All major websites that cover macOS have had a look at the shiny new features. I'm going to look at the parts that I don't like.

Comparison to Catalina

In former times testing a new macOS version was easy: load it up. Do a bug report or 2. Finished. Mojave with the privacy additions was unpleasant.

Catalina was rough in the first versions. Apple managed to screw up access to the temp folder in such a way that some apps were unusable. For some users the temp folder was okay and for others it wasn't. The less I say about the privacy idiocy the better.

So last year was bad. How about this year? Well, it's not better.

The sounds

I remember seeing a video about music in Star Wars versus Marvel films. Star Wars music (of course, I mean the first trilogy) is memorable. It conveys emotion. In Marvel films music is just background noise.

In Big Sur sounds went from Star Wars to Marvel. The experience is jarring and wrong.

Stability

Oh my. My test laptop is a MacBook Air. Not really fast but enough for reading, browsing, doing emails, making fractals and software testing. Therefore, it doesn't have that many applications. Here is what I got:

  • Dropbox didn't even start. They got their act together and a new, working version is available by now.

  • I was looking for a Dropbox replacement. The installer from pCloud didn't finish. The support only told me that they would support Big Sur when the version of macOS would become available. Thanks for nothing.

  • Luminar is crashing on start. I contacted support. At least they tried a bit. Here is their last statement: „I am afraid we cannot investigate the issue further since you are using a beta version of MacOS. We would recommend you to roll back to Catalina OS.“. That made me laugh.

  • Maps has crashed 2 times in the 15 minutes I used it.

  • Mail has crashed already. Nothing new there.

  • The Air restarted on its own. After trying to install pCloud the Air also had to be restarted.

  • The app I use for developing Mail Archiver doesn't make apps right now. They were using a private framework that has vanished. Oops.

Opening files

Double click on a file, the app that should open the file comes to front and the file content is shown.

Seems kinda simple. Unfortunately, coming to front doesn't happen for Preview.

Big Sur opening file in background

Intensely annoying. I've also seen this when installing the new Dropbox version.

White space

Finder got more white-space that wasn't needed. I'm on a small screen here. Now I can see less text in Finder.

This also affects the mailboxes in Mail and the menubar applets. Are we going to get touchscreens? Is everything going to be treated as iPhone? I don’t get it. Perhaps the change makes sense on a 10k screen. But not on my Air.

Contrast

The newer the version of macOS the less contrast there is. I made some bug reports to Apple for text that I can only read by squinting. The bug reports were closed as „by design“.

Big Sur has less contrast between foreground and background than ever.

Toolbars aren't in fashion anyways anymore. So it doesn't matter that I can barely see the selected item.Toolbar selected item barely visible


When you are lucky you can still see the selected folder in a sidebar. At little bit at least:

Finder sidebar

Don't use an app that has a black background. Because then you can't see the selected folder at all. I can do the same in Finder with a dark desktop picture.

And don't try to remove the translucency if you use menubar applets. Because then you won't be able to use them. They now show up white in white.

Buttons

Every item in a user interface has meaning. You see buttons that you can click. The elements have a visual hierarchy. A shadow shows you what is in front and what is not. In iOS the difference between clickable and non-clickable items has been eroded.

Now you have buttons in macOS that can't be recognised as button. Because it's chic to show interface items when you mouse over them.

The upper area of the screenshot shows the toolbar of a Finder window. If you mouse of the buttons the buttons show up.

Finder buttons mouse over

Messageboxes

And now we come to the worst part. Any type of messagebox now looks like on the iPhone.

But don't add too much text or you will get this gem of a bug. The text is beneath the scrollbar and not next to it.

Why? This design doesn't make ANY sense at all on a large screen. Did anyone have a problem with the old messageboxes???

Misc

  • The key combinations for menus always show up disabled. Even when the menu item itself is enabled.
  • When I navigate in Finder in column view to a new folder then the first item in the view is not the first item in the list but the third.
  • When opening screenshots where a scrollbar should be shown there is no scrollbar.

Beta software

This is my first impression of Big Sur. As with all beta software bugs are to be expected. But with a large company there are many many eyeballs that work with a software before it is released. They thought at this stage the software was ready for prime time.

There are a couple of items where I see improvement:

  • It’s finally possible to see indetermined progressbars again. How long did it take them? 3 major versions?
  • When doing a search in Mail and changing the mailbox the search term remains. I can’t count how often I entered text in a searchfield, selected a different mailbox and had to enter the text again.

A couple of developer friends said that they prefer the new look. And indeed Big Sur does look fresh and nice. But user interface and user experience are more than a „fresh look“.