Apple has released MacOS Big Sur to the general public, introducing several new features and paving the way for the Apple Silicon.
MacOS Big Sur has been in development ever since it was first announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2020. It had more than 10 beta builds since its announcement, and a version number bump for MacOS 11.0.1. Approximately two months after its release in November, Apple released public versions of iOS 14 and its other software updates.
As of November 12, MacOS Big Sur is now available for any Mac user to download and use with compatible hardware. Here are all the new features and changes included in the operating system update.
Key New Features in MacOS Big Sur
Refreshed user interface and icon
One of the biggest new features of MacOS Big Sur is an overhaul of the aesthetics of the Mac operating system. There is a completely new UI design with updated icons and interface elements.
It includes new macOS icons that more closely resemble their iOS counterparts, but it still retains its Mac-like “personality”. In the menu bar, which is now translucent, there is also a new customizable control center – another port from iOS.
Apple has also nixed the notification menu bar option and replaced it with Notification Center. When entering the center, users can then select notifications or widgets – which, again, also work like iOS.
According to Apple VP of Human Interface Alan Dye, macOS Big Sur uses “depth, shading and translucent used to create hierarchies”.
Finally, Apple has also updated its Mac sounds and alerts. They are described by Apple as “recognizable, but refreshing,” and the new sounds also include the classic Mac boot chimes.
Some of the largest apps in MacOS Big Sur apply to Apple’s flagship browser: Safari. For one, native browsers are optimized to be very fast and smooth. Apple says that it is 50% faster than Google Chrome when running on the new operating system.
Like other UI elements, Safari’s design has also received updates. It now has a customizable starting page that can be tailored to the user’s liking.
Apple has also added favicon to the Pages tab, and placed more emphasis on third-party extensions. For example, developers can use new tools to port existing Chrome extensions to Safari. There will be a beef-up extension gallery that users can browse.
Safari now also offers baked-in and easy-to-translate translations with support from English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Russian and Brazilian Portuguese.
Confidentiality also increases as Apple wishes to do. A new privacy toolbar icon can be clicked to show a full report of web trackers on the web page, along with trackers that have been blocked in the last 30 days.
In addition to Safari, Apple Messages also received a significant update to MacOS Big Sur. Although it has historically lagged behind iOS, Apple has now made the macOS messaging platform much like its mobile counterpart.
It is now a Mac Catalyst app, which means that it packs all the features of iOS 14 messages. Including pinned conversations, group chat functionality, and an advanced search function.
Apple has also added message threading and mentions for users in group conversations. At the top of the list is a redesigned photo picker, the ability to pin conversations and assignable pictures for group chat.
Memoji customization has also received an update with extended options and stickers.
Apple has also updated Apple Maps with support for Look Around, Indoor Maps, Guides and Share ETA. Users can also generate cycling directions, as well as routes with charging stations for electric vehicles. All routes can then be sent to an iPhone.
As far as other features are concerned, Apple has given incremental updates to some other app and system functions. they include:
- Updates to the photos include a new retouching tool, a full suite of editing tools for video, adjustable filters and portrait lighting effects, and a new “caption” feature for text.
- A new privacy report function in the App Store, which lets users know the privacy and data policies of the app before downloading.
- Fast headlines search, as well as full-size quick look preview of documents.
- Collapsible Pinned Notes section in the Notes application. There are also additional text style and formatting options, and enhancements for the continuity camera.
- Home app support for home recognition and activity zones in HomeKit Secure Video feed.
- New options in the weather widget that can provide official alerts, major changes in temperature and rainfall details for the next hour.
- Apple has replaced the “For You” tab in Apple Music with a new “Listen Now” menu. The search function has also been updated with new style and category features.
Intel-to-Apple Silicon Transition
One of the most important details about MacOS Big Sur is not a feature that users may necessarily use. Instead, it is a suite of under-the-hood changes to pave the way for Apple Silicon.
As Apple announced during WWDC 2020, the Cupertino tech giant is moving its Mac products away from the Intel processors to the chips it manufactures on its own. In other words, Apple Silicon likes that kind of power like iPhones and iPads.
In addition to a developer transition kit, Apple is also providing Apple several tools to make the transition to make silicone slightly smoother.
These include a new version of Rosetta that will allow users to run Intel apps on Apple Silicon; A new universal binary that works on both Apple Silicon and Intel Macs; And virtualization support.
Which Macs are compatible with MacOS Big Sur?
The MacOS Big Sur update is compatible with the following Mac devices.