for known malicious software.

You may want to look for an updated version of the app in the App Store or look for an alternative app.

If macOS detects a malicious app

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If macOS detects that an app has malicious content, it will notify you when you try to open it and ask you to move it to the Trash.

How to open an app that hasn’t been notarized or is from an unidentified developer

Running software that hasn’t been signed and notarized may expose your computer and personal information to malware that can harm your Mac or compromise your privacy. If you’re certain that an app you want to install is from a trustworthy source and hasn’t been tampered with, you can temporarily override your Mac security settings to open it.

In macOS Catalina and macOS Mojave, when an app fails to install because it hasn’t been notarized or is from an unidentified developer, it will appear in System Preferences > Security & Privacy, under the General tab. Click Open Anyway to confirm your intent to open or install the app.

Mirror for mac. The warning prompt reappears, and you can click Open.*

The app is now saved as an exception to your security settings, and you can open it in the future by double-clicking it, just as you can any authorized app.

Privacy protections

macOS has been designed to keep users and their data safe while respecting their privacy.

Gatekeeper performs online checks to verify if an app contains known malware and whether the developer’s signing certificate is revoked. We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices.

Notarization checks if the app contains known malware using an encrypted connection that is resilient to server failures.

These security checks have never included the user’s Apple ID or the identity of their device. To further protect privacy, we have stopped logging IP addresses associated with Developer ID certificate checks, and we will ensure that any collected IP addresses are removed from logs.

In addition, over the the next year we will introduce several changes to our security checks:

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  • A new encrypted protocol for Developer ID certificate revocation checks
  • Strong protections against server failure
  • A new preference for users to opt out of these security protections

*If you're prompted to open Finder: control-click the app in Finder, choose Open from the menu, and then click Open in the dialog that appears. Enter your admin name and password to open the app.

Native Mac apps built with Mac Catalyst can share code with your iPad apps, and you can add more features just for Mac. In macOS Big Sur, you can create even more powerful versions of your apps and take advantage of every pixel on the screen by running them at native Mac resolution. Apps built with Mac Catalyst can now be fully controlled using just the keyboard, access more iOS frameworks, and take advantage of the all-new look of macOS Big Sur. There’s never been a better time to turn your iPad app into a powerful Mac app.

Designed for macOS Big Sur.

When an app built with Mac Catalyst runs on macOS Big Sur, it automatically adopts the new design. The new Maps and Messages apps were built with the latest version of Mac Catalyst.

Get a head start on your native Mac app.

Your iPad app can be made into an excellent Mac app. Now’s the perfect time to bring your app to life on Mac. The latest version of Xcode 12 is all you need. Begin by selecting the “Mac” checkbox in the project settings of your existing iPad app to create a native Mac app that you can enhance further. Your Mac and iPad apps share the same project and source code, making it easy to make changes in one place.

Optimize your interface for Mac.

Your newly created Mac app runs natively, utilizing the same frameworks, resources, and runtime environment as apps built just for Mac. Fundamental Mac desktop and windowing features are added, and touch controls are adapted to the keyboard and mouse. By default, your app will scale to match the iPad’s resolution. On macOS Big Sur, you can choose “Optimize interface for Mac” to use the Mac idiom, running your app using the native resolution on Mac. This gives you full control of every pixel on the screen and allows your app to adopt more controls specific to Mac, such as pull-down menus and checkboxes.

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Even more powerful.

The new APIs and behaviors in macOS Big Sur let you create even more powerful Mac apps. Apps can now be fully controlled using just the keyboard. You can create out-of-window and detachable popovers, control window tabbing using new window APIs, and make it easier for users to select photos in your app by using the updated Photos picker. iOS Photos editing extensions can now be built to run on Mac. And your app is even easier to manage when it’s running in the background with improved app lifecycle APIs.

New and updated frameworks.

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Mac Catalyst adds support for new and updated frameworks to extend what your apps can do on Mac. HomeKit support means home automation apps can run alongside the Home app on Mac. The addition of the ClassKit framework lets Mac apps track assignments and share progress with teachers and students. Plus, there are updates to many existing frameworks, including Accounts, Contacts, Core Audio, GameKit, MediaPlayer, PassKit, and StoreKit.

Tools and resources.

Download Xcode 12 and use these resources to build native Mac apps with Mac Catalyst.