Apple introduced the biggest design update to macOS since the introduction of Mac OS X with macOS Big Sur, overhauling everything from the curvature of window corners to colors and dock icon designs. The revamped look was designed to feel both fresh and familiar at the same time.
Windows have a lighter appearance for a cleaner look with additional translucency and rounded edges, the Dock is more translucent, app icons have a new uniform squircle shape, menu bars in apps have been redesigned to make them less obtrusive and better able to blend in with your content, system sounds have been entirely redone, and there are new symbols in toolbars, sidebars, and controls to provide clarity and consistency across apps.
Buttons and controls for apps now appear when needed and disappear when not in use to provide more focus on content, and the customizable menu bar offers access to a customizable Control Center that houses Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirDrop controls, keyboard brightness, Do Not Disturb, Dark Mode, sound level, and more.
The Notification Center has been redesigned with more interactive notifications grouped by app and iOS-style widgets that can be customized in three different sizes. An updated design for core apps provides better organization for multiple open windows and makes it easier to interact with apps.
Safari is faster and more battery efficient than ever in macOS Big Sur and features a new start page that can be customized with user-selected wallpapers and sections like Reading List and iCloud Tabs. The Mac App Store makes it easier to find extensions, and Apple added a feature that lets Chrome and Firefox extensions be easily ported to Safari.
Apple redesigned tabs to make Safari navigation faster by showing more tabs onscreen, with favicons displayed to identify tabs and a hover gesture offering quick page previews. Users can choose when and which websites can use a Safari extension, limiting system access.
Safari privacy has been improved with a Privacy Report that lets users know which trackers Safari is blocking when you visit websites. Safari has a built-in translation option for translating entire webpages from seven languages with a click.
For passwords saved in iCloud Keychain, Apple notifies users if there’s been a data breach with password monitoring, a protection feature that joins auto-generated strong passwords and other tools.
Messages is now based on the Messages app for iOS and it includes many of the same features as iOS 14 like pinned conversations, @mentions, inline replies, and more. Message effects now work on the Mac, and it supports Memoji creation and Memoji stickers.
Search has been overhauled for the Messages app to make it easier to find links, photos, and matching terms, and a new photo picker available throughout macOS makes it easier to find photos by keyword to send to friends and family. The photo picker also includes trending images and GIFs for adding to messages.
Apple redesigned the Maps app for macOS Big Sur, adding support for Look Around, indoor maps, and Guides, which are lists of notable attractions, restaurants, and more created by trusted sources. Maps for macOS can be used to generate cycling and electric vehicle trips that can be sent to iPhone, and shared ETA updates can now be viewed on the Mac.
The Photos app has expanded editing capabilities with a new Retouch tool powered by machine learning, and Apple Music has been overhauled with a new Listen Now section housing new releases, artist interviews, and personalized playlists.
In the Home app, HomeKit Secure Video cameras now feature support for Face Recognition and Activity Zones, AirPods have better than ever automatic device switching, and Siri can answer a much wider range of questions than before.
With a new App Privacy label feature, Apps in the Mac App Store help users better understand privacy practices and the information that a developer collects before choosing to download an app. Apple has likened this feature to a food nutrition label for apps in the Mac App Store.
macOS Big Sur introduces faster updates that begin in the background and finish more quickly to make it easier to keep your Mac up to date, and it includes a cryptographically signed system volume that protects against tampering.
Other new features include battery history usage for the past 10 days, Family Sharing support for apps with subscriptions, quick style editing and improved search in Notes, an option to assign reminders to people in the Reminders app, improved performance for Spotlight, and severe weather and minute-by-minute precipitation reports in Weather.
macOS Big Sur launched on November 12, 2020, and it is a free update for all compatible Mac models.
These Mac models are compatible with macOS Big Sur:
What size is the download?
You will need around 35GB of space to install it on your Mac.
OS X 10 beta: Kodiak – 13 September 2000
OS X 10.0: Cheetah – 24 March 2001
OS X 10.1: Puma – 25 September 2001
OS X 10.2: Jaguar – 24 August 2002
OS X 10.3 Panther (Pinot) – 24 October 2003
OS X 10.4 Tiger (Merlot) – 29 April 2005
[OS X 10.4.4 Tiger (Chardonnay)]
OS X 10.5 Leopard (Chablis) – 26 October 2007
OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard – 28 August 2009
OS X 10.7 Lion (Barolo) – 20 July 2011
OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (Zinfandel) – 25 July 2012
OS X 10.9 Mavericks (Cabernet) – 22 October 2013
OS X 10.10: Yosemite (Syrah) – 16 October 2014
OS X 10.11: El Capitan (Gala) – 30 September 2015
macOS 10.12: Sierra (Fuji) – 20 September 2016
macOS 10.13: High Sierra (Lobo) – 25 September 2017
macOS 10.14: Mojave (Liberty) – 24 September 2018
macOS 10.15: Catalina (Jazz) – 7 October 2019
macOS 11: Big Sur – 12 November 2020
macOS 12: Monterey – ETA October 2021 (announced 7 June 2021)