MacOS Mojave just gave your Mac new features—here’s how to use them

You should turn on Dark Mode right now.

Mac Dark Mode
The latest operating system update for Mac includes Dark Mode.Apple

Software updates can seem like a chore, but they're really an underrated perk of the gadget world. New hardware, like phones, cost money to upgrade. But new software is typically free, and ideally makes your device, or even just your web browser, better.

Last week, Apple released its annual major software update for iPhones and iPads devices: iOS 12. Now, however, the latest version of its operating system for Macs is available, too. Called macOS Mojave, the update is worth installing. Here's how to do it, and some of its notable features.

Before you get started

The new software won't work on all Macs. It runs on MacBooks from early 2015 to the present, and MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros from the middle of 2012 onwards, among other machines.

To see your Mac’s vintage, click on the Apple menu in the upper left, then select About This Mac. That’ll reveal information like its serial number, the year it was released, and what operating system you’re using now. Alas, my trusty MacBook Air from 2011 won’t accept Mojave.

But you don’t have to check out your Mac’s year first: you can just go ahead and attempt to install Mojave and see if it works. Do that through the App Store; Mojave is currently featured in the top spot. (You can also find it in the “Utilities” category.) Click on it to download.

You’ll need about 13 GB of space on your machine to download and apply the update.

Dark Mode

One of the most prominent new features is an aesthetic overhaul known as Dark Mode. As the name suggests, it gives the visual elements like toolbars a dusky color that drastically changes the tone of your whole machine. To turn this on, open System Preferences (the app with a big gear on it) and click on General.

You’ll see that your desktop now is a big desert dune at night, and in apps like Messages or Calendar, the text is white and the background is dark. Apple says that this new feature is gentler on your eyeballs if the room you’re in is dark, and that it’s good for photo editors and the like, too. It’s worth trying for a few days to see how your eyes adjust.

dark mode mojave messages
The Messages app seen in Dark Mode.Apple

A cleaner desktop

I try to keep my computer’s desktop as tidy as possible—but your habits may differ, and you may have allowed your screen to fill up with tons of files and folders that are the digital equivalent of real paper items scattered across your floor or actual desk.

Apple now has a solution for this plight, called Stacks. When you turn on the feature, it will cluster all those files by type, like putting all your JPGs or PDFs in a virtual pile. You can customize how it does this. The chaos is still there, it just looks tidier, and you can scroll through each stack to see the individual items.

Turn this feature on by going to Finder (which you can access by clicking on the smiley-face icon in the dock at the bottom, or just clicking on your desktop), click on the View menu, and you’ll find the option there.

And speaking of your desktop, Apple now offers a new wallpaper setting called “Dynamic Desktop.” That option will allow the background to adjust its appearance in response to the actual time of day where you’re located; it might be nice to use if you feel separated from the natural cycles of the day and want to pretend you have some kind of connection to it through your digital life.

Better privacy

Usually, the most noticeable changes when a new software version drops are the visual ones: like the aforementioned Dark Mode and Stacks. But the latest version of Safari, part of the new Mojave upgrade suite, takes additional steps to guard your privacy.

Apple described Mojave back at its Worldwide Developers Conference back in June, so we've known about its features for a while. Some of the most interesting improvements pertain to online tracking and masking the fingerprint that your computer has online.

For example, the fonts installed on your computer are one way that trackers could identify your computer. Now, Apple is fighting that fingerprinting practice by making your Mac look more anonymous—like giving you a pair of gloves to wear so you don’t leave prints behind when sneaking around. Also, the new OS is battling the Facebook “Like” buttons and other social sharing options that allow social media sites to follow you outside their own infrastructure. Using the new version of Safari, you’ll see a dialog box asking you if you’re cool with Facebook, for example, tracking the sites you visit.

Voice Memos
Take note: the Voice Memos app is now on the Mac.Apple

And more

Software updates typically include tweaks beyond just new color modes and privacy boosts. Mojave offers improvements to the Finder and other shortcuts.

For example, selecting a file on your desktop and then clicking the spacebar is already a fun trick to glance at the file or image without opening it in a full-fledged app like Preview. Apple calls that feature Quick Look, and now the company is expanding what it can do—in a Quick Look view, you’ll be able to crop a photo or do simple trimming tasks to an audio of video clip, too.

Screenshots, currently something you take by hitting command, then shift, then 4, now have more robust options: find those by hitting command, then shift, then 5.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the changes, but a few other additions are worth highlighting because they represent further continuity between the experience you have on an iOS device and on your Mac. Now, you’ll see Mac apps that you’re used to seeing on your phone: Voice Memos, Stocks, News, and Home, for controlling smart devices in your house.

Curious to try this all out on a more granular level? Grab the update from the App Store on your Mac and explore the virtual deserts of Mojave.