Mac Big Sur v. Mac Catalina

Mac Big Sur v. Mac Catalina

Apple’s announcement regarding the latest version of macOS, known as Big Sur, saw users wondering whether they should switch. On the other hand, the MacOS Catalina is still an attractive option thanks to its updated applications and valuable features.

Chris Michalec, an IT support professional in Winston-Salem with Parkway Tech and long time MacOS beta users offers a comparison of the two versions.

When it comes to system requirements, Big Sur requires more space than Catalina. For this reason, you need to have adequate space on your Mac to run Big Sur. Fortunately, there are tools capable of optimizing your system to free up space. These tools run scripts to boost performance and identify files that you can safely remove from your Mac.

User Interface

Big Sur comes with a revamped interface for integrated applications, such as Mail and Photos. The new design introduces full-length sidebars and sleeker toolbars. Finder Windows and the Dock now have a sharper design with curved corners and backgrounds.

The Icons are less flat than in Catalina due to the enhanced shading and shadows. For the first time, the Big Sur version now features a Control Center, and you can access it from the menu bar item. This feature controls display brightness, volume, Bluetooth, AirDrop, and Wi-Fi connections. It is also possible to drag favorite elements to the menu bar for added convenience.

Dual Screen Support (Sidecar)

Both MacOS Catalina and Big Sur have dual screen support called Sidecar. This feature enables you to use your iPad as a second display. You will find it easier to drag windows from your Mac device to the iPad. Alternatively, you take advantage of the Sidecar to pair the iPad with an Apple Pencil. The connection allows you to make changes reflected on your Mac.

You can use the dual-screen wirelessly or wired in both Catalina and Big Sur. However, the wireless mode only works within ten meters of a Mac device. It is also possible to use Touch Bar in Sidecar mode when working with apps that support Touch Bar,


Searching for messages in Big Sur is now faster than in Catalina, which propels Mac devices to the same level as the iOS version. In Big Sur, messages come with a variety of new features that improve functionality. You can reply to multiple group messages simultaneously and identify conversations using images. Additionally, it is possible to mention recipients in group conversations.

An individual mentioned in a group conversation can opt to receive the notifications only. On the other hand, entering the @ sign allows you to reply to a specific person in a group chat.

Apple used a proprietary tool called Catalyst to usher in significant changes to messages. Catalyst helps translate apps from iOS to Mac. This capability enabled Apple to transform the iOS app into a Mac application.

In messages, you can now attach various types of animations, including balloons and lasers. The ability to create Memoji is another interesting new function to enhance the messaging experience. Meanwhile, Gif and image libraries associated with messages in iOS are now available in Mac.


Significant changes made to Safari are available to three current Mac operating systems. Hence, Big Sur shares the updates with Catalina and Mojave. The start page enables you to personalize the appearance by adding background images.

Safari comes with translations, enabling you to view the translated version of web pages you open. The browser covers only seven major languages, including French, Portuguese, English, and others. This feature provides a more convenient way to translate supported pages.

Shortly, Safari will support additional Chrome extensions accessible via a dedicated section in the Mac App Store. Other privacy features include the privacy report, which lists blocked cross-site trackers in a 30-day period.


As in previous versions, Big Sur offers a vital privacy component in Safari and the App Store. Apple lists three types of data collected from users, including data linked to users, tracking data, and data not related to users. This information enables users to view the data used by a specific application.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to Catalina vs. Big Sur, the latter undoubtedly comes with a fresher, sleeker design. However, most users need substantial reasons to decide to upgrade from Catalina to Big Sur. The most crucial improvement is that Big Sur is the first macOS to support Apple Silicon. Switching the processors from Intel to Apple is a significant step.

Meanwhile, many users are likely to find Catalina sufficient for their needs, for now. This version boasts a revamped Photos app, which curates images to highlight your favorite pics. It can remove duplicate and poor-quality pictures from the app. Catalina also features the Screen Time application that helps you manage the time spent on all Apple devices and apps.

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