Sitting down to write this review of macOS Mojave, I thought about which new feature is my favorite, and which is my least favorite. Then I realized I haven’t actually thought about new features in macOS in this way for years. Thinking back to Sierra and High Sierra, I could barely name any new feature, let alone the best and worst of the bunch.
So if there’s one thing Apple can be sure of when it officially releases macOS Mojave to Mac users today, it’s that they’ll notice. Mojave has lots of new stuff both under the hood and on the dashboard — I’d challenge any Mac user to use this update for a few days and not have strong opinions on it.
MacOS 10.14 Mojave is positively loaded with new stuff, especially for power users, and I covered most of the new stuff in my preview of the OS back in June. Dark Mode is by far the most obvious, but the Stacks tool for cleaning up your Desktop and the new way the OS handles screenshots are both top-level features that will make a difference in most users’ everyday workflow.
Feature-wise, virtually all of the changes are optional. While the new features are all intended to simplify and improve your Mac experience, they’re almost all additive — you can choose to ignore them, and you’ll still be able to use your Mac just as before, more or less.
I don’t know why you’d want to, though. I’d be surprised if, within Mojave’s myriad new features, you don’t find at least one that makes you more efficient, streamlines a key process, or is just more aesthetically pleasing. For me, it wasn’t just one — I found five. Of course, there’s also at least one feature that’s pretty pointless (looking at you, Continuity Camera), but like I said, no one’s holding a water-pistol emoji to my head to use it.
Which Macs can run Mojave?
First things first: Before you get excited for Mojave, you should make sure your Mac can run it. For most users, all you need to do is go to “About this Mac” and click on the “Software Update…” button, which launches the Mac App Store. On Sept. 24 or a little afterward, if your Mac can run Mojave, it will alert you that the update is available.
Specifically, though, Apple says Mojave will run on the following machines:
MacBook (early 2015 or later)
MacBook Air (mid 2012 or later)
MacBook Pro (mid 2012 or later)
Mac Mini (late 2012 or later)
iMac (late 2012 or later)
iMac Pro (all models)
Mac Pro (late 2013, plus mid 2010 or mid 2012 models with recommended Metal-capable graphics processor, including MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560 and Sapphire Radeon PULSE RX 580)
That’s a bit less than the last OS, High Sierra, which could run on some Macs dating back to 2009. Hardly surprising, but if you’re still running a Mac from eight years ago and you’re doing anything other than running a word processor, you might want to think about upgrading.
Now that you know whether or not your Mac can handle the upgrade, here are the 5 best features of macOS Mojave.
1. Gallery view
What it is: There’s a new option for how to view the contents of a folder in the Finder: Gallery View, which shows the icon or preview of the selected file enlarged in the window, with the rest of the folder contents shown as a thumbnail strip below. You can navigate the thumbnails with the left and right arrow keys, and the previews load lightning-fast as you do.
Why it makes all the difference: If dealing with photography or artwork is part of your daily workflow, you’ll love Gallery view. I often have to choose between multiple similar photos to put in a story, which typically means toggling back and forth from Preview when I’m deciding which one to use. I much prefer Mojave’s solution, which keeps it all in the Finder and thus doesn’t slow me down.
How it could be even better: If Gallery view was an option when selecting “Open” in an app.
2. Advanced screenshots
What it is: Now when you take a screenshot (with either Shift-Command-3 or the partial-screen option, Shift-Command-4), the thumbnail appears briefly in the corner, letting you click on it to mark it up, if you wish. There’s also a new shortcut, Shift-Command-5, which gives options for capturing specific windows and doing a screen recording.
Why it makes all the difference: We always appreciated how simple the Mac made screenshots, but this feature takes a cue from the iPhone, where marking up screengrabs has become more the norm. The new method also acknowledges that screen recordings are a useful, down-and-dirty tool for capturing clips or sending a quick how-to demo to a friend.
How it could be even better: Auto-archiving, maybe?
3. Quick Actions
What it is: Macs have had Quick Look — where you hit the space bar on a file to see it up close in its own window — for a long time, but to do anything other than look, you needed to open Preview. No longer. Now you can rotate images or mark them up, edit PDFs, and more… all without leaving the Finder.
Why it makes all the difference: The fewer steps, the better. Before Mojave, editing or even marking up an image usually involved firing up Preview or an image editor to do your dirty work. Now, just hit the space bar, boom-boom, done. Apple wisely tied this directly with the new screenshots, calling up Quick Actions the moment you click on the thumbnail you just captured.
How it could be even better: An emoji sticker tool wouldn’t hurt.
4. Dark Mode
What it is: Long a dream of power users, macOS finally supports a full-fledged Dark Mode, which alters the desktop theme so menus become white-on-black (more accurately, very very dark gray), the default desktop shifts to a night desert landscape, and everything generally gets easier on the eyes.
Why it makes all the difference: I can’t get excited about Dark Mode the way developers and some gamers do, but I will admit it looks pretty cool, especially on the space gray MacBook Pros. I wish even one of my third-party apps supported it, especially Chrome (though there are certainly plenty of dark themes in the Chrome Web Store), but even with just the Finder going dark, it makes a huge difference.
How it could be even better: Private Safari windows need a new visual indicator since they now look just like regular ones in Dark Mode.
What it is: A chaotic Desktop full of screenshots, PDFs, and more will no longer be a badge of honor when you have Stacks, which automatically cleans up your clutter into neat quasi-folders. One click on a stack and it expands, revealing the clutter when you need to track down something, but your Desktop remains clear, recovering valuable peace of mind.
Why it makes all the difference: Stacks doesn’t mean all that much to me, but that’s because I’m the exception to the rule: I clear out my clutter regularly. But with Mojave, I feel less guilty about missing my weekly “Clear Desktop/Empty Downloads” ritual. The point, I suppose, is such rituals are supposed to get less and less necessary, which I think is something called progress.
How it could be even better: More ways to pinpoint specific items in an out-of-control Stack, like an easy within-stack search tool.