(Update 12/14/20 – Apple released their Big Sur 11.1 update, and we now give this a thumbs-up, after you have read the entire article below.)
Apple this week finally released their latest operating system for the Mac, Mac OS Big Sur.
We’ll start with the hardest decision—when should you upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur? Last year, macOS 10.15 Catalina shipped with quite a few problems. We recommended holding off on the upgrade for most people for at least several months. For many of our clients, we’ve recommended staying on 10.14 Mojave for the time being. It’s too early to have a sense of how stable Big Sur will be. But we hope that Apple will have learned its lesson with Catalina and will have shipped a more stable release.
Note that Big Sur requires a Mac released in 2013 or later; some 2012 models that were compatible with Catalina won’t be able to make the trip to Big Sur.
Apple has put a lot of design effort into the user interface of Big Sur. Windows, menus, dialogs, sidebars, and even icons have all received design updates. You may or may not like the new look more than the old, but again, it’s not a big reason to upgrade quickly for most people.
On the plus side, Apple has worked on smaller features that might improve your everyday user experience. It features a new Control Center, similar to what you’re accustomed to on the iPhone and iPad. It also provides quick access to controls from System Preferences in a single place. Notifications are now grouped by thread or app, and interactive notifications let you do more without opening the associated app.
There’s an App for That…
Safari receives a new start page, shows more tabs at once, displays a preview of a site when you hover over a tab, translates pages into seven languages, provides more privacy details, and checks if your passwords have been involved in a data breach. Messages lets you pin important conversations, thread messages in group conversations, and direct messages to individuals in a group conversation with an @name. Apps such as Photos, Reminders, and Notes also get enhancements, and your AirPods will switch between your devices more seamlessly.
So our advice is to stick with your current version of macOS for now, while Apple, Mac developers, and the Mac community figure out how to sand down the rough edges in everyday Big Sur use.
We recommend waiting until at least version 11.0.1 or even 11.0.2 before upgrading. That allows time for Apple to resolve any unanticipated problems. However, if you are determined to install Apple’s latest “new and shiny,” make sure you have a solid backup of all your data first. RoaringApps has a full listing of which apps are compatible with Big Sur and which are not. Also note that the installer download is over 12Gb huge, and you will need plenty of hard drive space for the install to complete.
Just like it is in Catalina, 32-bit apps such as Microsoft Office 2011 will not work in Big Sur. You will need a functional alternative to open your Office documents. Fortunately, we have an article about that.
Apple has their own page that will tell you everything they want you to know about it.
Want Some Help With That?
Contact Us if you would like some help with making your transition to Big Sur as smooth and as safe as possible. We will get it done!