macOS Big Sur: Learn about the user interface changes

With macOS 11 Big Sur, Apple takes the opportunity to refresh the Mac’s user interface. The changes aren’t dramatic—don’t worry, you’ll be able to use your Mac like usual. The changes give the Mac a more modern look, and also have led to  speculation that Apple is getting ready for the next phase of user input, like maybe a Mac touchscreen.

If you are wondering what Big Sur looks like before installing it, we have a peek right here. You can prepare yourself before you dive in.

More space

Once you start up your Mac and log in, the Finder looks pretty much the same. The changes are subtle. For example, the menu bar icons are spread out, with each icon having a little more space. It makes it easier to spot the icon you want.

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The menu bar icons in macOS Big Sur (top) and macOS Catalina (bottom).

Click on a menu, and you’ll notice that the listed items have more space.

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Menus in macOS Big Sur (left) and macOS Catalina (right).

Menu bar items

Apple’s menu bar items have also been redesigned. For example, The Wi-Fi menu bar has been reorganized. Now, your preferred networks for an area are listed, and the rest of the available area networks are in an Other Networks section.

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The Wi-Fi menu bar item in macOS Big Sur (left) and macOS Catalina (right).

If you have third-party items in the menu bar, they should look like they did previously. It’ll be up to the developers if they want to redesign their UI.

Control Center

Apple has taken the Control Center from iOS and made a Mac version. Its icon appears in the menu bar, and you get quick access to controls such as network, display brightness, and volume. It is customizable, so you can add the controls you want.

If your menu bar is getting crowded, you can use Control Center to take some items off the bar. For example, you can use Control Center for your sound volume, and then remove the volume control menu item. Also, you can click and drag Control Center items and place them in the menu bar for quick access.