Exploring the New Design of Big Sur

The new design of Big Sur is extraordinary. Gone is the more familiar Apple macOS look and in is a sleek desktop that’s one foot in iOS and the other in the legacy that spans nearly two decades. It’s a bold upgrade and there’s a lot to cover.

There’s little in Big Sur that hasn’t been overhauled from its predecessor, Catalina. Everything looks lighter and more colourful, leading to a cleaner User Interface with a number of great aspects.

The desktop itself is better presented, with a fresher Dock complete with rounded corners better icons and clearer reading fonts. It’s also lifted from the bottom of the screen, so it feels more a part of the desktop rather than a bolted-on module.

Buttons for apps now appear when needed and disappear when not in use, to shift the focus on the content at hand.

Windows have a lighter look, making them easier to view and also feature translucency and rounded edges. The menu bars within apps are designed to better blend in with the window theme; which in turn improves the reading of the window’s content.

The toolbars have new symbols, sidebars and controls that are clearer and the system sounds have also seen an upgrade. There are customisable menu bars and a Control Centre, with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and AirDrop controls. Plus, controls can be dragged to the Menu Bar, making them even easier to access – but the opposite is also possible, allowing you to declutter them from the Menu Bar and into the Control Centre. The Notification Centre is redesigned, featuring more interactive notifications grouped by app.

There’s better organisation for multiple open windows, with the same focus-shifting design throughout, so your inactive windows won’t impact on what’s going on in your active window. You’ll also notice that icons within apps have adopted the rounded-edge look.

The overall impression is one of clarity, colour and usefulness. The new UI is designed to get more done, while still retaining an element of familiarity and Apple-esque branding throughout. There’s not doubt that this is a macOS desktop but the lines are indeed blurred between Big Sur and iOS.

Introduction to macOS Big Sur

The iOS-styled Widgets are an interesting addition. They’re accessible via the time/date in the Menu Bar and are customisable. Although Apple has included Widgets since OS X Yosemite, the Big Sur Widgets differ, in that they are the same ones that are available from iOS 14. This of course means that any universal iOS apps that contain a widget will also appear on your Mac.

New Widgets can be added easily, in differing sizes too – as in iOS 14. They’re designed for quick focus information, so they won’t be quite as immersive to begin with. However, in time, developers will undoubtedly release more as Big Sur begins to mature.

What’s New in Safari in Big Sur? 

For those who like to use images in messaging, then you’ll be please to know that you can now create and edit Memoji right from Big Sur and instantly share them in messages with Memoji stickers. In addition, trending GIFs and images can easily be added to any message and there’s plenty to choose from!

Big Sur isn’t just a big update for the macOS family, it’s a technological leap into a new level of performance, power and presence. While the same macOS soul lies under all the aesthetics and eyecandy, there’s a new sense of bringing two, previously separated, operating systems together: the desktop and the mobile. With the functionality of a Mac and the ease of use of an iOS device, Big Sur is the natural evolution of the operating system and one we’ll sure you’ll have fun exploring.


Big Sur has adopted a faster and more secure update procedure. Together with the cleaner looks all-round, software updates are sent to the background and finish much faster than before. This means that both the updates won’t take too long and you won’t be distracted by the system running the update.

It’s also worth mentioning that updates are handled by a cryptographically signed system volume. This adds a higher level of protection, so your Mac won’t be subjected to malicious software hidden in the background. Big Sur also supports APFS Time Machine backups, so an APFS disk can be used for backing up your Mac as well as HFS+.


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Ian Osborne

Ian has worked on computer and video games magazines since the legendary Crash and Zzap! 64 in the early Nineties, so he’s seen many changes over the years (including an expanding waistline and receding hairline). A lifelong Mac user, he bought his first Mac in the year 2000. It’s a testament to the resilience of the Mac that his mother is still using that computer to this very day.

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