Change is in the air. With macOS 11.0 Big Sur, Apple used the Mac upcoming CPU architecture change as an opportunity to rethink macOS from scratch with a lively and refined interface and completely revised applications. Here’s a look at what will happen to Big Sur in the fall of 2020.
Enter 11: The end of macOS 10.x
Since the introduction of Mac OS X 10.0 in 2001, Apple was using a digital version of the operating system based on 10.x, with 16 major versions between versions 10.0 and 10.15. Even when Apple moved from “Mac OS X” to “macOS” in 2016, the 10.x numbering system persisted. With Big Sur, macOS goes directly to version 11.0, which reflects Apple’s views on the importance of this version.
macOS: an updated interface, plus Control Center
In Big Sur, Apple has significantly streamlined the overall feel of macOS, simplifying toolbars, buttons and menus in all of its applications, including the Finder. There is a new translucent menu bar, an updated dock and redesigned application icons.
In fact, all macOS app icons now have a uniform shape and size, just like in iOS. Apple also brings its suite of glyphs (that is to say a small pair of scissors for the “cut” command) used in the buttons and toolbars of iOS and iPadOS to unify them on all platforms Apple shapes.
At Big Sur, visual changes are ubiquitous, but the sound effects have not been overlooked. Apple says that macOS 11.0 will include new and “remastered” interface sounds that will help keep the version fresh.
In particular, Notification Center has received a major overhaul in Big Sur: notifications will now appear in a unified screen next to widgets when you click on the time in the menu bar in the upper right corner of the screen.
In addition, Control Center arrives on Mac. As with iOS and iPadOS, you will be able to quickly call up a small menu containing shortcuts to frequently used tasks, such as adjusting the volume, activating Bluetooth or launching AirPlay. You can also drag commands directly into the menu bar.
In Big Sur, each native Apple application on the Mac will benefit from a redesigned interface and performance upgrades. For example, Photos becomes smoother thanks to Apple’s scrolling Metal API. In the recent opening speech for WWDC 2020, Apple called in more detail for improvements to specific apps, which we’ll look at below.
Safari: faster, more private
Safari gets major improvements in speed, privacy features and extensions in macOS 11.0. In WWDC 2020 opening speech, Apple said the new Safari would be about 50% faster than Google Chrome when loading frequently visited web pages. It will also include a new customizable start page that allows users to drag and drop wallpaper, and it will support extensions made with industry standard WebExtensions API. You can also choose on which websites extensions are allowed to run.
Safari also includes a revised tab system with icons in tabs, new tab management options and the ability to hover over a tab to preview the page.
In terms of privacy, a new Privacy Report button on the Safari toolbar gives you a personalized dashboard of the privacy behavior of any website.
Safari in Big Sur will also support integrated translation of websites between languages, which eliminates the need to make a specific trip to sites like Google Translate when you want to read international web pages.
Messages: Memoji, Effects
In Big Sur, the Messages app will include a new search function, a redesigned photo picker, and you can now create and use Memoji on the Mac. As with Messages on iOS and iPadOS, the Mac version now supports effects (i.e. animated confetti, balloons). You can also pin conversations and better manage groups, which will soon match the features of upcoming messages in iOS and iPadOS.
Like messages, Maps is undergoing a major overhaul in macOS 11.0 which will make it par with the features to come in iOS 14. It will now include a simplified interface, favorite locations in the upper left corner, support for creation and display of organized guides pointing to remarkable sites and interior maps which can help you to move in places like an airport.
Maps for Mac also includes Apple Around Look, a first-person view of photos of roads similar to Google Street View. And if a friend shares their ETA with you, you can see their position and progress on the map during their trip.
Catalyst is a developer framework that helps translate iPad applications into Mac applications. Significant improvements to Catalyst in Big Sur include the ability for applications to fully utilize the native screen resolution of a Mac, new menu and keyboard APIs, and interface controls built into the application such as only check boxes and date pickers.
Apple has announced that Maps and Messages are now using Catalyst (alongside other Mac applications that currently use it, such as Stocks, Voice Memos, and Podcasts). In this way, Catalyst will continue to enable functionality parity between the Mac and iPad versions of an application.
Compatibility and availability
macOS 11 will work on both Intel-based Macs and Macs based on new Apple chips when they arrive, the first to arrive by the end of the year. Apple said it expects the transition from Intel processors to “Apple Silicon” to take about two years, so expect macOS 11 updates that work on Intel Macs to last at least as long, if not in the years to come.
As for when you can get Big Sur on your Mac, Apple says it’s “come this fall. “Big Sur is a bold move for Apple that will breathe new life into the 20-year-old architecture of Apple’s operating system while further unifying all of Apple’s platforms.