During their keynote where they unveiled a suite of new hardware, Apple announced when it would release macOS Big Sur to the public: November 12th. The update has been in beta testing since June and was announced alongside iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS7, all of which have been released to the public. It seems like Apple wanted to wait for its Mac-focused event to pass before releasing the software upgrade.
macOS Big Sur is a major new upgrade for Mac users. In fact, it’s so big that Apple ditched its macOS 10.x moniker for macOS 11.0. This is the first time a Mac operating system has received a new lead version number since OS X in 2001. It’s an important update, one that Apple hopes will propel the Mac into the future.
Big Sur ships with a new user interface which, to some, is quite polarizing. The new iconography adds gradient and depth effects with shadows and layering all in play. Plus, each icon is now the same size for uniformity, much like on iOS and iPadOS. Control Center looks a lot like it does on the iPad, the notification center is extremely reminiscent of the iPhone, the dock is a bit cleaner, and transparency is absolutely everywhere. The color palette around the OS has also been updated, and so have fonts and their sizes.
When you open Safari in Big Sur, you’ll be greeted by a redesigned home page which you can customize with shortcuts, your own wallpaper, and more. Tabs in Safari have also gotten an upgrade, allowing you to hover over them and get a preview of the page behind them. When you have a ton of tabs open, Apple says it’s now easier to find the one you’re looking for. Meanwhile, language translations, password monitoring, extensions in the App Store, and a weekly privacy report are also packed in. Overall, Apple knows it’s losing the browser war with Google and Microsoft and these upgrades seem to pivot Safari in the right direction if it wants to compete.
As per usual, a suite of Apple’s other built-in apps are also getting upgraded. Messages now comes with pinned conversations, inline replies for easier group conversation tracking, group conversation photos, @ mentions for contacts, and upgraded Memojis. Maps gets a full redesign with Guides, cycling routes in select cities, electric vehicle routing, indoor maps, and Look Around. Photos has more editing tools, the Home app receives a handful of improvements, Apple Music gets a new layout, and Siri has “deeper web knowledge.” Weaving in and out of macOS Big Sur are updates like these, so you’ll likely spot plenty of user-facing changes from the moment you install it.
Rounding things off, Apple has also improved the privacy of Big Sur in the App Store. You can now see what data app developers collect and whether it’s shared with any third-parties before you install an app. It’s the app version of a nutrition label, according to the company, and it’s certainly a welcome change.
macOS Big Sur will be available for the following Macs.
- iMac (2014 and later)
- iMac Pro (2017 and later)
- Mac Pro (2013 and later)
- Mac mini (2014 and later)
- MacBook Air (2013 and later)
- MacBook Pro (Late 2013 and later)
- MacBook (2015 and later)
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