Nearly twenty years have passed since the introduction of OS X. Thursday marked the end of that era with the release of macOS 11 Big Sur, the latest operating system for Macs. While OS X evolved over time, Big Sur introduces some of the biggest changes seen on macOS in years. However, some of these changes aren’t really new.
If you use an iPhone, parts of macOS 11 will seem familiar. In reality, Big Sur is trying to catch up with its mobile counterpart. If you use a Mac, you most likely use an iPhone also. There’s a lot to be said about consistency across devices.
The biggest changes stand out in the overall look and feel. The menu bar has been stretched and made translucent. Menus are easier to read. Windows are brighter and… translucent. The Dock floats higher and is… you guessed it… translucent.
Most noticeably, window corners look significantly different. Apple has utilized rounded corners on windows for some time. However, Big Sur turns up the roundness to 11. To quote Apple, the design matches “the radii of Mac.”
Apple added “unified” app windows in a few places. Title bars have been removed. Sidebars stretch completely from edge to edge. Previous controls are represented as icons instead of buttons. These icons don’t have borders until you click or hover over them. Overall, it definitely draws from iOS-like design styles.
Curiously, Apple added an additional button style throughout the system. It’s primarily used in system alerts and dialog boxes. These buttons are taller and wider than the previous style. In our opinion, they look very touch-friendly. Could a touchscreen Mac be coming in the near future?
Finally, app icons have been “redesigned to feel both familiar and fresh.” Basically, they’re all uniformly square… kind of like that other OS Apple makes. Don’t forget the rounded edges.
Control Center on Mac works exactly like its iOS counterpart. Many of the icons that clog up your Menu Bar have been relocated to the Control Center. You can quickly toggle WiFi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, and other settings in fewer clicks than before. If you still want those icons in your Menu Bar, you can simply drag them back. Additional settings can be added to the Control Center. This feature allows you to quickly adjust settings without opening System Preferences.
Safari received a lot of attention in macOS 11. According to Apple, Safari loads sites 50% faster than Chrome. Privacy improvements abound across the app as well. You can view a Privacy Report for each website you visit. Safari already saved passwords for you, but now it also warns you if those passwords have been compromised. Extensions now include support for WebExtensions API, and you can easily find new ones in the App Store.
Really, Messages on Mac felt behind its iOS counterpart for quite a while. Big Sur attempts to catch it up. You can pin conversations just like in iOS 14. Searching messages works incredibly well. You can easily find links, photos, and more. They redesigned the photo picker. Additionally, group messaging gains some clarity with inline replies and varying notification options.
Built For Apple Silicon & iOS Apps
Earlier this week, Apple announced a new MacBook Air, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro 13. Apple’s new M1 chip powers all three models. According to Apple, Big Sur was designed to take full advantage of all M1 chips have to offer.
One of the biggest benefits of Big Sur on Apple Silicon is apps. We’re not talking about the Mac apps we’re used to seeing, but iOS apps. Windows recently added a feature for Android phones to mirror an app on your PC with limited capabilities. You can only run one app at a time, and it’s actually running on your phone.
The Apple version works completely differently. Many iOS apps will run natively on Big Sur without any modifications needed. Simply download and launch. An iPhone isn’t required at all.
Honestly, these features aren’t sending us out to buy a new M1 Mac. However, if Apple Silicon lives up to the hype, the future looks very bright.
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