MacOS Mojave preview

Mojave is the next update to the Mac operating system. It will be a free update and it will arrive this autumn - likely toward the end of September.

Apple’s highlighting two features that essentially turn down the light. One such feature is Dark Mode, which will mute the interface to better suit working at night, or conditions where a user might want to focus solely on an application rather than the menus and toolbars. The other feature is the Dynamic Desktop, which will cause your desktop image to change to match the time of day.

We can also look forward to a more tidy Desktop, the addition of Mark Up tools in Quick Look, a new Gallery View in the Finder, and more flexibility for screenshots.

Because Apple has a Public Beta of Mojave we’ve been able to try out some of these features already. Here’s what we think.

Dark Mode

When Mojave arrives this autumn probably the most excitement will be reserved for Dark Mode - the new look that mutes the colours of the menus and interface so that you can give all your attention to what you are working on by day, and so that you won’t strain your eyes by night.

It’s the first time Apple has offered a true Dark Mode. There was an option to turn on Night Shift in earlier versions of the Mac operating system, which would tone down the blue light in the evening, as well as an option to make the menu and dock dark, although that latter feature only applied to Apple apps. When Mojave arrives Mac users will be able to darken every element of the interface via System Preferences > General > Dark.

We can get a good idea of how this new design will look from the beta version of Mojave, in which you can get a feel for Dark Mode in apps such as the Calendar, Messages, Notes and so on. White backgrounds become dark, while text is white. It’s particularly beneficial in apps like Photos, where you can focus entirely on the photograph you are editing, rather than have that vie for attention with the rest of the interface.

No doubt it will be the creatives who will get the most out of this new interface option, along with anyone who prefers to work at night. For the rest of us, it’s probably just a novelty that we’ll end up switching off at the point when we feel it’s just a bit too dark for day to day use.

Dark Mode won’t just work with Apple apps, app will assume this darker interface, but it’s worth noting that when you are viewing web pages, in Safari or any other web browser, the page itself will appear as the designer of that site intended, so be ready with the sunglasses.

Desktop Stacks

Once the excitement about Dark Mode has died down, we feel that there’s another new feature in Mojave that is much more revolutionary in terms of how you will use your Mac. Over the years Apple has come up with various ways to help us keep things in order on our Macs without actually needing a filing system.

In past versions of MacOS Apple has refined Spotlight so that we could quickly locate a document we needed, allowed us to Tag documents so that they could automatically appear together with other related items, added Quick Look so we could see a preview of the file before opening it, and made it easy to create Smart Folders so that certain types of file could be located.

One thing that Apple seems to have recognised is that for most of us ‘filing’ involves saving something to the Desktop. In Sierra the company added one of our favourite features of all time - the ability to sync the Desktop to iCloud and access it from any Mac or iOS device. So if you have a Mac at home and one at work you can share the same Desktop and access everything you need. Of course the side-effect of making the Desktop the go-to place is that for most of us, EVERYTHING is stored on the Desktop.

While you may drag and drop all these files and images into a Stuff folder from time to time, things can get very out of hand and good luck finding anything in amongst that desktop clutter - especially if it’s mostly screen shots.

Desktop Stacks is a new feature coming in Mojave that builds on Smart Folders to create folders on your Desktop automatically. These folders can be sorted according to file type, date modified, date last opened, tags, and more. With Desktop Stacks turned on you can sort all the files on your Desktop into neat folders.

To turn on Desktop Stacks you need to click on the Finder menu, View > Use Stacks. When you turn it on, your Desktop will tidy itself. Folders won’t be filed away (although the few smart folders we had on our desktop were). Date last opened is a good option as it makes it easy to find the projects you are currently working on.

Just click on a Desktop Stack to see its contents, which will automatically appear on your desktop (we prefer this to the way that Stacks works currently - the Downloads folder is an example of a Stack, and in High Sierra and earlier you have to open in the Finder to actually do anything other than open something in that folder). In Mojave when you click on a Desktop Stack the contents will appear on your desktop so you can find what you are looking for without opening a Finder window.

While Desktop Stacks should spell the end of desktop clutter for Mac users, whether it will help us become more organised remains to be seen. We’re hopeful though.

Mark Up and the Finder

This next new feature we love combines two featured that have been available in the Mac operating system for some time. Quick Look and Markup tools.

Quick Look is one of those nifty little features that as soon as you start using you really can’t do without. Remember when you used to have to actually open a file or photo in order to see what it was. For many years now it’s been as simple as pressing the space bar when you have a file selected and you see a preview.

As if that feature wasn’t already life changing, in Mojave it will be coupled with another feature that arrived a few years ago: Mark Up. When it launched Mark Up was a tool for editing PDFs and email attachments. When Mojave arrives you will be able to use Markup tools while viewing a Quick Look preview. So you could just Quick Look at a PDF and add a signature or fill in your address details, no need to open up Preview (or another PDF editor to do this). If it’s an image you are looking at, you can use editing tools such as crop, rotate and even trim video.

These tools also come to the Finder in Mojave. For a while there has been a Cover Flow view in the Finder which took its inspiration from a feature in iTunes many years ago. So long ago, in fact that the view is long gone from iTunes.

In Mojave this view will be replaced by Gallery View, which takes it’s inspiration from Photos. You’ll see big previews of photos (and other documents). You will also be able to see the metadata associated with an image in a sidebar on the right, and, of course, you will have the Mark Up tools handy for any quick edits you want to do.

Screenshots and video

Those Mark Up edits will also be available when you take a screenshot. Taking screenshots in Mojave is reminiscent of iOS - the screenshot shrinks to a thumbnail that you can open and edit. This means that you can crop and rotate a screenshot without needing to open a separate program, so you can send it to someone, or add it to a document immediately.

We tried out screenshots in the Mojave beta. Using the same keyboard combination as in previous versions of the OS we were then able to crop, as well as draw on the screenshot, or add shapes to draw attention to something. Once we were finished we just clicked on Done and had options to save or share.

Video is getting the same treatment. Right now if you want to record video of what is happening on your screen it is necessary to fire up QuickTime and record screen that way. In Mojave this feature will be embedded into the OS in the same way as taking a screenshot is. And as with screenshots, that video will be easy to edit with those markup tools.

iOS and MacOS

There is a new Continuity feature coming in Mojave. Continuity is the name Apple gives to features that bring the iPad, iPhone and Mac together. Such as the ability to receive and send text messages, or make and take phone calls on your Mac, and Hand Off from one device to another so you can continue working on a Pages document on your iPad when you leave the office, or read a Safari web page on your Mac that you were looking at on your iPhone.

In Mojave you will be able to open a document on your Mac, say a Pages newsletter, or a presentation in Keynote, and use the iPhone as a capture device. In a similar way to how you might choose a scanner as a source, you will be able to select the iPhone, take a photo or screenshot with it, and have that automatically appear in your document on your Mac. We attempted to try this out in Pages using the beta and found that it hadn’t been fully implemented yet.

There are other features coming to Mojave which will make your iPhone and Mac seem a little more unified. Mojave will bring the News, Home, and Voice Memo apps to your Mac.

We took a look at how the News app is shaping up in the Public Beta. It’s early days, but it appears to imports your existing settings so you should be able to view stories from Apple News sites on your Mac. We suppose this is part of Apple’s assault on Google and an attempt to combat Fake News.

Of course the other way you can get your news is by browsing in Safari. Despite some big changes in 2017 when Safari 11 bought the end of auto-playing video and made it harder for cookies to track you. More anti-advertising features are coming in the next version of Safari, including prohibiting cookies and making your Mac look just like everyone else’s so that ‘Fingerprinting’ is impossible.

Mac App Store

Apple has started work on a complete overhaul of the Mac App Store. The foundations of the redesign are already laid out in the Public Beta where you can get an idea of how it will look.

To help you find good apps, you’ll be able to read in-depth articles about the best and most essential Mac apps - written by Apple’s own team of editors. Plus various tabs will highlight the apps that suit certain industries, for example: Create tab for design apps, Work tab for productivity apps, Play tab for games, and a Develop tab for all the developer tools and services.

You’ll also be able to see auto play videos that will show you what an app is capable of before you download it - a feature that is already available in the iOS App Store.

Speaking of apps, there may a reason to put of updating to Mojave when it arrives if you are still running 32-bit apps as these will stop working once Mojave is installed on your Mac. You can read about 32-app and what to do if you still need to use them here.

OUR VERDICT

As long as you don’t rely on 32-bit apps, upgrading to Mojave looks like it will be a no-brainer when it arrives this autumn. It’s free and there are enough new features to make the download worthwhile. We expect to see some under the cover enhancements that will provide a boost to your Mac too, but with the software still in beta it’s a little too early to see what kind of effect they will provide.

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