Handson with macOS Big Sur top features and changes

Apple just released macOS Big Sur to the public, which means that it’s now officially time to update from macOS Catalina. What new features can you expect from macOS 11? Watch our macOS Big Sur top features video as we showcase the brand new redesign, the addition of Control Center, big Safari and Messages app updates, and much, much more.

New design

macOS Big Sur is stuffed with tons of new features, and in this video walkthrough I outline some of the changes and updates that stand out the most. The first thing that you’ll notice is the completely-redesigned interface, which sees a brand new desktop with an updated translucent menu bar and floating dock.

You’ll also notice that app icons have adopted a very iOS-like rounded rectangle design, helping to unify the look of apps, while also taking into consideration that upcoming Apple Silicon versions of the Mac will be able to run iOS apps alongside traditional Mac apps.

Finder windows have also received significant updates, adopting a lighter design with rounded corners. Window chrome is much less intrusive in macOS Big Sur, while side bars containing helpful content now extend to the full height of a Finder window.

Video: macOS Big Sur top features

Special thanks to MacPaw for sponsoring 9to5Mac: Get CleanMyMacX now!


Subscribe to 9to5mac on YouTube for more videos

Sounds

From the very first boot of macOS Big Sur, it’s immediately clear that things are different. Even before you see anything new, you’ll hear the return of the iconic Mac startup sound that Apple did away with several years back. Although you can toggle the startup sound from settings, I think most Apple fans will opt to leave it on.

In addition to the startup sound, macOS Big Sur is filled with all-new sound effects that make themselves known around every corner. In our hands-on video walkthrough, we step through each of the included new sound effects found in System Preferences → Sound.

New wallpaper

macOS 11 features lots of new Big Sur-centric wallpaper, including several new dynamic wallpapers, wallpapers with dark mode, and standalone desktop images. If you own a display with lots of dynamic range, you’ll especially appreciate the new Peak, Tree, Valley, and Dome wallpapers, which feature similar versions on iOS 14.2.

Control Center

One of the biggest new iOS-inspired changes in macOS Big Sur is Control Center. Like the iOS version, Control Center is home base for controlling device-related settings such as screen brightness, volume, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, etc.

Apple has basically designed Control Center as an alternative to the various menu bar icons that previously wielded control. In Control Center for macOS Big Sur, these settings are consolidated inside of a single interface.

Thankfully, Apple isn’t forcing users to adopt Control Center, and it’s entirely possible to drag key modules, like sound settings, directly from Control Center into its own standalone menu bar icon. In other words, macOS menu bar icons more or less work like they always have, but Control Center is a great option for keeping all settings in one handy place. It also goes a long way towards keeping the menu bar clean, which is always something I seem to struggle with.

Notification Center

Notification Center has been present in macOS for several years, but this year it becomes more useful than ever before. The biggest change is the adoption of grouped notifications, which helps eliminate notification overload that plagued previous versions of macOS.

Also new is the unified Notification + Widget view, which places pertinent notifications right above widgets instead of using a two-panel view like previous versions of macOS. This helps keeps widgets visible whenever viewing notifications, exposing the useful data that they surface.

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 be easily rearranged within the designated widget area.

Safari

The biggest change to Safari, and one of the most useful changes in the entirety of macOS Big Sur, is the ability to watch 4K videos on YouTube. For a long while now, Safari users have been stuck with 1080p as the maximum resolution for YouTube videos, which prompted nearly everyone who cared about such a thing to install Google Chrome.

With Safari in macOS Big Sur, this restriction 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, which makes videos come alive on displays like the iPhone 12 and the Pro Display XDR, which both support HDR content.