With Mojave, Apple introduced a user-selectable Dark Mode. Although Dark Mode is implemented throughout Mojave and Apple’s system apps, it’s not automatic. Third-party developers have to update their apps to adopt the feature. Many developers have already added Dark Mode support, but when you run across one that hasn’t, it can be jarring.
Safari has a similar problem. Although the browser incorporates Mojave’s Dark Mode, which makes the app’s chrome dark, websites have no way to detect if a Mac is running in Light or Dark Mode. As a result, even if a site has light and dark themes like MacStories does, the theme has to be switched manually.
Safari Technology Preview 68 changes this by adding support for the prefers-color-scheme media query. Websites that implement the feature will be able to detect if a user’s system is set to Light or Dark Mode and apply a light or dark theme to match the user’s preference. Similar to apps, website owners still need to implement a dark theme for their sites, but if they do, the new feature will switch themes automatically.
Safari has a relatively small piece of the overall browser market, so broad adoption of dark themes is by no means an inevitability. However, I’m glad to see the feature coming to Safari soon because if you use Dark Mode on a Mac, bright white webpages clash with the rest of the UI.
As I noted in my review of macOS Mojave, there’s a lot more going on with Dark Mode than dark gray window chrome. There were two sessions at WWDC dedicated to Dark Mode. Some apps are easier to adapt to Dark Mode than others from a technical standpoint, but beyond the coding, developers have to grapple with many design issues that affect apps differently.
As with many new features Apple introduces, there’s the way the company would like to see Dark Mode implemented and then there’s the way third-party developers use it in practice. Part of the variety you find is driven by the particular needs of each app. Other differences reflect compromises that are necessary to adapt existing designs to Dark Mode. Sometimes, however, developers intentionally ignore Apple’s recommendations, choosing to take a different path.
In my Mojave review, I collected some representative examples of apps that were ready with Dark Mode implementations when the OS update shipped. Since then, many other apps have been updated. I’ve spent time with many of them and have begun to see some design and implementation patterns among the early adopters that are interesting to compare to similar system apps by Apple. It’s also useful to consider how these variations will impact the experiences users have with these apps.
In the sea of dark gray floating before my eyes, I’ve identified a handful of app categories that illustrate some of the subtle differences between the apps I’ve tried. There are many other good examples, but email clients, task managers, text editors, and note-taking apps are categories that best illustrate how Dark Mode is being used by the first wave of developers to put the feature into practice.
Apple has announced that later this fall, it will release more than 70 new emoji. The emoji, which will be released when iOS 12.1 is shipped, will be included on the Mac and Apple Watch too.
The new glyphs, which are based on the characters approved by the Unicode Consortium as part of Unicode 11.0, include a wide variety of themes. For people, there are new options for gray, red, and curly hair, and for bald people. The new set of emoji also includes new foods, animals, sports, and other activities like travel.
Among the animals added are a raccoon, kangaroo, lobster, swan, parrot, peacock, and llama. Foods include leafy greens, a cupcake, a bagel, moon cake, mango, and salt. Sports have added a softball, frisbee, lacrosse stick and ball, and skateboard. There are new emotive smiley faces too.
Looking to next year, Apple says that for Unicode 12.0, which will be the basis for emoji released in 2019, it is working with the Unicode Consortium to add disability-themed emoji. Although the emoji announced today will be officially released until later this fall, you can try them now as part of the iOS 12.1 beta and public preview released today.
I was wrong. Dark Mode is the most visible and one of the most significant changes to macOS, but Mojave is much more than a UI refresh. Dark Mode and Mojave’s other system updates include productivity enhancements that have made meaningful improvements to the way I work on my Mac.
It took some time to acclimate to Dark Mode, but now I prefer it. As much as I like Dark Mode though, the most important changes to macOS have been those that surface existing functionality in new places making them more useful than in the past.
Mojave adds a collection of Desktop, Finder, and screenshot tools that are notable for the way they meet users where and how they work. It’s a functional approach to computing that has had a bigger impact on my day-to-day workflow than other recent updates to macOS, even where the Mojave updates provide new ways to do things I could already do before.
There’s a lot to cover in Mojave, so I’m going to dive right in and dispense with explaining how to set it up. Apple has a whole page devoted to the topic that you can explore if you’d like. Instead, let’s start by considering how Mojave's Dark Mode.
Apple's recent Behind the Mac series is one of my favorite marketing campaigns of late. I find the visual of people sitting behind their Macs so romantic and nostalgic. It's a sight that's ever-present whenever I spend time in a coffee shop, and the series' tagline, "Make something wonderful behind the Mac," causes me to now wonder in public: what are these people making as they sit behind the iconic Apple logo's glow?
Following WWDC earlier this year, I shared that one of the things I least expected from the conference was that it would get me excited about the Mac. I've been iOS-first for three years now, with no regrets whatsoever. During that time, while the Mac has received incremental improvements, its growth has lagged significantly behind iOS and the iPad. While I never expected the same level of innovation on macOS that iOS received – since the Mac didn't need as much work, frankly – it was frustrating to constantly see iOS score new apps and technologies before the Mac.
It has long seemed to me like the Mac was on its way to an eventual death. But WWDC breathed new life into the platform, with Apple doubling down on the Mac's strengths as a productivity tool, and the prospect of ported iOS apps starting next year. Each of these changes will bring, I believe, genuine excitement back to the platform.
For a few years now, it’s seemed that any forward movement macOS might make was coming in lockstep with Apple’s other platforms, most notably iOS. What was new to the Mac was generally something that was also new to iOS, or was previously available on iOS.
With macOS Mojave, available today to the general public as a part of a public beta, the story is different. macOS Mojave feels like a macOS update that’s truly about the Mac, extending features that are at the core of the Mac’s identity. At the same time, macOS Mojave represents the end of a long era (of stability or, less charitably, stagnation) and the beginning of a period that could completely redefine what it means to use a Mac.
Is macOS Mojave the latest chapter of an ongoing story, the beginning of a new one, or the end of an old one? It feels very much like the answer is yes and yes and yes.
Beta software is always full of problems, so hop on the Mojave train with caution. That said, if you'd like to join the beta program, you can sign up here.