MacOS Big Sur: The 4 best new features announced at WWDC 2020

At a blockbuster WWDC 2020 keynote, Apple announced MacOS Big Sur, the latest version of its Mac operating system. Coming this fall, it will bring a raft of changes to Mac fans’ computers, but a few stand out. Here are the best new features in MacOS Big Sur.

An all-new design

Apple MacOS Big Sur design

MacOS already looked pretty, but MacOS Big Sur ups the ante. According to Apple, it’s the biggest visual update in years, touching every element of the operating system in small ways. Icons, windows, fonts, toolbars, and more have been spruced up, giving them a more modern look while keeping them in touch with their heritage. The menu bar up top is now translucent, and the dock’s curvature is more iPad-like. Even Finder is getting a face-lift. The result is a subtle update, but one that looks utterly gorgeous.

It is not all about looks, though. Apple has redesigned many features of MacOS to make them easier to use. For example, many apps will see their toolbars condensed so they are no longer in the way and are organized more efficiently. Apps like Finder and Mail have been given new sidebars that enable you to quickly get where you need to go. And the Photos app has taken on the look of its iPadOS cousin, with a bigger focus on your photos.

Easier on-screen controls

Apple MacOS Big Sur controls

The MacBooks Pro’s Touch Bar has had more than its fair share of criticism, but one thing it does really well is give you quick access to controls. If you want to adjust the system volume, for example, you get a simple left-to-right slider at your fingertips.

That way of thinking has now been baked into MacOS. On-screen controls, from volume to display brightness, now use this horizontal slider. It may seem like a small change, but it brings the Mac in line with the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple Watch — even the Touch Bar. Your muscle memory will be thankful.

In the upper-right corner of your screen, you will be able to access key controls at a glance. Need to dive a little deeper? Just click on a setting to get more options.

Even better, you can drag settings out of the Control Center and onto the menu bar, giving you an even faster way to adjust your Mac to your liking.

Apple MacOS Big Sur Control Center

That methodology applies to Notification Center as well. The Mac’s System Preferences app has always felt a bit disorganized, and it has never been as quick or as easy to find settings as we would like.

Notifications can now be grouped together, and even widgets are being upgraded. The widget library helps you discover new options, and they now come in various sizes. You can’t put them on your desktop yet like on the iPad, but it’s a big change to how Notification Center functions.

Safari steps up

Apple MacOS Big Sur Safari

Safari plays a key role in the life of most Mac users, and Apple has updated in it a major way with MacOS Big Sur. We will soon see faster page loading times, strengthened privacy controls, better extensions, and much more.

For instance, if you are concerned about how a website is using (or abusing) your private data, you can view Safari’s privacy report to see exactly what is going on. This can show you how many trackers have been blocked on each website, for example.

There will be a new category on the Mac App Store for extensions, and you will be able to choose what data each extension has access to — and whether it can use it for just one day or on just one website. Apple says it’ll be easy for extension developers to bring them over from other browsers like Google Chrome.

There are other great features too, including on-page translation, a redesigned start page with custom backgrounds, improved tabs with page previews, as well as changes under the hood that speed up page loading times and battery performance.

Messages gets feature parity

Apple MacOS Big Sur Control Messages

The Messages app on the Mac has always felt a little behind its iPhone and iPad brethren. MacOS Big Sur aims to close the gap, though, bringing many features that have been sorely lacking.

As on iOS, you will be able to pin conversations to the top of the app window to make them easier to find. You will be able to create Memoji right on your Mac, and share stickers and messages effects as you can on your mobile device. There is also a more powerful search bar and a redesigned photo picker, bringing some much-needed quality of life improvements to an app that has long felt left out in the cold.

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