macOS Big Sur is packed with tons of new features, and in this video walkthrough, I’ll outline some of the changes and updates that will stand out the most. The first thing you’ll notice is the completely redesigned user interface, which shows a brand new desktop with an updated translucent menu bar and floating dock.
You’ll also find that app icons have adopted a very iOS-like design, with rounded rectangles to unify the look of apps, while also keeping in mind that upcoming Apple Silicon versions of the Mac will be able to run iOS apps alongside traditional Macs Apps.
Finder windows have also been significantly updated and have a lighter design with rounded corners. Window chrome is a lot less intrusive in macOS Big Sur, while sidebars with helpful content now reach the full height of a Finder window.
Video: Top Features of macOS Big Sur
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When you start macOS Big Sur for the first time, it’s clear that things are different. Before you even see anything new, you’ll hear the return of the iconic Mac startup sound, which Apple scrapped a few years ago. Although you can toggle the startup sound through Settings, most Apple fans will choose to keep it on.In addition to the startup sound, macOS Big Sur offers brand new sound effects that are noticeable around every corner. In our practical video tutorial, the individual new sound effects are described in the System Settings → Sound.
New background image
macOS 11 features many new Big Sur-centric wallpapers, including several new dynamic wallpapers, dark mode wallpapers, and standalone desktop images. If you have a display with a lot of dynamic range, you’ll especially appreciate the new Peak, Tree, Valley, and Dome wallpapers, which include similar versions on iOS 14.2.
One of the biggest new iOS-inspired changes in macOS Big Sur is the Control Center. Like the iOS version, the Control Center is the basis for controlling device-related settings such as screen brightness, volume, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, etc.
Apple basically developed the Control Center as an alternative to the various icons in the menu bar that were used to control it before. In the Control Center for macOS Big Sur, these settings are combined in a single interface.
Fortunately, Apple doesn’t force users to take control of the Control Center, and it’s entirely possible to drag important modules such as sound settings directly from the Control Center into a separate menu bar icon. In other words, the macOS menu bar icons work more or less as they always do, but the Control Center is a great option for keeping all of your settings in one convenient place. It also goes a long way in keeping the menu bar clean, which I always struggle with.
The Notification Center has been in macOS for several years, but this year it’s going to be more useful than ever. The biggest change is the introduction of grouped notifications, which help remove the notification overload that affected previous versions of macOS.
Another new feature is the unified “Notification + Widget” view, in which relevant notifications are placed directly via widgets, instead of using a view with two panels as in earlier versions of macOS. This way, widgets will stay visible while viewing notifications, and the useful data that they will display will be shown.
Widgets have also been completely redesigned, with new widgets for apps like stocks, reminders, podcasts, weather, etc. And like iPadOS 14, these widgets come in multiple sizes and can easily be rearranged within the defined widget area.
The biggest change to Safari and one of the most useful changes in macOS Big Sur is the ability to watch 4K videos on YouTube. Safari users have long used 1080p as the maximum resolution for YouTube videos, which led almost everyone interested in this to install Google Chrome.
With Safari in macOS Big Sur, this limitation is a thing of the past. Users can now watch 1440p, 4K, 5K, and even 8K videos in Safari. Apple’s latest browser update even supports HDR video content, bringing video to life on displays like the iPhone 12 and Pro Display XDR, both of which support HDR content.
There are other useful changes in Safari too, such as: B. a brand new homepage that you can customize with your own background image. Favicons in tabs are now enabled by default. This is a great thing as you can now see more open tabs at once. When you hover over a tab in Safari, you can even find a preview thumbnail of the website so you know what to expect when you click.
Safari also has a limited but handy built-in website translation feature. This is another reason not to have to rely on a browser like Chrome. And that’s a good thing considering Apple continues to tout the Safari battery life benefits and performance benefits.
So far, the Mac version of Messages was missing many of the features that made Messages special on iOS. The good news is, out of all the apps in macOS Big Sur, perhaps no other app has been loved as much as the News app.
In fact, there are tons of new features in Messages that are basically the same as the iOS version. Users can expect support for pinned messages, the ability to rename and apply pictures and icons to group messages, support for inline replies, message effects, Memoji stickers, Memoji editor, GIF images, an updated photo picker, and much more.
Apple Maps is getting big improvements in macOS Big Sur with the introduction of curated guides, support for bike routes, and indoor maps. But as with the iOS 14 version of Maps, the most impressive new feature is the introduction of Look Around, a kind of street view alternative to Google Maps that is better than what Google offers in some ways. For example, Look Around offers great visual clarity and makes navigating supported cities buttery smooth.
Last year’s update to the Photos app for iOS impressed me with its video editing features. Similar functions are now also available for the Mac. Users can now fully edit videos and crop, rotate, flip, and apply filters, as well as adjust filter intensity. There are also detailed color grading features that might save you a foray into DaVinci Resolve or Final Cut Pro X.
Photo editing will also love a new slider for vibration color correction and the ability to change the filter intensity and the intensity of the portrait mode effect. There’s also a refined retouching tool that benefits from advances in machine learning, as well as fluid navigation as you zoom in and out of each Photos app section.
The above features are really just the highlights. macOS Big Sur is loaded with upgrades for a variety of apps like Notes, Reminders, Home, Podcasts, Music, and more. But it’s the highlights mentioned above that really stand out, especially the updated design language.
Granted, I wasn’t a fan of design changes on macOS Big Sur at first, but after using it regularly over the past week, I’ve grown. I think trying to go back to the Catalina era of macOS around this time next year feels just as strange as trying to go back to the 7 days before iOS from iOS.
Of course, macOS Big Sur is far from perfect, and I’ve encountered a number of errors while using it. If you have business critical tasks to do, I highly recommend waiting for some updates and for your critical apps to become compatible. Alternatively, you can install Big Sur on a separate APFS volume and dual boot it and Catalina. Anyway, after the initial shock from the stark design differences wore off, I think that ultimately you will like what you find.
What do you think of macOS Big Sur? Are you planning an immediate update? Turn off your thoughts on what’s new in the comments below.
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