Apple macOS Mojave
https://www.pcmag.com/review/362072/macos-mojaApple macOS Mojave
Beautiful Dark Mode. New Finder conveniences. Stacks help organize cluttered desktops. New Mac apps based on iOS counterparts. Easier screenshots. More informative App Store. Tightened privacy and security.
Occasional beta performance issues. Some features (like links to password-changing web pages) not yet fully implemented.
- Bottom Line
Even in its first public beta, it’s clear that Mojave is the best macOS upgrade in years, with dozens of new conveniences for managing documents and media files, an elegant new Dark Mode, and better security and privacy protection.
macOS vs. iOS
Apple hasn’t budged from its policy of keeping macOS separate from iOS, its operating system for iPhones and iPads. Microsoft, in contrast, uses the same version of Windows 10 for both desktops and tablets. Google’s Chrome OS also lets users run Android Apps on the desktop, though the implementation is not perfect. Despite its strict policy though, Apple keeps adding iOS apps and features to macOS and vice versa. For example, Mojave brings four iOS apps—Stocks, News, Home, and Voice Memos—to the Mac.
Mojave is the first stage in Apple’s plan to let third-party developers port their own iOS apps to the Mac; this feature will likely arrive in 2019. Meanwhile, some long-term macOS developers will have to scramble to update their old 32-bit apps before that 2019 version arrives, since Mojave is the last macOS version that will run 32-bit apps at all. Until that 2019 deadline, when you launch a 32-bit app for the first time under Mojave, you’ll get a warning message (like the ones that began popping when running a 32-bit app in High Sierra), but the app will still run normally.
Will My Mac Run Mojave?
Mojave runs on any Mac that supports Apple’s Metal graphic-acceleration framework, which means, in effect, any Mac desktop or laptop from mid-2012 or later. The only exception is the Mac Pro line: all models from late 2013 are supported, but 2010 and 2012 models require Metal-capable graphics cards. I’ve been testing Mojave on a 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro. The beta starts up slowly, but, is rapid in regular use. Like any first-release beta software though, it suffers from occasional glitches.
For example, after a few hours of heavy use on my system, some apps wouldn’t start, or the App Store wouldn’t let me sign in. A restart invariably fixed these problems and these issues will surely disappear long before the final release. Apple does not recommend installing the beta unless you’re thoroughly aware of the risks. It goes without saying that you should not, under any circumstance, install it as the main system on your day-to-day machine.
However, you can run the Mojave beta without risking your current system, as long as you are running the current release version of macOS, High Sierra and have an APFS-formatted (Apple File System) solid-state drive with at least 20GB of free space. macOS’ Disk Utility lets you create a separate, automatically resizable APFS “volume” on your existing disk and use it to install Mojave without touching your High Sierra system. Needless to say, you should complete a full backup of your system before you start. And speaking of APFS, it’s finally compatible with Fusion Drives—hard drives that use flash storage for a small part of the drive and spinning platters for the rest. (APFS was already compatible with flash-only and platter-only drives.) For more on Apple’s new file system, you can read our story on what APFS means to you.
Getting Started With macOS Mojave
Mojave’s initial installation is identical to previous versions, until you reach the menu where you choose between the familiar light display mode and the new Dark Mode—with thumbnail images of each. If you don’t choose Dark Mode here, you can always switch to it from the General pane in System Preferences later. That said, you may never feel inclined to switch back after choosing the Dark Mode, since it’s more restful to the eyes, makes text easier to read, and generally looks a lot cooler. Also, when you choose Dark Mode, all of Apple’s built-in apps also go dark. The Photos app looks especially gorgeous; its black background makes your images pop off the screen. Third-party apps will also follow suit, provided the developers update the apps with the latest version of Apple’s development kit.
Every new macOS release strives to be more visually dazzling than the last. With Mojave, Apple came up with an especially splendid visual effect for the Mojave desktop. If you choose Light Mode instead of Dark Mode, the image of the Mojave desert in the desktop background changes over the course of the day—with different images for dawn, midday, sunset, and night. It looks cool, but some may find it distracting. Furthermore, Apple hasn’t revealed the image-changing mechanisms to third-party developers who might want to create their own time-of-day-responsive desktops, though it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out the secret. I’ve complained for years about the blindingly bright blue folder icons in macOS; they’re still blinding in Light Mode, but Dark Mode darkens them slightly, though not enough for my taste.
How Does Mojave Stack Up?
The other new desktop feature, Stacks (accessible via the Finder menu), gathers all the random icons on your desktop into a few neat stacks at the right edge of the screen and organizes everything into categories such as documents and images. You don’t need to expand a stack to see what’s in it—just use a two-finger swipe on the trackpad to make each icon in a stack appear in turn at the top. A submenu lets you organize stacks by date rather than by kind, so you can have stacks of files labeled Today or Yesterday.
This feature is available only on the desktop, so it won’t work in a Finder window. Furthermore, Stacks lacks some customization options. For example, shortcuts to apps, Zip archives, and other miscellaneous icons get grouped by default in a Stack called Other. If you want customized stacks with unique names, you need to use the Finder’s Tag feature to organize a set of items, then choose the option to group stacks by tags.
The Finder gets its own visual overhaul to match today’s high-resolution monitors. The Finder’s old CopyFlow view is gone, replaced by a spacious Gallery view that displays large-scale preview images, with relevant metadata listed in a sidebar on the right. The sidebar includes a menu for functions like rotating or marking up images, so you can perform many tasks directly from the Finder, without opening files in another application.
QuickLook also gets an overhaul, so the preview image that appears when you tap the spacebar on a file selected in the Finder is larger than before. Some file types—notably images, audio files, and videos—include functions normally available only within specified applications. For example, you can now trim audio or video files and mark up PDF or image files without leaving Finder.
Mac Screen Captures
The Mac has always had a full-featured screen-capture tool called Grab, but if you wanted a quick screenshot on a Mac—the equivalent of holding the top or side button and clicking Home on an iPhone—you were limited to two key-combinations: Shift-Cmd-3 for full-screen and Shift-Cmd-4 to capture a window or draw a rectangle for capturing. (For more on the current options, you can read our story on how to take a screenshot on Mac.)
Mojave adds a Shift-Cmd-5 shortcut, which opens a toolbar with all three options available, plus a new option to video-record the entire screen or a rectangular selection.
Even better, when you take any screenshot, a thumbnail opens on the lower right corner of the screen, and a context menu lets you save it to the desktop (the default), your Documents folder, or clipboard. Alternatively, you can open the screenshot in Mail, Messages, Preview, or Photos or mark it up on the spot. The one missing feature is an option to save it with a descriptive name, instead of the automatically applied generic name that includes the date and time, which you always change anyway. There’s still time for Apple to add this simple convenience before Mojave ships, however.
Privacy and Security in Mojave
Beneath its dazzling surface, Mojave makes important, but invisible, advances in privacy and security. Safari, for example, makes it harder than ever for advertisers to track you. Apple points out that if you are logged in to a social media site, Facebook-style Like and Comment buttons can track you everywhere online, even if you don’t click on them. On Mojave, Safari blocks that tracking. If you click on one of those buttons, Safari asks your permission before it transmits your response. Mojave also anonymizes the system information (like your screen size and installed fonts) that many web-tracking sites request from your browser so that they can “fingerprint” your system and send targeted ads. All this makes the web a lot less creepy.
Mojave can also function as a password manager. The new OS automatically creates and stores strong passwords when you use Safari to sign up to a website—no more “12345” unless you insist on it. (You shouldn’t.) For sites that send one-time passcodes via text message when you try to sign in, Safari automatically plugs them in as AutoFill suggestions, reducing confusion and errors when your non-technical relatives try to type in the SMS number of the remote site instead of the password. In Safari’s Passwords preference pane, alert buttons appear next to passwords that you’ve used on more than one site, and if you click on the alert, a button prompts you to change the password—and offers to take you directly to the site’s password change page. This feature alerted me to a few passwords that I had used twice, but the buttons didn’t work to take me a change-password page; presumably, that feature will be working when Mojave is released.
Mojave also tightens security in thousands of third-party AppleScript apps that use Finder and other internal macOS features to automate complex procedures. These AppleScript apps still run, but the first time you run them under Mojave, macOS will ask permission to let the apps access these features. If you click OK, the system won’t ask again, but the slight inconvenience is worth the added security.
With every new OS release, Apple tightens its ecosystem to make the Mac work more closely with mobile hardware, and Mojave is no exception. My favorite new feature is Continuity Camera. When you’re working in a document or message on your Mac and want to insert a photograph or scanned document, simply Ctrl-click in the document. The resultant pop-up menu includes a Take Photo option, which lets you snap a picture on your mobile device. Then, click “Use Photo” in the corner of the picture and it pops instantly into your document.
The four apps imported from iOS—News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home—look like more spacious versions of their iOS counterparts and translate well to the desktop. For example, in News, when a news site asks you to log in to your paid account, and you click the Sign In button, Safari opens, lets you sign in, and then you can return to News with full access to your paid content. None of these apps looks entirely macOS-like, but that will only bother purists. I’m glad to have all of them and they’ll reduce the temptation to grab my phone when I should be working.
The New macOS App Store
When Apple excitedly announced a makeover for the App Store, I hid my yawn behind my hand—only to find that the makeover mostly justifies the hype. The new store has a spacious layout with plenty of detail about individual apps and, if the developer provides them, video previews and detailed background information.
Not everything is perfect. The list of your purchased products is arranged in reverse chronological order, making it almost impossible to find the one you’re looking for, and Apple hasn’t yet added the option to hide a purchase that I don’t want to see again, but these are trivial complaints compared to the added convenience of the App Store as a whole.
An Enviable OSNo one’s going to choose between macOS and Windows by comparing features (your hardware likely determines your OS), but Mojave should give Mac users plenty of reasons to be glad they chose Apple. Mojave’s elegance and convenience will likely even tempt some among the Windows faithful.
I use both macOS and Windows every day; Windows for work and the Mac for pleasure. Some of the apps I rely on are better on Windows—for example, the unmatched ABBYY FineReader Pro app (for OCR and PDF editing) and Microsoft Office (richer library of keyboard shortcuts). I admire both systems, but I reach for my Mac when I have a choice. Mojave makes the decision easier.
For more on Apple’s upcoming operating system, read our story on 9 macOS Mojave features we can’t wait to try.