A look at some of the features in the new macOS, including security, Finder Stacks, document scanning from iPhone or iPad, and Dark Mode.
In the last Practical Mac column, I recommended a handful of features to try first after updating to iOS 12. Now that the macOS counterpart, Mojave, is in the wild, I want to focus on some of the features that make it stand out.
If you haven’t yet upgraded to Mojave, I recommend going through the applications and utilities (such as menu bar items) to make sure they’re all up to date. This is generally a good idea when doing any big system update, because most developers prepare their applications for the change during the beta stage.
And, of course, make sure you have a good, up-to-date backup of your data. That includes a Time Machine backup, but more important, a full, bootable duplicate of your startup disk. I use SuperDuper for this task, but Carbon Copy Cloner is also great.
I mention this specifically because it got bit hard this time around — I missed something in my system that caused Mojave to crash back to the login screen on a regular basis. And although I had an up-to-date Time Machine backup, I hadn’t updated my duplicate right before this, which would have made it easier to revert to High Sierra and start over. Instead, I spent a lot of time rebuilding my system.
On a positive note, though, now I no longer have four outdated versions of Microsoft Office on my Mac that were just taking up space because I never got around to cleaning out my Applications folder.
More Practical Mac columnsRead more from Practical Mac writer Jeff Carlson here.
Security. Before I get to the more interesting features, understand that Apple has beefed up the underlying security in Mojave, which is a good thing. That means, however, that you’ll need to approve a lot of requests for applications to access things like your contacts, calendar and photos. And some utilities that tie into system functions will ask you to enable them in System Preferences panes. For example, LaunchBar needs permission to control aspects of your Mac in the Accessibility section of the Security & Privacy pane. In each case, you’ll need to authorize the changes using an administrator name and password.
Yes, it’s a little annoying, especially at first. But it’s a worthy trade off.
Finder Stacks. What does your desktop look like? Are you the type of person who tosses everything onto the desktop and sees the mess as inspiring disorganization? Or do you keep your desktop clean and orderly?
I’m the worst example of the middle — files end up on the desktop, but I wish it was all organized.
The Finder Stacks feature was designed for people like me. When you choose View > Use Stacks (or right-click on the Desktop and choose Use Stacks), macOS groups all your files into categories: documents, images, PDF documents and the like. Clicking a stack expands it so you can view what’s grouped.
Optionally, you can change how they’re grouped, such as by date or by Finder label.
I’ve needed this feature since forever. Sure, it’s an organizational Band-Aid. The better solution would be for me to sort through the items on my desktop and clear out the clutter and file away the miscellany. And I do that on occasion. I’ve also, on occasion, made a new folder called “Old Stuff” and just thrown everything inside. As long as you never open the closet door, the room is clean, right?
Document scanning from iPhone or iPad. This feature seems like it would have limited appeal, but I think I’ll end up using it often. I have a document scanner in my office at home that I use to organize my paperwork, but sometimes I’m not in my office, connected to my USB-C hub where the scanner is attached.
But I do usually have my iPhone or iPad handy. In the Finder, right-click (or Control-click) an empty area, such as the desktop (the feature doesn’t work if you select an existing file). From the contextual menu that appears, choose Import from iPhone or iPad, and then pick Scan Document. When you switch to the Camera app on the device, it identifies the edges of the document you point the camera at, and snaps a picture. The image is immediately saved to that Finder folder — no extra transferring is necessary.
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Dark Mode. The marquee marketing feature of Mojave is Dark Mode, which reverses many of the interface elements, such as the menu bar, the Dock, and applications that support it. Some people prefer the white-on-black appearance instead of stark black-on-white.
To activate Dark Mode, go to System Preferences > General and choose the Dark appearance. New in Mojave is the option to change the accent color, for interface items such as menu bar selections.
I’m still not completely sold on Dark Mode, but I’m giving it a try. However, I’ve found one utility that makes a lot of sense to me. NightOwl automatically switches from Light to Dark mode based on the time of day or a schedule that you set. So now, when I’m working late at night, it seems more natural to have Dark Mode activated.
There’s more to macOS Mojave, of course, but this is a good place to start. For example, the Dynamic Desktop feature, which changes the desktop picture based on the time of day, is neat, although there are just two options currently. And I’m happy to say that I can actually see the picture for once, now that Finder Stacks have cleared up my clutter!
Jeff Carlson writes the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. More Practical Mac columns at st.news/practicalmac.