After nearly five months of beta testing, macOS 11 Big Sur is now available to the general public. Big Sur is a massive update for the Mac, bringing a redesigned interface, widget support, a new Control Center, and much more. Here are some of the best new features in macOS Big Sur.
Apple has also published a press release detailing the new features in macOS Big Sur.
How to install macOS Big Sur
macOS 11 Big Sur is available as a free update for Mac users. The download and installation process might take some time, so be sure you’re prepared to be without a Mac for certain parts of the installation.
macOS Big Sur can be accessed directly from the Mac App Store. Note that you might have to try multiple times before the download will begin as it’s rolling out slowly:
Which Macs support macOS Big Sur?
Here’s the full list of macOS Big Sur compatible Macs:
- 2015 and later MacBook
- 2013 and later MacBook Air
- 2013 and later MacBook Pro
- 2014 and later Mac mini
- 2014 and later iMac
- 2017 and later iMac Pro
- 2013 and later Mac Pro
macOS 11 Big Sur video hands-on:
The best macOS 11 Big Sur features
All throughout macOS 11 Big Sur, you’ll notice tweaks to the interface and design of the operating system. The system applications have new icons, the menu bar is now taller and more translucent, the dock has been redesigned, and much more.
- Redesigned sheets in apps
- Lighter window appearance
- New and updated system sounds
- Full height sidebars
- New symboled throughout macOS
New Notification Center
Apple has also redesigned the Notification Center with the notable addition of widgets. The redesigned widgets are very similar to what came to the iPhone and iPad with iOS 14. To customize your macOS Big Sur widgets, click into Notification Center, then look for the “Edit Widgets” button at the button.
Third-party applications are quickly adding support for the new macOS Big Sur widgets, including the popular task manager Things, among others. We’ll have more coverage of the best macOS Big Sur widgets as app updates continue to roll out over the coming days.
The Notification Center has also added new interactive notifications. When you click and hold on a notification, you’ll be able take action on the notification and get more information. For instance, clicking and holding on a notification from the Mail app will allow you to easily respond to an email from Notification Center.
One of the highlights of macOS Big Sur is an updated Control Center that is similar to the Control Center available on iPhone and iPad. You can customize Control Center by dragging and dropping apps and features for things you use most, and drag and drop items from Control Center to the menu bar.
Designed just for Mac, the new Control Center consolidates your favorite menu bar items into a single place to give you instant access to the controls you use most. Just click the Control Center icon in the menu bar and adjust Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, and other settings — without opening System Preferences.
New Safari features
Safari in macOS 11 Big Sur also includes a variety of changes and improvements. Apple says that the new Safari is dramatically faster and more efficient, with frequently listed websites loading 50% faster on average than Chrome. Furthermore, Apple says that you can stream video for up to one and a half hours in Safari than in Chrome or Firefox.
Safari has also gotten a visual overhaul, headlined by a new customizable start page. You can now set your custom background image and select new sections to display on the start page, including Favorites, Siri Suggestions, Reading List, iCloud Tabs, and a Privacy Report.
Safari also now offers a built-in Translation functionality to translate into English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Russian, or Brazilian Portuguese.
Finally, Safari also has a new Privacy Report feature to show how it protects your browsing history across the websites you visit. To find this, go to the Privacy Report from your Safari menu and you’ll get an in-depth overview of every cross-site tracker prevented over the last 30 days.
AirPods Automatic device switching
Much like iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, macOS 11 Big Sur also now supports automatic device switching with AirPods and other Apple and Beats headphones featuring the Apple H1 headphone chip.
This functionality will allow your AirPods to switch between your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and Apple Watch paired to the same iCloud account depending on which device is actively playing audio. For instance, if your AirPods are connected to your iPhone, but you sit down at your Mac and start playing audio there, your AirPods will automatically connect to your Mac.
All-new Messages app
After years of the iPhone and iPad Messages app pulling ahead, today’s release of macOS 11 Big Sur includes an all-new Messages app based on the iPad version. You can now pin conversations to the top of your list, share your name and photo automatically, use mentions to direct a message to a particular person in a group, and much more.
- Inline replies: Reply directly to a specific message in a group conversation. See all related messages in their own view to easily keep track of a thread.
- Enhanced photo picker: Use the updated photo picker to quickly access and share your recent photos and albums.
- Group photos: Set an image for your group conversations using a photo, Memoji, or emoji. Group photos are automatically shared with all members of the group.
- Message effects: Balloons, confetti, lasers, and more
macOS 11 Big Sur wrap-up
These are just a handful of the new features included in macOS 11 Big Sur. Are you planning to upgrade to the latest macOS release on day one? What features are you most excited to try out? Let us know down in the comments!
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