Hands-On with macOS Mojave

Posted on September 29, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mac and macOS with 41 Comments

Apple shipped the final version of macOS Mojave this past week. Here’s a quick look at this release and its most important new features.

“This year, we’ve made some striking changes to macOS,” Apple senior vice president Craig Federighi said during the product’s introduction at WWDC earlier this summer. “Our next release of macOS is macOS Mojave.”

Apple has come under fire in recent years for ignoring the Mac. And there’s some truth to that from a hardware perspective, where most Mac models have languished for years without a meaningful update, or without any update at all.

But when it comes to the operating system, now called macOS, Apple has settled into what I feel is the right groove. Its annual releases are evolutionary, as should be the case with such an established product. And they tend to include just a handful of major new features, plus tons of smaller refinements.

And so it is with macOS Mojave, as Apple calls it, or macOS version 10.14, which arrives 17 long years after the initial release of Mac OS X. I’ve been using Mojave since the first developer preview. And these are some of the most important features, along with notes about how they have—or haven’t—impacted me in regular use.

Dark mode and dynamic desktop

This is perhaps my favorite new feature: You can now enable a dark mode in System Preferences > General > Appearance that dramatically shifts the color palette of the entire system from the Mac’s traditional light grays to new, darker grays. Dark mode looks great, and it will appeal to developers, content creators, and average users alike. It also puts Windows 10’s blacker and more inconsistent dark mode to shame.

If there’s a downside to dark mode, and this isn’t Apple’s fault, it’s that third-party developers need to specifically support this feature. And many of the apps I use—like Google Chrome—do not, at least not yet.

Somewhat related is another new feature called Dynamic Desktop that lets macOS shift, over the course of the day, between full-on light mode (at mid-day) and full-on dark mode (at night) in graduated steps. It’s a cool idea, but I don’t use it because I like the new dark mode so much. And Apple only supplies two dynamic wallpapers, which limits its appeal.

Mac App Store

Modeled on the App Store in iOS, the new-look Mac App Store features the same basic navigation as its mobile cousin, the same Discover-based articles and stories, plus four theme-based tabs for different app types (Create, Work, Play, and Develop).

It’s prettier, but the Mac App Store currently still suffers from the same major issue as before. Fortunately, the next item in my list will likely solve this problem, albeit in about a year…

iPad apps

As Apple revealed at WWDC earlier this year, it is working to bring iPad apps to the Mac. Phase 1 of this effort is available in macOS Mojave: Four of the apps that Apple includes in iOS 12—News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos—are come with this OS update. And for the most part, they work well, though there are, of course, some weirdnesses. Keyboard navigation is either non-existent or inconsistent, for example, and text is often pretty small. I do use the News app fairly regularly and like it quite a bit.

Apple says that it will bring this capability to third-party developers next year, which I take to mean the next version of macOS. That will dramatically improve the availability of apps on the Mac. And should be a game changer for the system.

System updates back where they belong

I always thought it was goofy macOS system updates were installed through the App Store. (And you may recall that Microsoft tried to do the same with what was then called the Windows Store back in Windows 8.1, but quickly gave up.) In macOS Mojave, however, system updates are back where they belong, in System Preferences > Software Update.

Nicely done.

Desktop Stacks

Depending on how you use your Mac, the new Desktop Stacks feature may be the most dramatic change in Mojave. This feature builds on years of virtual folder functionality in macOS and is a weird throwback, for me, to Longhorn/Windows Vista. It lets you automatically keep the desktop, which many use as a sort of temporary container for in-progress work, into organized groups called stacks.

As you might imagine, these stacks are customizable. You can organize them by file type, date last opened, date added, date modified, date created, or by tags. And in a typical example of Apple panache, these stacks expand animatedly when you select one on the desktop.

I don’t typically keep tons of files on my Mac desktop, so I’ve only experimented with Stacks enough to know that it works, and works well. But I could see this one feature being a life-saver for those who do use the desktop extensively.

Finder improvements

I’m not a power user when it comes to the Mac, but I’ve always appreciated the stripped-down nature of the Finder, which is the Mac’s version of File Explorer. I take the time to customize this interface in various ways—for example, by adding the folders I use regularly to Favorites—and to learn the in’s and out’s of the changes that come in each macOS version.

And Apple has added a lot of new features to the Finder in macOS Mojave.

There’s a new Gallery view with side-bar that reminds me of a Windows XP Explorer view style, for example.

And there is an incredible array of Quick Look-based markup (editing) tools for images, videos, and various document types. Was I a Mac user primarily, I would spend the time to master those latter tools in particular.

Related to this is a new Screenshot app that provides an on-screen HUD so you can switch between various shot types, record a video of the screen, and more. And however you take a screenshot—the old keyboard shortcuts still work, of course—you’ll get a thumbnail at capture time which you can select for editing in the Quick Look window that appears. It’s very nicely done.

But wait, there’s more

There are many, many more small improvements in macOS Mojave, though most don’t impact me on a regular basis. You can configure Safari to display favicons in tabs, as other browsers already do by default. Safari also includes improved security and privacy features, an Apple strength. And there’s a neat Continuity Camera feature for integrating your iPhone’s photo taking and document scanning capabilities into your workflow. This is yet another benefit of sticking within the Apple ecosystem. Which, of course, I don’t do.

No matter. MacOS Mojave is an excellent and appropriate upgrade for this high-quality, mature desktop platform. And you can’t beat the price, as it’s free. I can’t think of a single reason why any Mac user wouldn’t just upgrade to Mojave immediately.

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Comments (41)

41 responses to “Hands-On with macOS Mojave”

  1. Avatar

    madthinus

    Can Windows please adopt once a year updates, Pretty Please!

  2. Avatar

    skane2600

    "That will dramatically improve the availability of apps on the Mac. And should be a game changer for the system."


    I don't think there's a lack of useful programs for the Mac. No doubt there are useful apps on iOS that aren't on the Mac, but many of those are mobile-oriented and wouldn't make much sense on the Mac anyway. In most cases where there's an overlap in functionality between the two, using the iOS app instead of the MacOS app would be a step down IMO.

    • Avatar

      curtisspendlove

      In reply to skane2600:

      In most cases where there's an overlap in functionality between the two, using the iOS app instead of the MacOS app would be a step down IMO.


      Agreed, 100%. I think the current crop of companies that make excellent Mac apps will probably continue to do so. Especially those that cater to the more persnickety Mac crowd. (Omni, Rogue Ameoba, etc...)


      But there will be a lot of teams that don’t want to put the additional time and effort into a seamless Mac app. (Though most of those teams currently either use a platform such as electron or simply don’t make a Mac app.)


      That said, I’d prefer an iOS hybrid app with slightly better UI to an electron app or such. So it is better than nothing.


      My hope is that Apple does this well enough to encourage most developers to break their core app into libraries and put a little extra work into ramping up the interface a bit to be a cleaner Mac experience instead of a pure marzipan port.


      (Personally, I’d like to see them get to a point where it is pretty easy to break your app up into libraries for the core business logic, and then have subtly different and easily maintainable UI libraries targeting specific OS’s. The Apple version of UWP, in a way. Getting a new, common UI framework would be a great first step to an overarching plan.)


      But we shall see.

    • Avatar

      dontbe evil

      In reply to skane2600:


      "but but nobody wants apps on a desktop os" (people on WIndows)


      "WOW apps on desktop, that's revolutionary, can't wait" (apple fans)

  3. Avatar

    igor engelen

    The only thing that bothers me is the quality of the dynamic wallpaper. It looks like an image that got compressed too much. Instead of nice gradients there are now these blotches of color.

  4. Avatar

    dontbe evil

    OMG that's revolutionary!!!

  5. Avatar

    dontbe evil

    But but apple new OS/HW support is the best... you can install this only on max 6 years old mac... ROTFL

    • Avatar

      Jeffsters

      In reply to dontbe_evil:



      All this aside, let's compare a top tier Windows manufacturer and their support for Window's 10 shall we?


      Here you can find all the Windows X supported Dell computers here:

      dell.com/support/article/us/en/04/sln297954/dell-computers-tested-for-windows-10-april-2018-update-and-previous-versions-of-windows-10?lang=en#Inspiron-DT-SCU


      Here, for easy reference, you can see when they were released here:

      engineering.purdue.edu/ECN/Support/KB/Docs/DellModelYears


      Oh snap!

  6. Avatar

    Illusive_Man

    This makes Windows from a UX design perspective look lightyears behind.

  7. Avatar

    PhilipVasta

    I'd love to see Microsoft focus on small workflow improvements like this Stacks feature. They're already kind of doing this type of thing, to be fair, with the sticky notes upgrade and snip and sketch app. They need to continue with that. Continue with improvements to things that a large percentage of their userbase interact with daily.

  8. Avatar

    nbplopes

    One thing that impressed me is that in the dark mode both the tone and the brightness of windows change according to the desktop wallpaper. For instance, if the tones of the desktop wallpaper are warmer the grey applied to windows will be warmer;, if its colder it will be colder; if it is greener the grey will have a slight green tonality to it .... so on and so forth. These little things make the dark mode come to life, especially when paired with dynamic wallpapers.


    This is doing things way beyond taking trends with an opportunistic mindset like some companies seam to do.


    Cheers.

    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to nbplopes:


      https://youtu.be/-t90uq80GHA


      Here is a video I've done to illustrate what I tried to describe:


      • Avatar

        longhorn

        In reply to nbplopes:

        Nice, it's a very subtle effect, but it's there. Maybe Finder isn't the best application to showcase it because of the translucent sidebar which distracts the eye.


        Ars Technica explains it well:

        "One separate but related feature exclusive to Dark Mode is called Desktop Tinting, which goes beyond the translucent sidebars and other UI elements. Each window samples an “average” color from whatever piece of your desktop wallpaper it’s on top of and uses that color to subtly tint every single window in the operating system. The effect is so gentle that you really need to be looking for it to notice it at all, but Apple says that it’s meant to keep the bold Dark Mode windows from clashing with your chosen wallpaper. If you absolutely hate the effect or if you do color-sensitive work and don’t want your window tints changing willy-nilly, the only way to turn off Desktop Tinting is to use Graphite as your accent color."


        • Avatar

          nbplopes

          In reply to longhorn:


          Yes. It's meant to be subtle ... color changes with the flow of color and "light" in the background ... fluent (Fluent). Little things that make a difference.


          Meanwhile MS has has been doing tech marketing around Fluent UI ... talk after talk ... after talk ... mock up after mock up .... update after update after update .... inconsistency after inconsistency .... and more mockups for the next version ...... long road indeed .... to keep users coming to see whatever there is in their blogs at the moment .... to keep licences coming .... to keep the chatter coming ... and "deliver"? something way far from the talk ... .... zzzz, buy the next big video card .... the next big CPU from Intel ... wait the next Surface Go ... more out band driver updates ... firmware .... zzzzz .... zzzz


          I honestly don't want to any of us to go back to that time where there was little else more ...

  9. Avatar

    F4IL

    Instead of just using the bucket tool to paint everything black, they bring certain UI elements in and out of focus using different shades. It is similar to the dark mode found in gnome shell.

    • Avatar

      Steven Lendowski

      In reply to F4IL:


      Yeah, i am just migrating my main desktop machine from Win10 to Ubuntu 18.10 beta. Tested KDE, liked it, but now went with standard GNOME based flavor.


      AMAZING themes, even better IMHO than the already great macOS dark mode.


      Though even though i dont have the money for it, Apple starts to appeal to me more and more.

      But the flexibilty, software options and the FOSS philosophy put Linux over the top.


      I feared i would miss replacements for some of the 100s programs i use on windows, but the only missing things are MSFT office apps and 2-3 store apps. Which i can substitute (for my needs) with either equal FOSS apps (OneNote=Inkdrop), WINE, web apps or android apps (Though Anbox, which provides high performance seamless android app integration in linux like native apps).


      Just amazing! And for the migration peroid, Win10 is just a dual boot away.


      Only problems:

      -AMD Raven Ridge APU needs latest Kernel+MESA, but now fixed with 18.10 beta.

      -HDR is not working with my 43" 4K HDR LG TV as monitor.. And this will likely stay this way until 2019 according to KODI devs.


      Other than that? None! Its finally there! And if you want to game AAA titles not supported by WINE, with KVM/QEMU you can GPU passthrough to windows 10 VM and play like on bare metal!


      Sorry for offtopic, but as a geek this makes me smile all day.. ;)

      • Avatar

        longhorn

        In reply to AllThisEv1l:

        I like your Linux enthusiasm, but I feel the need to make a few remarks. Inkdrop is not Free Open Source Software. It's proprietary and costs $50 per year.


        The statement that Anbox provides high performance seamless Android app integration on Linux seems far-fetched. Anbox seems more like a proof of concept at this point in time. That can of course change, but likely won't match Android integration in Chrome OS.


        Playing games with QEMU and GPU passthrough seems very geeky, when booting into Windows is often just a reboot away.


        If Apple just can get some sane Mac hardware out the door, then a number of Linux and Windows users would likely be willing to switch.


        Miguel de Icaza (Xamarin) worked as a Linux software developer for twenty years. Then in 2012 he switched to OSX and was amazed that "everything just works". Then in 2016 Microsoft bought Xamarin so let's assume he uses Windows during the day now. This goes to show that even an experienced Linux developer can find Linux slightly annoying. It's simply not as polished as Windows or macOS. "It's getting there", but if you just want to get work done, there are probably better options. I use Linux, but I have also spent a lot of time configuring and tweaking. That's something most "normal" people wouldn't want to do. And that's the strength of mobile and Chromebooks.


        That being said I'm a believer in open source for security and privacy reasons. The problem is monetization. Making money from open source software is difficult.


  10. Avatar

    djross95

    It’s just so sane and sensible compared to the visual mishmash that is Windows 10. I wish there was touch, and I really don’t like Apple the company, but the OS is quite good. MS may eventually get it right, but for now I’m quite happy with Mojave.

    • Avatar

      curtisspendlove

      In reply to djross95:

      Agreed.


      Windows has has come a long way in the past while. But working with both platforms extensively, I’ve come to my main conclusion.


      While there are plenty of things I think Apple can do better, for the most part I enjoy using macOS.


      For me, in my profession, which is primarily web development with open source tool chains (not .NET), Windows is usable, but over a given day it feels like “death from a thousand papercuts”. So many tiny little imperfections, most of them probably not encountered by most people, just combine to make each interaction a bit less efficient or add just a touch of abrasion to an otherwise great experience.

  11. Avatar

    longhorn

    If Apple releases new desktop hardware I might buy just because of Mojave. I don't get why it's so difficult for Apple to make desktop hardware. Most people don't want a screen baked into their computer (All-in-ones), that's really annoying if something breaks and it's expensive and hard to upgrade. The iMac should be an option, not the only desktop option. It's amazing how Apple ignores both consumer and business desktop market.



  12. Avatar

    Bats

    BOOOOOORING.


    So this is the future of Microsoft, eh? Doesn't Windows have this stuff already? Doesn't Windows have a dark mode?


    iPad apps to the Mac? That's kinda funny as both Apple and Google are trying to bring the mobile apps to the desktop. Isn't it clear what's going on or trending here? "Simple" computing is coming to the desktop. Both leaders Google and Apple are doing it. Microsoft? *shakes head*

    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to Bats:


      You have no clue and deserve to be just that, clueless :)

    • Avatar

      Daniel D

      In reply to Bats:

      Boring no, because I'm not eleven. Rock solid update of a mature O.S. yes.

    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to Bats:

      Well, MS created UWP to allow the same apps to run on both mobile devices and the desktop, so you could argue that Google and Apple are the followers in this case.


      It has yet to be seen if there's any substantial user demand for iOS apps on MacOS or Android apps on Chromebooks. On Chromebooks Android apps primarily compete with web apps. On MacOS, iOS apps would compete with native Mac apps which is much stiffer competition.

      • Avatar

        curtisspendlove

        In reply to skane2600:

        It has yet to be seen if there's any substantial user demand for iOS apps on MacOS or Android apps on Chromebooks.


        Agreed. I’ve wanted iOS apps on my Mac for a long time now. I was even perfectly ok with it being an even more straight-across port than they seem to be doing with “marzipan”.


        But I always kinda considered myself to be a bit of an outlier there.


        On MacOS, iOS apps would compete with native Mac apps which is much stiffer competition


        In general, this is the main caution. However I don’t think most Mac users are going to care about “proper” Mac apps like some of the “tech elite” do.


        I love “proper” apps for a platform. Most people commenting on this site do as well. As for the tens of millions of people that have iPads or iPhones... :: shrug ::


        They might just like that they can control their lights from their Mac or check their stocks (heh, ugh...stocks) with a more familiar interface.


        These particular apps don’t really have too much special about them other than being fairly simplistic beneath the hood. Which gives apple a variety of interface tests (though home is certainly functional and a good addition if you’re into the smart home thing).


        Regarldess, it is a good first attempt. I look forward to seeing the maturation of the framework over the next year to see what the full developer API looks like.


        If the apps are “good enough” then we will have a very real blurring of macOS and iOS. But make no mistake, everyone who maintains a desktop OS in 2018 sees the writing on the wall.


        Traditional operating systems are old and bolstering their 401k’s and stock options. They are getting a bunch of AARP junk mail. Every once in a while the touch-first OS’s leave a flyer for a place called Shady Acres or Whispery Pines on the kitchen table.


        It may not be for a decade or two...but it is coming.


        (Edit: tried to make the allusion to OS’s getting old more explicit, so it doesn’t sound like I’m trying to imply the developers are old. I was trying to be too clever about personifying the OS’s. I have utmost respect for platform developers. I can’t even imagine how difficult that job is in the modern age.)

        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to curtisspendlove:

          The question is how many unsophisticated users own both an IPhone and a Mac.


          IMO traditional operating systems have value today for all the same reasons they've always had value. Now they can certainly take these lighter OS's and add features that help them approach the full capability of the traditional ones gaining size and complexity along the way, but the end result is likely to be reinventing of the traditional "wheel" under a new name.

          • Avatar

            curtisspendlove

            In reply to skane2600:

            IMO traditional operating systems have value today for all the same reasons they've always had value.


            Indeed they do. And will continue to do so. I’m not sure what the ultimate fate will be, though I basically just expect computing to continue changing until the tasks requiring traditional operating systems to be fully subsumed by “modern” OS’s.


            Whether those OS’s are more fully-featured versions of the current crop of touch-first OS’s or something new is the interesting part to me.


            • Avatar

              longhorn

              In reply to curtisspendlove:

              So by "modern" OSes you mean OSes without multitasking, advanced window management, multi user support, mouse and keyboard support and apps that can do more than web-apps?


              Don't get me wrong, I think you made a lot of good points in the thread "Why the iPad can't replace a PC - explained by Apple". I actually realized (maybe for the first time) that most people don't need a PC at home.


              I think there are misconceptions about a "post-PC era". A post-PC era is pretty much the same as a post-work/productivity era. Mojave and especially the improvements to Finder shows that Apple is willing to invest in the desktop/PC paradigm. Apple is also working on a security model with permissions for macOS. Another way is to only allow verified apps from a known Store. That of course requires that someone actually verifies the code of apps submitted, which hasn't really been the case on Android with thousands of malware-containing apps found in Play Store during its lifetime.


              I don't know what model of computing is the best, but I know there has to be more than one. We now have so called modern/mobile and legacy/PC paradigm and trying to reduce it further will result in something similar to Chrome OS or Windows S. We have seen both those platforms perform miserably on the market.


              I have to give Apple credit for understanding that mobile and PC are two very different things. Powerful sync capabilities is what can tie these different paradigms together. I agree with skane2600 that the value of iOS apps on macOS is unclear. Maybe some iOS apps are unique without macOS equivalent. However, they are touch-first apps and the lack of touchscreen Macs will become more and more painful.


              Mobile apps (iPhone apps) became a thing because web-apps didn't fit and perform well on small screens/devices. On a Mac you have the power and screen estate to run web-apps so the need for mobile apps is questionable.


              Apple has a good strategy with two OSes, now they just need to focus on making sane hardware and getting it into the hands of people. The Apple elitism does in fact cost the company a lot of money, but since it makes a ton of money anyway, nobody cares.


              • Avatar

                nbplopes

                In reply to longhorn:


                "So by "modern" OSes you mean OSes without multitasking, advanced window management, multi user support, mouse and keyboard support and apps that can do more than web-apps?"


                I think you may need an update on your knowledge. Once you do that, don't blame me. Instead think about who or what lead you to think as you have stated.


                Honestly,, an iPad Pro is faster than my MacBook Pro 15" Quad Core i7 from late 2015/16 in a lot of ways (Intel Iris Pro integrated graphics). Including for instance transcoding a 4k video file to 1080p in order to upload to youtube. I mean, way faster, it smokes it. This while I'm writing an article on the iPad Pro.


                Honestly, time will tell, but I do think OSs like macOS and Windows will target more and more the market of Workstation's, that is, PC made for engineering/technical and scientific work. Regular kind of Office work and satellite tasks OS's like iOS and Chrome OS / Android will be able to handle it way better (they are already at many levels).


                PS: If only Apple decided to support the mouse in iOS.

                • Avatar

                  nbplopes

                  In reply to nbplopes:


                  Dont understand why people are voting me down. To demonstrate what I’ve said it’s a trivial exercise.


                  We indeed live in a world where opinion is better than the truth from an engineering perspective..

                • Avatar

                  skane2600

                  In reply to nbplopes:

                  If you're going to contrast typical use vs. workstation work, you should pick a different example than "transcending a 4k video file to 1080p". Most people aren't even using 4K on their computers let alone converting them to a different resolution.

  13. Avatar

    ashokkumar58866

    The article is really nice to read. The new macos mojave is really cool. you can also get macos mojave features on windows PC!

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