Can’t launch your apps on macOS Catalina? Here’s the fix


no entry sign
Catalina makes opening non-approved apps scary.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

macOS 10.15 Catalina is ruthless about launching unknown apps. Unless your app comes direct from the App Store, or the app’s developer got the app notarized by Apple, it won’t launch. Double click on it, and you’ll see a warning — and nothing else. There’s no option to say you trust the app and launch it despite Catalina’s warnings.

But you can still launch those apps. It’s just that Apple hides the controls in the hope that you’ll give up. It’s petty, and it shows a lack of respect for you, the user. However, it’s also dead easy to fix this problem. Let’s see how to launch any app on macOS Catalina.

Scary ‘malicious software’ warning

If you try to open an unknown app, you’ll see this warning:

Good luck opening that app. The macOS Catalina malicious software warning is enough to scare you off.
Good luck opening that app.
Photo: Cult of Mac

I’d like to note that this app comes from a developer I trust. It’s just that he hasn’t gone through Apple’s process to get the app blessed. And in return for writing excellent software for the Mac, this developer (or any developer) gets his app slapped with a scary warning.

So, how do you actually get to launch the app? Go to your Mac’s System Preferences app, and open the Security panel. You will see something like this:

A lesser warning.
A lesser warning.
Photo: Cult of Mac

This warning is a little less scary, and actually tells you why the app hasn’t yet been allowed to open. It tells you the the app was “blocked from use because it is not from an identified developer.” That’s a lot better than slapping the words “malicious software” onto a dialog box.

As you may have guessed, you can now click the button on this screen to open the app. Your Mac will remember your decision.

A quicker way to launch unknown apps in Catalina

Just right-click an app to open it.
Just right-click an app to open it.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Luckily, there is a quicker way to open these apps. You just have to right-click (⌃-click or two-finger tap) on the app, and choose to open it from the list. In the image above, I’m launching an installer, so it needs to be opened with the Installer app. If you right-click on a regular application, it will just open normally.

Catalina also will remember apps opened using this method, so you can launch them in the usual way going forward.

This extra layer of annoyance is a bit like the rules about taking liquids on planes. It doesn’t really make anything safer, but it does make them a whole lot more inconvenient. Hopefully, you’ll get this nonsense out of the way in the first few weeks after you initially install Catalina. And after that, you just need to remember to right-click an app the first time you launch it.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.