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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Hands on with Big Sur beta 11.3

Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.

On Tuesday, Apple released its first developer beta of the next macOS cycle: Big Sur version 11.3. (I’m still getting used to typing “11” after all these years.)

First, the warning: This beta is rough. Like, so rough that I’m reverting to macOS 11.2 on my MacBook Air as I write this story. You know the kind of beta that’s safe enough to install and use despite the warnings? Well, this isn’t that kind of beta.

It was so rough, in fact, that I couldn’t test some of the exciting new features, like support for stereo-paired HomePods as a default output device at long last.

This list is much better when it’s sorted by priority.

Reminders has gotten a nice tweak, allowing you to sort lists via priority, due date, the date they were entered, or even by title. You can perform sorts in either ascending or descending order, and if you don’t like sorting, you can rearrange items by dragging them around.

I can confirm that iOS apps running on the Mac do launch at larger sizes when available, which is nice, and the confusing “Touch Alternatives” menu item on iOS apps—which was intended to give Mac users ways to navigate more touch-focused iOS apps—has been relocated to a preference pane, with the ability to turn off individual features instead of the old all-or-nothing approach.

Safari reordering things
Reorder that start page!

Safari picks up a few new features in this beta, including the ability to reorder the contents of the new start page design introduced in 11.0. There are apparently also some new extension types and support for the Web Speech API, but I couldn’t test those.

Other new features in the betas include a new Made For You Library shortcut in the Music app that unearths personal mixes and other personalized playlists, a redesigned News+ tab in the News app to highlight News+ newspapers and magazines, and support for Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 controllers.

So, in short: Big Sur development continues, at least for the moment. At some point, Apple’s attention will undoubtedly turn to building out whatever is going to be shown off in June at WWDC as the next major update to the Mac. (Will it be 12.0? 11.5?) But in the meantime, there’s at least one major milestone left in the life of Big Sur on the way.

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