I took the plunge yesterday and upgraded to Big Sur on my MacMini. It took about an hour. So far so good – nothing has broken that I’ve noticed.
I’m usually cautious about upgrading. When I upgraded to Catalina last year, I found that they’d removed drivers for VGA socketed monitors. I ended up with a headless computer and had to buy a new monitor with an HDMI software (I was going to buy one at some point so no big deal I guess).
When I upgraded to Leopard years ago, I couldn’t print for 40 days. They’d changed the printer subsystem requiring Apple to provide the drivers in the OS and for some reason, HP printers were not working from day 1.
It surprises me that such things can get into mainstream production software. Anyway, the upgrade to Big Sur was actually seamless. Here are my observations:
- Some of the UI changes are a bit annoying. Notifications no longer have a close button and instead have a X on the top left. So where I used to go to the top right, I now go to the top left of the notification. I’ll get used to it.
- Certain notifications, like Reminders, stack nicely which I prefer. I used Reminders a lot and having a bunch of reminders on the screen takes up unnecessary screen estate. The Reminders interface feels less clumsy – I can move multiple reminders around.
- The headers of windows are bigger and we’ve gone back to coloured mini-icons – for example, folders in Finder are now blue.
- Apple Mail can now cope with more than one Exchange account without overloading. This is good for me because I have been using both Outlook and Mail for e-mail (I have 4 Exchange accounts – don’t ask). I’ll still use Outlook occasionally to setup meetings but the new version of Apple Mail is slick and works for me.
- I have some rules setup in Mail and one didn’t work properly for me. I’m not sure if this is a Big Sur issue. I want to be able to move mails out of my Google inbox into another one. Setting up a rule to do this, moves the mail to the Google archive.
- The menu bar is not consistently dark. I want my dark mode menu bar. I think it varies depending on the background image. Also the fonts and icons are more spaced out in the Big Sur menu bar. Sorry – I don’t like this. I have a lot of apps in the menu bar and it feels like a waste of space.
- All icons have been redesigned. They are more like iOS icons. Most of them are recognisable. Preview has changed a bit and it took me a while to get used to the new icon.
- SSH has been upgraded and I needed to add ForwardX11Trusted Yes to my configuration to get X applications working from remote machines on Terminal. XQuartz still works fine.
- Automator calendar actions need to be approved manually, as I found this morning. I record things in a spreadsheet and I have an Automator task to open the sheet first thing in the morning. I’m hoping that I only need to approve this once.
- GPGTools does not work. Grrr. And I’m paying for support on it. I suspect they will release an update in the next month or two. It’s not a critical part of my workflow.
I’m sure there will be more things but actually it was a smooth release. The irritations with the UI will go and I will get used to the interface. I discovered that my MacBook Pro (which my wife appears to have nicked) is still running High Sierra. I’ll be upgrading that to Catalina soon. Here’s the thing though – despite being almost as powerful at the current Pro models, it will not be possible to upgrade it to Big Sur. It’s got 16GB RAM and 512GB of SSD, the first MacBook to support this configuration in 2012. It seems a shame that this machine is not considered current. There’s nothing wrong with it and it performs very well.
Image used under a Creative Commons license – photograph taken by Diliff.