For years, people who love the Mac have feared that Apple wasn’t paying full attention to its computers and the software they run. While such concerns can’t be fully discounted–after all, the iPhone is the company’s cash cow–MacOS Mojave, which is debuting today as a free download, shows that Apple is still heavily invested in building the best desktop operating system on the planet.
Mojave gives the Mac dozens of new features, including one of its most striking visual overhauls in years. We’ve detailed the biggest and best changes below. The software runs on Macs made in mid-2012 or later, plus 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro models with recommended Metal-capable graphics cards. Here’s what to explore once you’ve snagged the upgrade from the Mac App Store.
Mac users have clamored for a true system-wide Dark Mode for years, and now it’s finally here. Every on-screen element has been reimagined to change to an elegant dark interface with the flip of a toggle. And it’s not just the system elements that have gone dark, but all of Apple’s built-in apps including Calendar, Mail, Photos, Safari, and more.
Apple is also taking Dark Mode one step further by introducing Dynamic Desktops. These are desktop pictures that automatically change according to the time of day. So in the morning that desktop wallpaper of the Mojave desert will feature a daytime shot, but as the day wears on, the desktop wallpaper will change to a shot of the Mojave after dark.
MacOS Mojave also adds four new Apple-made apps to the operating system–all of which are transplants from iOS. First up is News, which allows you to browse all the channels and topics you follow right on your desktop. Your history syncs between the app on Mojave and the News app in iOS 12.
The Stocks app is also making its way to Mojave. Admittedly, this app will have a smaller user base than News, but fans of personal finance will appreciate its elegant interface and built-in business articles from Apple News. Home, the third new app in Mojave, allows you to control your HomeKit-compatible smart-home gear right from your Mac.
But my favorite of the new apps is Voice Memos. Long an iOS staple, it lets you record audio notes on your Mac and use them in other apps like GarageBand. Now that it’s available on the Mac and all your recordings sync via iCloud, it’s even more useful.
REDESIGNED MAC APP STORE
Speaking of apps, Mojave’s App Store gets a thorough makeover–the first since the Mac App Store was introduced in OS X 10.6 back in 2011. The upgrade takes many of its cues from the redesigned iOS App Store that was introduced last year in iOS 11. Now it features editorial content such as app lists and tips that show you how to get the most out of Mac apps. You can also peruse the store via tabbed categories including Discover, Create, Work, Play, and Develop.
The Mac App Store now also allows developers to provide video previews, so you can see an app in action before you decide to buy it. Best of all, more major app developers are now committing to the Mac App Store, which will now include formerly unavailable apps such as Microsoft Office and Adobe’s Lightroom.
Beyond the new look offered by Dark Mode, the Finder undergoes some other changes in Mojave. For starters, you’ll be able to sort your files on the desktop into Stacks–groupings of files based on file types such as PDFs, or file attributes such as dates or tags. These bundles should make it far easier for those of us with messy desktops to find what we’re looking for.
Finder windows also sport a new preview pane–a godsend for professionals such as photographers, who will be able to quickly view dozens of metadata fields about a selected image. Previously, you would need to view such metadata in a dedicated application or by selecting Command-I to see limited information in a small window.
Another nice improvement to the Finder is improved Quick Look tools. As always, Quick Look allows you to select a file in the Finder and then press the spacebar to see a large preview–be it a photograph, a video, or a PDF document. Now the feature goes beyond these previews to let you make changes to a file without opening it in a dedicated app. You can rotate and crop images, mark up PDFs, and trim audio and video files.
NEW SCREENSHOT TOOLS
The Mac has long provided tools for creating screenshots, an activity that’s grown in popularity in recent years as people have grabbed screens on other devices such as smartphones. Now when you use the shortcut key combination Command-Shift-5, it will bring up a floating toolbar. You’ll be able to quickly screenshot the entire screen, just a portion of it, or even record the entire screen or a portion and save it as a video. This video capture is incredibly useful for making tutorial videos or just showing a remote user (like a grandparent) how to use a MacOS feature.
CONTINUITY WITH YOUR IPHONE’S CAMERA
Apple’s Continuity technologies link the Mac and iOS, allowing one device to hand off a task to another. Continuity started by letting you answer an incoming iPhone call on your Mac. Then Apple provided the ability to cut and paste between devices. This year, the company is adding Continuity Camera to both platforms.
Continuity Camera allows you to be take a picture or scan a document with your iPhone or iPad’s camera and then have it automatically inserted into something you’re working on on your Mac, such as a Pages document. This capability probably won’t find a huge user base, but it perfectly demonstrates how Apple continues to design the Mac and iOS devices to work hand in hand.
It should come as no surprise that a MacOS upgrade also includes a host of new privacy features. As in iOS 12, the Safari browser foils a tracking technology known as fingerprinting, which advertisers and others use to discern your Mac’s characteristics–such as its RAM capacity or hard drive size or the fonts installed–thereby letting them follow you around the web. Though it doesn’t provide access to your name, fingerprinting lets third parties identify your machine and track which websites you visit.
MacOS Mojave’s version of Safari obfuscates this system information so websites only get a set of generic details about your Mac–the same ones as with every other Mac running Mojave. In other words, your Mac’s fingerprint will look identical to millions of other Macs, thus providing you greater privacy on the web. For some users, this ability to evade detection may be reason enough to take the Mojave plunge.