Technology

macOS: Big Sur

macOS Big Sur

There’s almost too much to unpack from the update but I wanted to touch on a couple things that I’ve had a chance to take a first-hand look at so far. Specifically, the updates to Safari, the addition of Control Panel, and the new system sounds and icons.

Safari

I love the new homepage, it’s filled with a handful of useful information, such as how many pages have tracked your location, etc, as well as new items I’ve added to my Reading List. Being able to set a wallpaper for Safari is a nice touch and the browser feels faster than ever.

Safari is also one of the apps that I think benefited most from the UI refresh in Big Sur. It looks fresh, modern, and feels like a new browser.

Control Center

Having it on the Mac is something that I heard many people ask for but personally never felt like I needed. Now that I have it, it’s hard to imagine the OS without it. It’s such a simple way to keep track of many important aspects of the machine without completely doing away with having apps in the menu bar.

I think Control Center is one place that benefits most and really shows off the UI refresh well with the new buttons, rounded corners, it looks great on the Mac and offers a ton of functionality in a pinch.

UI refresh

Minor graphical issues aside, I really like the refreshed look of Big Sur. The icons look great, I love the highlight of colour (which you can define in general settings), and all the elements of windows, modals, etc are have more room between one another and feel more comfortable visually. It aligns very nicely with the work Apple’s done in recent years on iOS and I can’t wait to see the fit and finish work they do in future beta updates.

The updated sounds are subtle, and very appreciated. The original OS X sounds are iconic but were starting to show their age. My favourite is the new sound for emptying the trash or the one that you hear when clicking on a disabled window. It’s all softer and less jarring than the originals.

After coming oh-so-close to matching the icons on iOS, the new macOS versions shake things up and, in my opinion, not for the better. The Mail icon is now an envelope (like iOS) but there’s a new heavy shadow effect in it. Messages is a green chat bubble (though shouldn’t it be blue?), like on the iPhone, but also features a heavy shadow that iOS doesn’t have. Is it so much to ask that they match?

We’ve seen Apple update icons in version of the iOS beta leading up to the launch around September. Maybe we’ll see that happen here? It’s too soon to tell.

Final thoughts

Since upgrading my Mac mini, I’ve had a renewed love for the Mac and Big Sur doesn’t disappoint. It’s a great improvement on Catalina and I can’t wait to dig in further in future betas.