When you see that your Mac user has a software update notification available, do you just hit "Remind Me Tomorrow" for weeks on end? Well, you should probably change your ways. Apple just rolled out the latest MacOS update — called Big Sur (or MacOS 11)— because it brings some pretty meaning changes to your Mac experience.
It's also the first MacOS that optimized to take full advantage of the M1 chip that's integrated directly into Apple's latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini. Basically, apps are going to run way faster and smoother. (If you bought one of these new M1 Mac computers, they come with Big Sur already installed.)
Safari is lighter weight and better than ever.
If you use Safari as your default web browser, you're going to notice some big upgrades with Big Sur. It's going to do the expected, such as load web pages faster (roughly twice as fast as with Chrome) and help your MacBook be way more efficient (to extend battery life), but it also adds a new tab management features that will benefit people who have leave lots of tabs open.
Safari will now show more tabs at once and give you previews of webpages if you hold the mouse cursor over the tab. And there are new "website favicons" to help you spot the frequently visited tabs, which will no doubt be helpful if you have multiple tabs.
Big Sur also gives you a new cool way of customizing your start page. You can set a custom background image new sections (such as Favorites, Siri Suggestions or Reading List) to appear every time you boot up Safari.
Apple has also added a bunch of privacy features to Safari with Big Sur. According to Apple, Safari uses "Intelligent Tracking Prevention to identify trackers and help prevent them from profiling or following you around the web." It also has a new Privacy Report feature that you can access within Safari that will give you a better understanding of the websites that are tracking you.
Messages is stealing some features from your iPhone.
In September Apple rolled the latest software updates (iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, respectively) to iPhones and iPads and with it came some significant improvements to the Messages app. And Big Sur pretty much brings all those improvements to the Mac.
Big Sur enables you to pin important conversations to the top (so you see them first) and adds the "inline replies" (maybe better known as "threads") feature, so you direct message one person in the group within the group chat; you can also tag a specific person within an inline replies to make sure they get notified.
There's also an improved search function for Messages on the Mac. You can type in the Search Bar or use the Command-F key combo and then more easily find links and photos that match your search term.
And finally, you can use Message effects on the Mac now. For example, you can add the various slam, lasers or balloon effects like you can on your iPhone. And you'll now be able to see the balloons whenever somebody sends you an iMessage that says "congrats."
You can put widgets on your desktop.
Big Sur also brings custom widgets to the Mac for the first time. Instead of installing these custom widgets on your Home Screen, like with an iPhone and iPad, Big Sur allows you to access these widgets from your Notification Center. (To access the Notification Center: click the date and time in the menu bar, or swipe left with two fingers from the right edge of the trackpad.)
Just like with the iPhone and iPad, these custom widgets can be created in three sizes — small, medium or large — and they provide a more dynamic way of accessing information. For example, these custom widgets so that you can see your information (for the Fitness app), what the current weather conditions are, or even show off the recent photos you've taken with your iPhone. If you need ideas, you can check out third-party widgets in the App Store.
To add widgets to your Mac's Notification Center, open the Notification Center and click "Edit Widgets." You can then see what widgets are currently accessible to you, and adjust the sizes (bigger sizes display more information).
If you own one of the new Macs with Apple's M1 chip, Big Sur also allows you to run iPhone and iPad natively. This means you can download apps like Instagram or HBO Max directly on your Mac — no need open a web page in Safari or Chrome.