Dark Mode first appeared on the Mac with the release of macOS Mojave as an easy way to switch the system interface from light to dark gray tones. But thanks to the new macOS Catalina release, it further improves how Dark Mode works, as well as new features.
The new OS version lets you schedule when dark mode is activated, and by default it turns on automatically when dusk arrives. There are also ways to quickly switch between light or dark skins, and to theme specific apps as your own.
Older versions of macOS have dimmed the Dock and menu bar, but windows and web pages are still light. Starting with macOS Mojave, Macs actually have a system-wide dark mode feature.
Dark Mode changes the look of default apps, including Finder, Safari, Photos, and Music. Apps that you download and install on your Mac can also support dark mode. This feature is present in macOS version 10.14 and later, including macOS Mojave and macOS Catalina.
Which Macs are supported?
Dark Mode is an available feature if your machine can run macOS Mojave or later (including macOS Catalina). The following Macs are supported:
- MacBook Early 2015 or later
- MacBook Air Mid 2012 or later
- MacBook Pro Mid 2012 or later
- Mac mini Late 2012 or later
- iMac Late 2012 or later
- iMac Pro
- Mac Pro 2013 or later
How to enable dark mode
macOS Catalina lets you choose a light or dark look when you first set up or update your Mac. Plus, you can set your device to automatically switch to dark mode at night and light mode during the day to reduce boredom.
Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen, choose System Preferences, and then choose General in the System Preferences window.
macOS Catalina includes three appearance options:
If you choose light or dark, the interface will always be applied, if you want to change it, you will have to go back to System Preferences to change it. What if you prefer to use the entire interface? Auto Mode helps your Mac automatically switch between light and dark views based on the time of day.
Dark Mode in macOS Catalina is a system-wide interface, with some exceptions. Some apps and features can choose their own appearance to override the system dark mode.
For example, the default Mail app will use a dark theme when dark mode is enabled. If you prefer to have dark mode enabled but want to view emails with light backgrounds, you can do this and turn off "Use dark backgrounds for messages" in Mail → Preferences → Viewing →. This only works in the mail app, not the window around the body of the email.
Mail app with dark mode on.
This is when the "Use dark background for messages" option is enabled.
There are other options such as:
- Using a light appearance map in Maps (using a light appearance map in the map)
- Overriding dark backgrounds in Notes (overriding dark backgrounds in notes)
- Typing on a white background with dark mode in TextEdit
These options will appear in the View section of the application's menu bar or as options in the application's Preferences.
Want to play with more dark mode? There is an app that does just that. NightOwl is a completely free utility for macOS Mojave and macOS Catalina that gives you more control over Dark Mode.
For example, you can use NightOwl to:
- Switch between light and dark views based on specific times of your choice
- Override dark mode to use light skin in certain apps
- Switch between light and dark skins with keyboard shortcuts
The new Auto mode in macOS Catalina is similar to NightOwl's Sunset/Sunrise mode, but this option is not available in macOS Mojave. Future macOS updates may bring more features, but for now, NightOwl is a useful tool for the Mac.
Speaking of apps, here's one more thing you need to know before fully mastering Dark Mode in macOS Catalina
Third-party applications that you download and install often include light and dark interfaces. If so, you can also switch between the two interfaces in Preferences under the application name in the upper left corner of the screen or in the View menu in the menu bar.
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Do you know more tips for using Dark Mode on macOS Catalina? Don't forget to share it with me in the comments section below.