First Look: macOS Mojave

Apple released macOS Mojave public beta on Tuesday, but I’ve been using it for about a week now on a 15-inch MacBook Pro. There’s a lot to like about the new operating system, including a few surprises for me.

When Apple announced its new operating systems at WWDC in June, the one thing I was hoping for is that they would focus on performance and fix some of the lingering bugs from the last release. It appears to me that they’ve done just that—the public beta is fast and very stable1 in everything that I’ve been using it for, so far.

Performance isn’t the only thing that changed in Mojave; Apple also gave us some new features. In this release, the new features are ones that we can use every day to make the experience of macOS even better. I would rather have a few great features than any amount of whiz-bang features that are just novelties—you never use those beyond the first week or so anyway.

One of the first features I tried was Dark Mode. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to like it, but I do, which was surprising. For me, Dark Mode is one of those sleeper features that you don’t give much thought about until you start using it.

I’ve used Dark Mode in individual apps before and quickly changed back to the regular mode. It just seemed a bit weird and out of place to use on one app, but when the entire operating system is in Dark Mode, it’s a different feeling.

Apple uses multiple shades of black to achieve its Dark Mode, so things like headers and shadows pop just enough to give you a sense of depth on the screen, but that’s not the best part.

It’s a strange thing, but when you look at colors in Dark Mode, it’s almost like you can see them more clearly. Photos or waveforms in audio seem to pop and become a little clearer. Even text or calendar appointments come to the forefront a little bit more. It seems to give you a focus on the content you are working on that wasn’t there before.

You can also use the new Dynamic Desktop that changes to match the time of day in your area. So, in the daytime, the desktop is light, and at night, it is dark.

Dark Mode seems like a small feature, but once you start using it, you won’t go back.

One of the features I knew I was going to love in Mojave is Stacks. My desktop is a mess—it always has been, but Stacks cleans it up for me automatically.

Stacks takes all of those files on your desktop and organizes them into manageable “stacks” of files. You can scrub through the stack to see all of the files, or click on a stack to expand it and show the files.

You can organize your stacks in many ways, including Kind, Date Last Opened, Date Added, Date Modified, Date Created, and Tags. You can change the sorting at any time in the Finder’s View menu.

I went from having files all over my desktop to three stacks: Images, PDF documents, and music.

The new Finder makes it easier to browse and work with files, as well. In the Finder, you can now see full metadata, and you can rotate images, create PDFs, and trim media, all without opening an app. These are straightforward tasks, but it is handy to be able to do some of the simpler things without opening a separate app.

Quick Look has also improved, allowing you to markup PDFs or images, rotate or crop images, and trim audio and video files—again, all without opening a separate app.

Clearly, these features are for quick edits, not for significant changes you need to make to a file, but it still comes in handy in those instances where quickly cropping an image needs to be done before sending it.

The Mac App Store is one app that I’ll be watching very closely when macOS Mojave is released. Apple has done a fantastic job with the iOS App Store by creating compelling content for its users.

The Mac App Store hasn’t changed much in years, but it is now, and it’s a significant change. In addition to the editorial content, the store has an entirely new look and categories for users to find the types of apps they are looking for. The Mac App Store is divided into a number of categories: Discover, Create, Work, Play, and Develop. You can also browse by category, and of course, update apps purchased in store.

One of the things I respect Apple for the most is security and privacy, and in macOS Mojave, the company is doing even more to protect us.

It is incredible the lengths that ad companies will go to in order to track us online. Even with many of the safeguards in place, companies are still able to follow us using a method known as fingerprinting. Basically, the ad companies build a unique profile of our machines to try to identify us, but Apple is putting an end to that in Mojave.

Apple is doing three things to stop the practice of fingerprinting by ad companies:

  • Present a simplified version of your system configuration, so more devices look identical to trackers.
  • Only present the list of built-in fonts, so custom-installed fonts can’t be used as a unique identifier.
  • No longer support legacy plug-ins, so they can’t be used to identify you.

Basically, by doing this, Apple is making everyone’s Mac look the same, so it makes it harder for trackers to identify us as individuals.

Mojave’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention also cuts off another method of tracking us online by blocking the Share, Like, and Comment buttons often used on websites. Even if you don’t interact with the buttons, they can be used to track us, but Apple is blocking their ability to follow us across Web sites. If you want to use the buttons, Safari will ask for permission first.

There are some other great features that I haven’t had a chance to use that much yet, like Continuity Camera, which allows you to add a picture to a Mac document using your iPhone, and the all-new FaceTime.

I’m looking forward to FaceTime. It can accommodate up to 32 participants and its very smart. It can automatically detect the active speaker and make their profile a little more prominent on the screen, so you know who’s talking. FaceTime is going to be a widely used feature.

As I said at the beginning, there is a lot to like about macOS Mojave. The focus on performance, stability, privacy, security, and features that help us in our everyday life will make Mojave a must-have for all users.

  1. Please remember that this is a beta release and there are always some issues with betas. You should only install this release on a machine dedicated to betas.