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.
Apple has already 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 also available. 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.
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.
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.
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.
A cleaner desktop
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.