Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicked-off today, and like every year, the Cupertino-giant made a bunch of exciting announcements related to its latest software that will power the existing and upcoming lineup of devices. However, this time around, the company took an online-only approach for the keynote due to the coronavirus pandemic. But that, in no way, stopped it from making some exciting and bold announcements related to the Mac — and it introduced the all-new macOS Big Sur, and also announced the transition of Mac from Intel to Apple silicon.

Here’s everything you need to know about macOS Big Sur, from features to supported devices to availability. And yes, the version number is finally bumped at 11.0!

macos big sur

macOS Big Sur Features

If you follow Apple, you would be familiar with their uncanny naming convention for the latest generation of macOS. And this year is no different. The latest operating system from the tech-giant that will run on existing and upcoming machines is called macOS Big Sur, which happens to be inspired by a rugged stretch of the Central Coast of California between Carmel and San Simeon.

Name aside, the newest iteration of macOS features a refreshed redesign that builds upon the existing framework and introduces a range of enhancements and features. For instance, the update brings one of the biggest changes to Safari in a while, and the default-browser on Mac now gets a range of exciting features and privacy improvements. Similarly, there is a new update to the Messages app, which now offers more organized conversations and expressive messaging, and an all-new experience on the Maps app that offers immersive features for navigation. Follow along to learn more.

1. Design

Apple says Big Sur is a major upgrade in terms of design ever since the macOS X update. The redesign breathes new life into the overall appeal of the interface and gives it a more spacious look and feel, which, in turn, makes navigation more convenient. To give you an idea of the redesign, the latest iteration of macOS features changes in things like the curvature of the window, change in the color palette, redesigned dock icons, and more intuitive buttons that automatically appear or hide when needed.

macos big sur design

Some of the other visual changes that you get with macOS Big Sur include –

i. Updated Notification Center: brings notifications and widgets together in a single column, with widgets available in different sizes to help you get a glance at various information.
ii. New Control Center: Apple finally introduces the Control Center from iOS on macOS to offer quick and easy access to different quick action functions like WiFi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, etc.
iii. Floating and translucent Dock: the new Dock on the latest operating system lifts from the bottom and floats. And, it has a translucent background, which makes your wallpaper appear sharper.
iv. Redesigned sheets, full-fledged sidebars, and new symbols for different controls to provide clarity and help recognize where to click.

2. App Changes

As already mentioned, one of the biggest updates to Safari for quite a long time has come in with the macOS Big Sur. The latest update makes the browser faster, with improvements in JavaScript engine that helps it perform comparatively better than some of the other browsers on Mac. Moreover, the company claims that with the latest update, Safari can load frequently visited sites up to 50 percent faster than Chrome. Besides, the overall appearance of Safari is also overhauled, with much-needed changes that give a refreshing look and feel and also add to the functionality. For instance, the app allows for displaying favicons, the ability to customize the start page by adding a background image or sections like Reading List and iCloud Tabs, using built-in translation to detect and convert webpages in a few clicks.

Moreover, another interesting addition to the latest macOS Big Sur is the added support for extensions on Safari, something that has been missing all these years, and has been asked for for a long time. Extensions can be downloaded from AppStore, and users get the option to customize their extensions. Some of the highlights of Safari on Big Sur include –

i. Website previews to offer a peek into what’s running on a tab.
ii. New bar design that displays more tab at once.
iii. Support for WebExtensions API, which allows developers to bring in support for Chrome extensions to Safari.

3. Messages

macos big sur messages

Messaging on macOS gets a significant number of changes with Big Sur. You can now pin conversations to the top of your list for quick and easy access to certain messages, with a maximum limit of 9 conversations. Similarly, you can also use improved search to look up for anything in a message, like photos, videos, links, etc, and get automatically-generated personalized Memoji stickers to express yourself better. Besides, other noticeable changes to Messages on Big Sur include –

i. Mentions, which allows you to direct a message to someone in a group by entering either the person’s name or the @ character, and also gives an option to receive notifications only when you are tagged/mentioned in a conversation.
ii. Inline replies to make it easier to reply directly to a message in a group conversation.
iii. Set group photos using a photo, emoji, or Memoji.

4. Maps

macos big sur maps

For the past few years, Apple has been consistently working hard to improve its native navigation app to compete with the likes of Google Maps. And to a certain extent, it has managed to improve certain aspects and the overall accuracy when it comes to navigation. With the latest macOS iteration, Apple is bringing a redesigned, new Maps app on the operating system. The new update brings along a bunch of changes and introduces new sets of features to make exploring on Mac easier. For starters, the Map now offers Guides for various restaurants, shops, etc, which update automatically when new places are added.

Besides, it includes a few other features like congestion zones: to help determine the traffic congestion, License plate restrictions: to determine if you can pass through urban areas or need to reroute, and a few more.

5. Privacy

macos big sur privacy

With Big Sur, Apple is working on improving privacy and informing users about the permissions used by various apps on the App Store by adding a new section on each app’s page that provides details about the permissions requested by an app before you download it. To make this effective, Apple is asking developers to self-report their app privacy practices on the App Store.

6. Miscellaneous

Besides the major feature updates and improvements listed above, macOS Big Sur also comes with some basic features and improvements, such as –

i. Sign-language detection on FaceTime, which detects when a person is using sign language and makes them prominent in a group FaceTime call.
ii. Improved search and a new Listen Now tab in Music.
iii. Customizability options in Notes that offer the ability to expand or collapse pinned notes, get access to more formatting options under the AA button, use enhanced scanning that makes it convenient to capture sharper scans on iPhone or iPad and automatically transfer them to Mac.
iv. Photos app now allows you to make adjustments to video as well. So you can crop, add filters, rotate, adjust exposure, and do a lot more to your videos within the Photos app. In addition, the app also gets improved navigation for quick access to a large photo library.
v. Web answers on Siri, which can come in handy to help you find answers to a broader set of questions across the web.
vi. Spotlight search also gets improvements on the latest version of macOS, and it now supports Quick Look, which offers a more detailed look at documents with a bunch of quick actions. Moreover, the search results also get streamlined into an easier way to digest and comprehend.
vii. If you own a pair of Apple’s AirPods, the AirPods can now switch automatically between active devices connected to the same iCloud account, which makes the whole experience seamless.

macOS Big Sur Supported Devices

macos big sur availability

The latest, macOS Big Sur will run on the following devices –

  • MacBook (2015 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (2013 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Late 2013 or newer)
  • Mac mini (2014 or newer)
  • iMac (2014 or newer)
  • iMac Pro (2017 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (2013 or newer)

macOS Big Sur Availability

macOS Big Sur will be available to the public this fall! The developer beta is available right away and the public beta will be available in July 2020.

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