Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Friends don’t let friends use betas

So here we are, once again in the summer of betas. This week Apple released the first public versions of its new software for those daring enough to give it a try. I’m here to tell you to reconsider that temptation.

Yes, yes, beta software is buggy. That’s absolutely true. If you run beta software you will be beset by annoying behavior from your trusted devices and there will be nobody to blame but yourself. Your favorite apps will crash, because they were built before the new versions were even announced and their authors are going to spend all summer readying new versions for the final OS release in the fall.

What’s worse, that software is now syncing with the cloud. Who is to blame if a bug in macOS Catalina or iOS 13 messes up your iCloud Photo Library or your Reminders or your Notes? You again. It’s not a fun feeling.

But let me tell you the most compelling reason for regular people not to use the public betas: The third-party software isn’t ready. It’s not just that your favorite apps will be buggy, it’s that some of the best features of new operating systems are ones designed to make apps better. And you can’t take advantage of any of those new apps until they’re released, unless you manage to sneak your way into a late-summer beta test of those apps.

So you get iOS 13 on your iPad and you open up Dropbox and wait for those shiny new file API features that will make Dropbox work better with the Files app… and wait… and guess what? You’ll be lucky to see those features in Dropbox by the end of 2019. A large portion of the beta operating system experience is like getting a brand new empty box. It’ll be great when it’s full, but right now it’s just a box.

What I’m saying is, don’t install the betas. And if you must, do it on iOS devices you don’t care about—older iPhones and iPads that aren’t in constant use. On the Mac, create a new partition (if you’ve got enough free space, you can do this with ease via Disk Utility) or install it on an external hard drive.

I know the temptation to run prerelease software is great. You can use September’s features right now if you take the plunge. But the reward isn’t as great as you think, and the risks can be huge.

Instead, spend this summer (yes, it’s winter in the southern hemisphere—I see you!) reading and listening to those folks you know who have made it their profession to spend time on these betas. We are doing this so you don’t have to. Earlier this week I posted a 6,000-word first look at macOS Catalina. Give that one a try, and read Federico Viticci on iPadOS, and listen to podcasts, and keep your devices safe and sound.


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