macOS 11 Big Sur
macOS Big Sur includes some of the biggest changes to macOS since the release of Mac OSX. It has more of an iOS look and feel, but with features unique to macOS.
macOS Big Sur upgrades the Mac's interface in dozens of subtle and substantial ways that make it easier and more convenient to use than ever. And new security features lock down the system even more effectively against malware. — PCMag
Apple is moving away from the Intel chip towards the new M1 ARM-based chips, reported to be very fast but you may need to install Rosetta to get apps that were designed for Intel processors to work.
- Apple macOS Big Sur review from PCMag.
- macOS 11.0 Big Sur: The Ars Technica review.
- macOS 11 Big Sur at a glance on MacRumors.
- macOS Big Sur redesign — Explained!
- How to create a bootable USB installer for macOS Big Sur.
macOS Catalina has continued to move much iOS functionality onto the Mac, including the ability to port iPadOS apps. iTunes is gone, replaced with Music, TV and Podcasts. iOS backup in now in Finder and Sidecar turns supported iPads into a secondary monitor.
If you've got an older Mac that you're still happy with, you have some options. You can continue to run Mojave or Catalina, depending on which version you’re happiest with. Apple typically supports the previous two versions of macOS with security updates and new Safari versions, so Mojave should be supported for another year and Catalina should have two years of patches left. — Ars Technica
32-bit Apps Deprecated
Catalina is the last macOS version that will support 32-bit software.
The end of support for 32-bit apps in macOS 10.15 is probably most significant for legacy users more likely to be using 32-bit apps.
Mac hardware and macOS made the jump from 32 bits to 64 bits a long time ago, but Catalina will be the very first version of macOS that is totally unable to run 32-bit software. — iMore
Legacy System Extensions Deprecated
Catalina will be the last version of macOS to use legacy system extensions. Most active vendors have already made this change, but it may require you to pay for an upgrade. An example of the warning:
The Internet is the best source for help with your challenges other than Mac user groups.
- Apple — the place to start for Mac products and information.
- Apple Services Status — status of Apple services in the cloud.
Switching to a Mac
The Mac provides a stable platform for those that dislike the direction Microsoft has taken with Windows 10 or those that need to run both Windows and Mac on the same machine.
[T]here's a simple reason to buy a MacBook. They last twice as long. — ZDNet
A common misconception about Macintosh hardware is that it's more expensive than equivalent PC hardware. In fact, that's not true. If you compare spec-for-spec Mac hardware against the equivalent premiere PC hardware like the Microsoft SurfaceBook or the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you'll find that the pricing is similar. — ZDNet
High-end Mac laptops (e.g. the M1 MacBook Pro) can be quite pricey, but are aimed at those that need the extreme performance in a laptop. What MacBook should I buy in 2021? (video)
The switch from Windows to OS X has really paid off for me from a reliability standpoint. Sure, the Mac ecosystem is far from perfect, and there are still plenty of annoyances to contend with, but I'm wasting a lot less time hand-holding systems these days. — ZDNet
The integration with iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad make it even more attractive if you run those devices. You can even run Windows on a Mac by using Boot Camp or on a virtual suite like Parallels.
Should you switch? Have a look at When replacing your Windows 7 PC: Should you switch to Windows 10 — or a Mac?
High end Windows-based ultrabooks are priced near (or even above) similarly equipped MacBooks and MacBook Pro machines. — ZDNet
There are online resources and books to help you in the transition.
- macOS. It's why there's nothing else like a Mac.
- 13 macOS tips for Windows users.
- New to Mac includes how to set up your new Mac and tips for Windows switchers.
- Move your data from a Windows PC to a Mac from Apple.
- Use your Apple Keyboard in Windows with Boot Camp from Apple.
- I tried switching from the 13-inch MacBook Pro to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Here's why I failed.
- Which Mac to buy? 10 tips to help you decide.
- How to move from PC to Mac from Macworld.
- How to switch from PC/Windows to a Mac as painlessly as possible.
- A complete beginner's guide to macOS: Get started in just 1 hour.
- 7 Advantages you probably don't know about switching to Mac from PC.
- 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts business users need to know.
- Amazon has several books about switching from a PC to a Mac.
You need to be running security (antivirus) software on your Mac.
The use of security software for Mac OS X should not fail due to false vanity. — AV-TEST
Macs No Longer Secure
Once of the reasons people love Macs is because of its reputation for lacking security vulnerabilities compared to Windows.
That is no longer true. Security threats to Apple devices and computers have significantly increased in the last few years.
[T]he volume of Mac threats increased by more than 400% year-on-year in 2019, outpacing Windows "threats per endpoint" by a ratio of nearly two to one. That latter number being the more important as it allows for the fact that Malwarebytes has a larger Mac userbase than Windows. — Forbes
The Malwarebytes researchers, however, concluded that what the 2019 threat landscape tells us as we move further into 2020, is that "it's time to take a good hard look at Mac security and finally get serious." — Forbes
Malware Protection Weak
Malware protection has been particularly weak and we've had proof that Macs can get ransomware since 2015. Choose an effective program that doesn't significantly slow down the system.
With Increased Popularity Comes New Threats
With the increased popularity of Macs has come a new set of security threats (see sidebar).
- Apple security shock as Mac threats outpace Microsoft Windows by 2 To 1.
- Mac OS X isn't safe anymore: the crapware / malware epidemic has begun.
- Mac internet security threats show malware aimed at Mac is rapidly increasing.
- Mac OS X in the crosshairs — 18 malware scanners put to the test.
- Mac vs. PC security: Which is better?
- A data-stealing Trojan aimed at Mac users.
Don't Be Part of the Problem
Be wary of potential misleading links in emails before you click on them. Websites or sudden warnings that “you're infected” (including unexpected “tech support” phone calls) are generally attempts to scam you. Know how your security software provides protection and alerts so you don't get caught by fake warnings.
Be aware of what you're sharing on the Internet and how it could affect your security and privacy. Many people post answers to common security questions on social media.
Install Security Software
I strongly recommended that you install security protection onto your Mac.
- Macintosh OS X Security: Understanding the platform and usage (second lesson and third lesson).
- Apple security updates direct from Apple.
- Tips and tools to help Mac users protect their data and communications.
- The first things you should do after getting a new Mac.
You'll find a listing of Mac security software in the software section.
These news sources will keep you informed about what is new and upcoming regarding the Mac.
- iMore for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch content.
- Mashable Mac news.
- Computerworld Apple news.
- Mac|Life (appears to be offline). Mac|Life on Facebook.
- Accelerate Your Macintosh!
Tips & Tricks
- How to clean a MacBook screen and Mac accessories.
- MacPaw How To has hints on dealing with lots of issues.
- Lifewire's Mac How-Tos.
- 62 OS X El Capitan tips and tricks.
- Switch to Mac: How to find your favorite Windows features in OS X.
Mac Online Communities
- Info-Mac the original Mac online community.
Information About Older Macs
These are sites don't appear to be maintained but still contain useful information:
- FAQs.org — Macintosh — various FAQs for the Mac (last updated 1995).
- apple-history.com provides information on Apple computers and products by date, family and processor type (last updated 2015).
- Info-Mac Archive (last updated 2007).
Feeling nostalgic or curious about early Macs?
- The history of the Apple Macintosh.
- Mac in time: 35 years of Apple's legendary Macintosh.
- History of Macintosh.
Macs are very reliable, but sometimes things go wrong.
- MacIssues — how to use, troubleshoot, and repair your Mac.
- MacIssues on Twitter (@mac_fix_it) has news and troubleshooting for Macs, OS X, iPods, iPhones, & more.
- Apple Apps Support — all the topics, resources, and options you need for Apple apps.
- If you cant send or receive email on your Mac.
- Diagnose problems with your Mac.
- Office Mac Help is a resource for Microsoft Office on the Mac.
- Word for Macintosh.
Apple has a Force Quit option for programs that don't respond to a normal shutdown request. This should be your last resort option.
Traditionally, the only option for a hard drive was a spinning magnetic platter. Today, SSDs have changed that but you need to be aware of the risks and benefits of each choice.
- Mac Fusion Drive vs SSD vs hard drive: Buying guide.
- How to recover data from damaged Mac or external drive.
Backing Up Your Mac
If your hard drive fails, you'll lose all your data and perhaps the information necessary to recover your computer. Backing up your Mac stores that information so that you can recover. You might want to read a bit about backups to fully understand the main concepts and risks.
- Back up your Mac with Time Machine.
- Restore items backed up with Time Machine.
- How to restore Mac files from Time Machine.
- How to back up Mac — the four best data backup methods for Mac users.
- The best backup software for Mac — alternatives to Time Machine.
Backing Up Your Email
- How to back up your Mac OS Mail folder.
- Restore mailboxes and their content.
- How to manually restore your Mail folder from Time Machine.
- How to recover files using Time Machine, including email.
- How to back up or copy your Mac OS X Mail Address Book.
Basic Mac Software
This Mac software listing is not extensive but provides some basic apps. Try these resources:
- Apple downloads page lists Apple's products.
- The The Apple Store app (download via iTunes) provides a more secure source for software. If given the choice, look there for apps.
- MacUpdate provides ratings and discounts.
You need to be running security (antivirus) software on your Mac. The effectiveness of security programs varies. See this not all products as effective.
Many Mac OS X security products adversely affect system performance. These reviews may help you decide:
- 16 macOS Mojave for consumer and corporate users.
- The best MacOS antivirus software for home users.
- Malware statistics includes stats for Macs.
- Best antivirus software and apps 2019 from Tom's Guide.
The recommendation is mainly based upon comparing the reviews and personal experience. I'm unlikely to recommend a product that causes your system to slow down considerably or which provides poor protection, but it is a balancing act. Here's some notes from the 2018 Tom's Guide reviews:
Kaspersky Internet Security offers both the lowest system impact and some of the best malware-detection rates recorded. It even provides extra security features, including parental controls and options to lock down your webcam and stop websites from tracking your browsing activity. If you're willing to pay to protect your Mac from malware, Kaspersky Internet Security is the best option available.
Avast Free Mac Security caught 99.9 percent of all malware, packs in a password manager, barely leaves a smudge on system impact and doesn't charge a dime. If only it caught 100 percent of malware, as Kaspersky did.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is one of only a few solutions we tested that offers perfect malware detection. Further, its modern, streamlined interface places on-demand scans front and center. Last year's winner dropped from first place, though, because its system-impact scores didn't match the flawless marks posted by Kaspersky.
Norton Security Deluxe may offer excellent protection, but it charges more (after the first year) than its competitors do, without offering as many perks. Still, always-on-call customer support is a nice thing to have if anything ever goes awry.
OS X's built-in firewall provides only inbound protection. There is no outbound protection and provides no additional protection if you're behind a router.
- Little Snitch provides both incoming and outgoing firewall protection and includes a network monitor.
Photo & Graphic Design
Affinity products are extremely powerful and very reasonably priced.
- Affinity Photo (CA$69.99, no subscription) is professional photo editing software for the Mac. In the works for 5 years, it has an incredibly intuitive interface. System requirements.
- Affinity Designer (CA$69.99, no subscription) is professional graphic design software for the Mac. Affinity Designer won the 2015 Apple Design Award, “honoring outstanding design and innovation.” System requirements.
- Safari Browser is the Mac OS X default web browser and supports the latest standards and features.
- Firefox Browser is available for Mac OS X 10.2.x and later.
- iCab Browser. This alternative browser for the Mac is highly customizable and includes image filtering, which eliminates banner ads.
- iCloud includes email, calendar and more. Available for OS Lion 10.7.2 or iOS 5 or better.
- Mozilla Thunderbird is available for Mac OS X 10.2.x and later. Not recommended for large amounts of mail. Installing Thunderbird on Mac.
- Spark: Love your email again is probably the easiest and most innovative free email client. Available for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Android. Web and Windows support is pending.
- Postbox (US$29.99 per year) may provide a Thunderbird alternative to those looking for something similar but with more features.
- Spark for Teams US$7.99/month/team member adds the ability to share and discuss email with your teammates to Spark.
- AirMail is a new mail client designed with performance and intuitive interaction in mind. Available for macOS (US$26.99) and iOS (US$4.99).
- The Best Email Client App for Mac has the best, easiest and most powerful choices for Macs.
- What's the best email app for macOS? — 9to5Mac.
- Best free email for Macs 2019 — Macworld.
- The 8 Best Free Email Clients for Mac in 2019 — Lifewire.
- FileZilla (free) is the recommended FTP client for casual users.
- FileZilla Pro (US$19.99) is a professional FTP/S, SFTP client for Windows, Mac OS X or Debian Linux. Heavily optimized for speed, it can also connect with many cloud servers.
Manager is free accounting software that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.
- It includes modules such as cashbook, invoicing, receivables, payables, taxes and comprehensive financial reports.
- The Desktop edition doesn't support multi-user capabilities. If you require multi-user access, you will need to sign up for Cloud edition and your data will be stored in the “cloud” rather than on your computer.
- VLC media player is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols.
LibreOffice is Free and Open Source Software.
I strongly recommend LibreOffice because it is better maintained and more frequently updated than OpenOffice. It provides everything most people need.
This section discusses the requirements for LibreOffice on Linux. For more general information about LibreOffice, please see the Recommended Software page.
System Requirements for macOS
LibreOffice runs on macOS 10.10 (Yosemite) or higher.
- Intel or Apple silicon processor (via Rosetta - native Apple silicon support is being developed).
- 512 MB RAM.
- Up to 800 MB available hard disk space.
- 1024x768 graphic device with 256 colors (higher resolution recommended).
For certain features of the software — but not most — Java is required. Java is notably required for Base.
Due to an issue, there are the following restrictions with Java: on macOS 10.10 and newer, JRE isn't found, JDK is required.
See Oracle's Java Downloads for All Operating Systems page for information specific to Mac OS X.
- Able2Extract Professional is a powerful professional PDF program that allows you to do almost anything with PDFs. Strongly recommended. See my review of Able2Extract Pro 12 for details and full system requirements.
- A full license costs US$149.95.
- A 30-day subscription costs US$34.95.
- PDF Expert is a feature-packed PDF program that allows you to do most things that Adobe Acrobat DC can do.
- A full license costs US$79.95.
HTML & Text Editors
- BBEdit ($49.99 USD) is an excellent HTML text editor.
Notes, the Mac OS X built-in editor, was improved greatly in El Capitan, but you might find one of these products better for your needs.
- TextWrangler is now free, and considered the replacement for BBEdit Lite. There is a TextWrangler FAQ that should answer questions about the intended market for this product and the advantages of moving to the full-featured BBEdit.
- BBEdit Lite is discontinued.
Your Mac has utilities built in that do much of what is done by these third-party utilities, but sometimes they simplify the process.
When deleting files, be careful to avoid system files and files related to programs as they may not run properly (or at all) if you do). Duplicate files on the system may be named the same but used for different purposes.
- CCleaner for Mac protects your privacy and makes your Mac faster and more secure.
- CleanMyDrive 2 is great for copying files to thumb drives including removing hidden junk files from external drives.
- AVG Cleaner tracks down forgotten duplicate files.
- AppCleaner can help uninstall apps that distribute many files throughout your System.
- StuffIt Expander opens compressed RAR and ZIP files.