Stupid Simple Mac Tip #93 – Big Sur Prizes: Notification Center

by | Sep 21, 2021

In late 2020, Apple released Big Sur, representing the most comprehensive macOS overhaul in years. It’s also the line’s 11th official version, so any fan of Spinal Tap knows that it must be extra good!

With several months (and a handful of patches) having already passed, zero-day bugs/exploits aren’t an issue, and the OS runs smoothly on most post-2015 Macs…so if you’ve been postponing an update, it’s time to climb aboard.

[Quick side note: macOS 12 Monterey is slated to be released in the very near future and the beta version has been available for some time. While we have a warning post coming soon, there is a specific reason we are talking about macOS 11 aka Big Sur just now. It takes a while for a new macOS to become stable in addition to the business-grade software, printer and scanner drivers and more that your business may depend on, to catch up. For this reason, we have a delayed roll-out for our clients to ensure minimal downtime most bugs and problems.]

Featuring improvements in security, privacy, aesthetics, and productivity, Big Sur is definitely worth installing…and what better way to get the most out of a new OS than a set of Stupid Simple Mac Tips exploring its best new features?

The series is called “Big Sur Prizes” and starts with a look at the revamped notification center that keeps you connected and informed without having to launch additional programs.

The notification center is now a one-stop space for checking messages, calls, calendars, news, and any other live info imaginable through customizable widgets.

To open the module, click on the time/date portion of the menu bar in the upper right corner (the separate notification icon is gone), or break out your trackpad gestures by swiping right-to-left from the edge with two fingers.

As the panel slides into view, you’ll immediately notice a sleek redesign that mimics iOS — another step in Apple’s migration to singularity in its device environment. 

Notifications from linked programs (email, Slack accounts, message platforms, news services, podcast subscriptions, etc.) will appear at the top, with widgets positioned below in a layout that’s visually appealing, efficient, and functional.

Notifications: Here’s where you’ll find alerts/messages/reminders from all your linked channels. If space is limited, programs will stack multiple notifications but clicking on top will open previews of all. Hovering over an individual note will provide numerous options available straight from the notification center: delete, expand, open, respond, mark as read, play media, or other (depending on the program).

Widgets: Below notifications is the vastly improved widget section. By default, you’ll find basic real-time info (weather, time, stocks), but this section is completely customizable in appearance and content. You can rearrange widgets by dragging-and-dropping, change their size with a right-click, or add alternate services by clicking on “Edit Widgets” (bottom center). Your Mac has several options available, your existing programs may have widgets waiting, or you can hit the app store to shop for more goodies. 

Popular selections allow you to log time, schedule tasks, monitor system performance, track packages, or even be reminded to hydrate. I may list my favorite widgets in a future post, but rest assured, none will include programs that tell me when I’m thirsty.

Receiving and responding to alerts straight from this collapsible panel makes the new notification center an organizational dream…and if you use an iPhone or iPad, the system will already be intuitive.

That’s just one productive upgrade found in Big Sur — we’ll check out more features in the weeks to come. While you’re waiting, don’t forget to grab a glass of water.