In the coming weeks, Apple will officially release macOS Big Sur to the general public. When it does, users will get to experience the most significant software change for Mac since Mac OX arrived way back in 2001. There are numerous changes set to come with macOS Big Sur. Here’s a look at our top 10.
Your Mac’s most important controls are found in System Preferences. Unfortunately, because of the vast size of the location, finding these controls has never been easy until now. The new Control Center on macOS Big Sur is where you can access all of your most important controls, including Wi-Fi, Music, and Display. You can also add controls and drag favorites to customize it to match your preferences.
Located directly off the Mac menu bar, Control Center remains a work in process. However, it would expect it’s something that will get better and more robust over time.
Accessible on the menu bar near Control Center, Notification Center has received a significant redesign on macOS Big Sur. The useful tool now includes both notifications and widgets. The messages are grouped by thread or app. You can also expand each group to see earlier notifications. You can also disable grouped notifications if you want to see them individually. Some are also interactive. For example, you can play podcast episodes or learn more about Calendar invitations directly from the Notification Center without going into individual apps.
The app widgets, carried over from iOS 14/iPadOS 14, are available in three different sizes. They are available for a mix of native and third-party apps.
Safari Privacy Report
Many web sites inevitably contain built-in tracking software designed to target and customize visitor experiences. Some of these trackers, unfortunately, are dangerous and intended to steal personal information from unsuspecting visitors. Before macOS Big Sur, Safari was already identifying and preventing trackers from profiling and following you across the web.
The new Privacy Report on your start page takes this a step further by showing you how Safari protects your browsing across every website you visit. There’s also a Privacy report button on your Safari toolbar. When clicked, you can access an instant snapshot of every cross-site tracker Safari is actively blocking, on any website you’re visiting. Cross-site trackers allow data collection companies to track browsing activity. Trackers can follow you across multiple websites and combine your online movements into a profile for advertisers.
As Apple explains, its “Intelligent Tracking Prevention uses on-device machine learning to identify trackers and blocks them from accessing identifying information. Known trackers are independently identified by DuckDuckGo.”
More Privacy Options
New privacy controls on macOS Big Sur don’t stop at Safari. You’ll also find a new privacy section for each app in the Mac App Store. Like nutrition labels on food, the section shows you how the developer is using and protecting your information in-app. Developers self-report the information that’s found here. It may contain usage data, contact information, location, and whether your data is shared with third parties.
Don’t like what you see? Then you can look elsewhere for an app that better protects your personal information.
During the past few years, Apple has added a steady stream of new features in Messages for iPhone and iPad. Until now, those features haven’t made the jump to macOS. Luckily, the wait has been worth it.
Messages for Mac now includes Memoji, message effects, and trending images and GIFs, which have long been popular features for mobile users. It also includes new features that also arrived with iOS 14, including pin conversations, mentions, inline replies, group photos, and much more.
Apple’s also changing search functionality inside of Messages. Search now organizes results into links and photos and highlights matching terms. By doing so, search results are much easier to understand, making it so much easier to find the information that you wanted.
Siri Web Search
Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, tends to get better each year. In macOS Big Sur, Siri can now find answers to a broader set of questions. It can also help you find more information about subjects much easier. This change doesn’t necessarily sound like a big deal until you realize how much time it could save you on research.
Various changes are coming to the native Maps app in macOS Big Sur. Many of these are simply iOS features coming to the desktop for the first time, such as indoor mapping and shared ETA. Other new features make a direct jump from iOS 14, including cycling routes, electric vehicle routing, congestion zone alerts, license plate restrictions, and enhanced maps in specific locations.
The flashiest new Maps feature in macOS Big Sur could also be the best. Curated map guides allow you to find new places to explore, eat, and shop. These guides are accessible from the search results page in the Maps app. For example, a recent search for “San Francisco, Calfornia” brings up guides about Haight-Ashbury, the best trails in the city, famous steps, and more.
There’s also the ability to create customized guides that include your favorite places in a location. Once created, you can easily share these guides with friends and family.
AirPods Automatic Device Switching
If you own Apple AirPods, you’re going to love the new automatic device switching feature that’s already available on Apple’s mobile devices. The feature makes it possible to switch between active devices when they are paired to the same iCloud account.
Keeping with a musical theme, the official Music app now includes a Listen Now tab in MacOS Big Sur. From here, you can discover your favorite music, artists, mixes, interviews, and more. Algorithm-based, Listen Now content is primarily based on your habits, which provides new suggestions.
For those who hate waiting for software updates to finish, consider this final point. After installing macOS Big Sur, you’ll notice quicker software updates moving forward. The increase in speed is because software updates will now begin in the background and complete faster.
Apple’s expected to release macOS Big Sur to the general public in the coming weeks. Most Macs produced since 2013 will support the free update. Its arrival will come after Cupertino has already released the first public versions of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14.
If you rather not wait for Apple to release the first public version of macOS Big Sur, there’s another path you can take. You can sign up and use the free public beta version. It’s a great way to experience pre-release software, although you are likely to experience some bugs during the process, which is something to keep in mind.