For space grey MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, Mojave Dark Mode is the new Aqua

Posted:
in macOS edited June 2018
While Apple's new MacOS Mojave is designed to support a long tail of older Macs (dating back as far as 2010) it's particularly a treat when used on new machines. In particular, its new Dark Mode is ideal on a space grey MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.




Apple's MacBook Pro, iMac Pro and razor thin Retina Display MacBooks all suggest that these luxury class Macs were built in anticipation of the Mojave release, with its new Dark Mode user interface that echoes Space Grey metal and the black display bezel the same way that the early 2000's Aqua UI of the first editions of Mac OS X reflected the translucent plastics of the Macs of that era.


The original Mac OS X 10.0 reflected the translucent plastics of early 2000's Macs


The new Dark Mode in Mojave is the natural progression of Apple's work over the last few years that introduced developers to dark UI concepts-- and the work that would be required to get their apps ready for a system-wide Dark Mode in the future. It might sound simple, but the work needed to make existing apps consistently look great in Dark Mode was a complex process that involved years of efforts. Third party developers are still working on it. Even Apple's own iWork team is still working on it.

The first modern suggestion of an alternative system wide Mac UI that I recall was presented at WWDC 2015-- among guidelines for developers on how to make sure their apps followed best practices in design. Since macOS Yosemite (2014), Apple has been offering the option to display a "dark menu bar and dock," baby steps toward Dark Mode.

Even earlier, Apple had been experimenting with ways to highlight and focus attention using a minimal, dark UI. Back in the late 90s, Apple experimented with Brushed Metal as a way to distinguish QuickTime, then after acquiring Final Cut Pro, kept its dark grey interface as a way to focus attention on video content. Logic Pro, acquired in 2002, also featured a dark UI, which Apple retained and used across other Pro Apps.


Apple's Logic Pro X has a content-focused UI for professionals-- carried over to Logic Remote on iPad


In 2005, Apple's new "Front Row" UI for Macs focused attention on playing movies, music, photos and podcasts. The concept of dark framing progressed with full screen iLife apps and then system wide support for third party Full Screen Apps in 2011's macOS Lion, where a single app not only took over the desktop, but typically used a minimal, dark UI to focus attention on what the user was doing-- as Apple's own apps (including iPhoto) had previously explored.

Dark Mode on Mojave blends the display into your MacBook Pro's backlit keyboard and-- surprise!-- the Touch Bar.


Touch Bar is already Dark Mode

If you have a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, this release is for you. It looks like the screen melts into the keyboard with the kind of precision that Steve Jobs would unleash upon the world, developed out in the open as if in slow motion-- but none of us anticipated it until it dropped. It's like we thought it was a finger bowl but it was really Palmolive and we were soaking in it, as Madge had to point out.

Actually, it wasn't wholly unanticipated that with OLED coming, Apple would make a dark UI a cool new fashionable look-- a vast swing from the original bright, light OS X interface with its hyperrealistic icons and glossy translucent effects.

Back in the early 2000s, Jobs was showing off the power of OpenGL and GPUs to do unprecedented Quartz Compositor effects with translucency and texture mapping for Aqua-- it effectively turned the desktop into a video game, a solid five years ahead of Microsoft being able to copy it.

Right now Apple is focused not just on the engine doing the drawing, but on the display-- working to fully exploit the super efficient, hyper contrast, ultra vivid nature of OLED technology (and microLED after it). Macs are still shipping with LCD screens, but OLED is coming and Dark Mode will be ready for it.

The best way to show off the OLED future today is with a dark UI. As Microsoft fans like to point out, that company tried doing this long ago with its early generation OLED-based Zune with a mostly-black screen. It was so dark Microsoft launched the product in a candle lit room, hoping journalists wouldn't notice that the screen wasn't actually very bright (they didn't).

Apple Watch similarly launched with a dark UI because it has both a small battery and an OLED screen that needed to be bright. Touch Bar (which is also implemented using an OLED panel) is itself super Dark Mode already.


Mojave's Dark Mode makes Touch Bar really pop, especially in the dark


When you use Mojave Dark Mode, it makes the Touch Bar really pop as an extension of both the keyboard and the display. It's not an accident that all of these technologies emerged together at Apple this year.

How do you take your Cocoa?

You might not like Dark Mode. It can be great for working in low light, and has a cool, futuristic feel to it. But the alternative "Light Mode" feels right (or at least more familiar) when I'm working. When you're working in Light Mode, Touch Bar feels like it becomes detached as part of the keyboard.

Light Mode is a "good morning," drink coffee, edit a presentation, get shit done sort of thing. Dark Mode is a kick back watch an online movie, smoke a bowl, edit photos, type up some good ideas kind of experience. It's smart to offer both, and that's what Apple is doing.

Compare the desktop examples below to see how Light and Dark Modes emphasize different elements. (Also visible below: the new favicons in Safari tabs, and when you select multiple documents in the Finder, they pile up in a spiraling stack).





The new Dark Mode is not a forced transition in the model of Microsoft's 2007 Windows Vista "Aero UI," or the even worse "Metro UI" it shipped on Windows Phone in 2010 and then foisted upon many unappreciative Windows 8 users in 2012. The new Dark Mode of Mojave is a choice. That's also distinct from Apple's own forced transition of the "Clarity, Deference and Depth" UI released in iOS 7 (which users scrambled to download).


Apps like Mail can offer to present light backgrounds in active windows while in Dark Mode. (There's also now a toolbar button in Mail that presents Emoji characters)


Some apps let you strike a middle ground. For example, Apple's Mail (above) and Notes both have an option to give their working documents a light background while the rest of the system remains in Dark Mode. This combination really makes your active window stand out as a focus of attention while everything else fades into the background. It's currently my favorite way to work.

But of course, you can change the UI Mode anytime with the click of a box. It takes less than a second to redraw the screen in your new choice. You can also select a Highlight Color (used in text selection or menu bars) and one of eight Accent Colors (used in UI elements like Checkboxes and Radio Buttons, similar the "Blue or Graphite" Appearance option in High Sierra).


Light and Dark Appearance settings in System Preferences

The 30 bit Dark Mode

Mojave's Dark Mode appears a bit reminiscent of NeXT's advanced desktop operating system that Jobs built in the late 80s after leaving Apple, and what he brought back to the company when he returned in 1997-- effectively turning Apple around and saving it from collapse.

The original NeXT desktop was naturally dark because it used just four shades of grey (2 bit color) to maximize its graphics computing power, skipping support for chrominance entirely to radically push the state of the art ahead in sharp megapixel resolution rather than color depth.


NeXTSTEP launched with a dark UI 30 years ago


The original Mac did something similar with its 1 bit color: it could only produce black and white pixels, using patterns to approximate shades of grey. But focusing its resources on high quality display technology rather than color allowed it to deliver accurate, sharp square pixels in an era where most PCs were drawing text using blurry rectangles with 16 ugly colors.

Color depth is no longer a scarce resource. Starting with last year's 15 inch MacBook Pro, Apple now has modern production Macs with support for 30 bit color-- more than 1 billion colors (10 bits per RGB channel). Any yet rather than making the desktop an egregious rainbow of unrestraint, Apple is releasing Mojave with a subdued, Dark Mode that makes very subtle, meaningful use of color.




That's also what the company did when it debuted Touch Bar, which is designed to primarily stay black and white unless color adds some useful function or information. Light UI is similarly tame in its use of color. This all has the effect of focusing attention on your own documents, particularly when editing vibrant photos or HDR video.

Beyond its integration into Dark Mode, the new Mojave gives the Touch Bar some additional attention. You can create custom Automator actions and install them into the Touch Bar's Control Strip for easy access. And when a website sends you a security code via SMS, it will also pop up in the Touch Bar to tap rather than having to type it in, just like the QuickType keyboard in iOS.

Touch Bar is effectively a Mac-sized QuickType panel. And now the Touch Bar's native OLED Dark Mode is spreading across the Mac desktop in Apple's Mojave Public Beta.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 37
    djsherlydjsherly Posts: 1,018member
    There’s no part in the article where this is all googles fault. I must have missed something. 

    But seriously, the connections here between themes are a bit of a stretch.


    williamlondonrandominternetperson
  • Reply 2 of 37
    curmicurmi Posts: 69member
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.
    SolirepressthisAlex1N
  • Reply 3 of 37
    I remember Aqua. I thought it was beautiful. The blue, orange, purple, and green buttons looked edible!  

    Microsoft’s attempt ‘Glass’ was nauseating to look at. 

    Not sure how I feel about Dark. I prefer the current MacOS’ muted grays. Perhaps that will change when I see it up close. :)
    lamboaudi4williamlondonrandominternetpersonrepressthisAlex1N
  • Reply 4 of 37
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,620member
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.
    OLED energy-efficiency is dependent on its brightness.   So the darker, the more efficient it is.  True black is the most desirable of course, but I would think that the darker one goes, the better it is in terms of energy usage. 

    I'm looking forward to this release!
  • Reply 5 of 37
    correctionscorrections Posts: 1,346member
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.

    No, OLED power consumption is roughly linear with the brightness level of pixels.

    https://senk9.wordpress.com/2015/05/24/thoughts-amoled-power-consumption-tested-and-explored/

    So while black pixels are the most efficient, darker display elements have a big impact on average display power consumption (which is important because the screen uses up as much a 80-90% of a phone's overall power draw!). At 100% white, OLED actually consumes more power than an LED screen.

    Note that as a screen gets brighter, its power consumption also jumps up dramatically when you start reaching full brightness. "100% brightness setting consumes more than 5.4x the power of 0% brightness setting, to produce 30x the brightness. However, 100% brightness consumes 1.7x more power than 80% brightness, to produce only 1.2x more light."

    APL (Average Picture Level) of content changes on what you're watching. Movies are around 40% APL, while mostly white web pages are closer to 80%. So when you see battery tests stipulating that they played a movie until the battery died, it doesn't mean you'll get the same results browsing the web. 

    A light UI consumes about 50% more power than a mostly black screen. The study compared Android 4.4's dark Holo appearance with the much lighter Material Design. This impacted battery life significantly. 

    Also, specific colors use more power (due to the efficiency differences across colors of LEDs). So blue eats up ~30% more power than green. That likely factors into the reduced power consumption of iOS Night Shift, which scales blue light back.





    StrangeDaysracerhomie3Alex1Ncaladanian
  • Reply 6 of 37
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,850member
    sflocal said:
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.
    OLED energy-efficiency is dependent on its brightness.
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.

    No, OLED power consumption is roughly linear with the brightness level of pixels.
    I'm confused by the use of the term brightness to refer to what reads like the color spectrum of the pixels.
  • Reply 7 of 37
    correctionscorrections Posts: 1,346member
    Soli said:
    sflocal said:
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.
    OLED energy-efficiency is dependent on its brightness.
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.

    No, OLED power consumption is roughly linear with the brightness level of pixels.
    I'm confused by the use of the term brightness to refer to what reads like the color spectrum of the pixels.
    On an LCD panel, the RGB sub-pixels filter the white light emitted from the backlight. So creating images on the screen is separate from its backlit brightness. On OLED, the pixels are RGB LEDs lighting up from off to dim to bright.
    fastasleep
  • Reply 8 of 37
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,850member
    Soli said:
    sflocal said:
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.
    OLED energy-efficiency is dependent on its brightness.
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.

    No, OLED power consumption is roughly linear with the brightness level of pixels.
    I'm confused by the use of the term brightness to refer to what reads like the color spectrum of the pixels.
    On an LCD panel, the RGB sub-pixels filter the white light emitted from the backlight. So creating images on the screen is separate from its backlit brightness. On OLED, the pixels are RGB LEDs lighting up from off to dim to bright.
    I get that, but you can still adjust the brightness levels of LED pixels so I'm confused by what appears to be a conflating of the terms that are referrign to brightness levels of the pixel v the color profile of the pixel. Specifically, we know that the iPhone X has been measured at 634 nits of brightness, which is the highest full screen brightness for OLED smartphones. I don't understand why the term "brightness level of pixels" is being used when referring to pixels with color.
  • Reply 9 of 37
    tyler82tyler82 Posts: 863member
    can you also use the “graphite” UI with dark mode? I liked the colored buttons and blue menu selections in Aqua originally but it has devolved into something cheesy looking imo. Would prefer everything be dark and black/ grey.
  • Reply 10 of 37
    What a pointless 'story'. Why don't you guys spend time digging into why there are literally ZERO games out for OS-X SteamVR. There, see, that's something actually interesting and potentially useful.
    And yet here you are not only reading it (I assume) but joining the forum just so you can post a shitty comment about how pointless you find the story. Some here actually got value out of the story while I'm pretty sure none got value from your pointless comment.

    BTW, welcome to AI.
    lamboaudi4fastasleepminicoffee
  • Reply 11 of 37
    correctionscorrections Posts: 1,346member
    What a pointless 'story'. Why don't you guys spend time digging into why there are literally ZERO games out for OS-X SteamVR. There, see, that's something actually interesting and potentially useful.
    If you can't find somebody writing what you want to read, do what I did and start researching and writing your own content. 

    But don't just show up and dump garbage comments. If you continue to do that, you'll be banned.  
  • Reply 12 of 37
    correctionscorrections Posts: 1,346member

    Soli said:
    On an LCD panel, the RGB sub-pixels filter the white light emitted from the backlight. So creating images on the screen is separate from its backlit brightness. On OLED, the pixels are RGB LEDs lighting up from off to dim to bright.
    I get that, but you can still adjust the brightness levels of LED pixels so I'm confused by what appears to be a conflating of the terms that are referrign to brightness levels of the pixel v the color profile of the pixel. Specifically, we know that the iPhone X has been measured at 634 nits of brightness, which is the highest full screen brightness for OLED smartphones. I don't understand why the term "brightness level of pixels" is being used when referring to pixels with color.
    No LED is made from liquid crystals that change shape in electrical current to block light from the backlight behind them. 

    OLED pixels actually emit light on their own. 
    fastasleep
  • Reply 13 of 37
    People who complain about ebooks being hard to read compared to “real books”, if they’re being consistent, would have to choose light mode. For centuries, all the reading we’ve done has been detecting light coming from the areas surrounding each glyph, be it reflected or illuminated. In other words, we don’t read the letters, we read the white space around them. With dark mode, we are doing an inversion step. Personally, I can’t look at a blog or other content with a dark background for longer than a few seconds before I have to look away, and when I do, the text is ghosted against a light background. Apple has downplayed — to Developers — education about HCI in general and the Apple HI Guidelines in particular in favor of CS nerdery and Swift, and this may be the test: will developers go all in on dark mode, or will they go all-in on user choice by supporting both modes?
  • Reply 14 of 37
    correctionscorrections Posts: 1,346member

    tyler82 said:
    can you also use the “graphite” UI with dark mode? I liked the colored buttons and blue menu selections in Aqua originally but it has devolved into something cheesy looking imo. Would prefer everything be dark and black/ grey.
    Yes. When you pick grey as the Accent color (in either Light or Dark Mode) in Mojave, it not only turns off the color in UI elements (check boxes, pull down menus, radio buttons, etc), but also turns off the stoplight candy in the close/minimize/zoom buttons. The rest of the UI remains in color, but the chrome all turns grey.



     
    fastasleep
  • Reply 15 of 37
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,850member

    Soli said:
    On an LCD panel, the RGB sub-pixels filter the white light emitted from the backlight. So creating images on the screen is separate from its backlit brightness. On OLED, the pixels are RGB LEDs lighting up from off to dim to bright.
    I get that, but you can still adjust the brightness levels of LED pixels so I'm confused by what appears to be a conflating of the terms that are referrign to brightness levels of the pixel v the color profile of the pixel. Specifically, we know that the iPhone X has been measured at 634 nits of brightness, which is the highest full screen brightness for OLED smartphones. I don't understand why the term "brightness level of pixels" is being used when referring to pixels with color.
    No LED is made from liquid crystals that change shape in electrical current to block light from the backlight behind them. 

    OLED pixels actually emit light on their own. 
    1) My use of LED is not a reference to a separate backlights or an exclusion of OELD. It's stated as such because there are other LED-based systems out there, like microLED, that work similarity to OLED.

    2) You still seem to be using "brightness level of pixels" in the same comment about the color profile of the pixel. As noted, the iPhone X has a brighter display, but you're trying to say that there is no difference in brightness of pixels in two OLED displays, only the color profile of the pixel? Nothing I've read says that's accurate.
    edited June 2018
  • Reply 16 of 37
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 329member
    There's one real solution. Apple needs to bring back Aqua. Actually, they could do one better. Mac OS 9 was beautiful as shipped, and the themes like Gizmo and HiTech showed what could be done. Make macOS themeable again, Apple!
  • Reply 17 of 37
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 557member
    The original Mac did something similar with its 1 bit color: it could only produce black and white pixels, using patterns to approximate shades of grey. But focusing its resources on high quality display technology rather than color allowed it to deliver accurate, sharp square pixels in an era where most PCs were drawing text using blurry rectangles with 16 ugly colors.
     This reminds me the old CGA graphics, and the 16 color option from Windows 98.

     I literally cried when I first saw the safe mode because it's too fugly (I think I'm 8 years old back then). 
    What a pointless 'story'. Why don't you guys spend time digging into why there are literally ZERO games out for OS-X SteamVR. There, see, that's something actually interesting and potentially useful.
    Which I'm sure he's fine with that.
    edited June 2018
  • Reply 18 of 37
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 557member
    sflocal said:
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.
    OLED energy-efficiency is dependent on its brightness.   So the darker, the more efficient it is.  True black is the most desirable of course, but I would think that the darker one goes, the better it is in terms of energy usage. 

    I'm looking forward to this release!
    I'm doubtful on that.  OLED degrades dramatically, and I think some had already experienced that on the iPhone X, that's going to be a huge issue for image-editing software where color accuracy is the key.  Same reason why iPad Pros won't likely receiving OLED displays in the next refresh.
  • Reply 19 of 37
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,873member
    DuhSesame said:
    sflocal said:
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.
    OLED energy-efficiency is dependent on its brightness.   So the darker, the more efficient it is.  True black is the most desirable of course, but I would think that the darker one goes, the better it is in terms of energy usage. 

    I'm looking forward to this release!
    I'm doubtful on that.  OLED degrades dramatically, and I think some had already experienced that on the iPhone X, that's going to be a huge issue for image-editing software where color accuracy is the key.  Same reason why iPad Pros won't likely receiving OLED displays in the next refresh.
    Other than cost...perhaps that's why you don't see OLED iMacs and stand-alone Apple displays? Maybe Apple can't find a quality panel yet that doesn't degrade after a while?
  • Reply 20 of 37
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 557member
    macxpress said:
    DuhSesame said:
    sflocal said:
    curmi said:
    Dark mode isn't Black mode. The windows are grey, not true black, so I'm not sure the "OLED is coming" reasoning is right, as I think grey doesn't save much energy compared with true black, as the LEDs have to be on to do grey.
    OLED energy-efficiency is dependent on its brightness.   So the darker, the more efficient it is.  True black is the most desirable of course, but I would think that the darker one goes, the better it is in terms of energy usage. 

    I'm looking forward to this release!
    I'm doubtful on that.  OLED degrades dramatically, and I think some had already experienced that on the iPhone X, that's going to be a huge issue for image-editing software where color accuracy is the key.  Same reason why iPad Pros won't likely receiving OLED displays in the next refresh.
    Other than cost...perhaps that's why you don't see OLED iMacs and stand-alone Apple displays? Maybe Apple can't find a quality panel yet that doesn't degrade after a while?
    I think people wants their panel lasts long as possible in a personal computer.  Other than that, everyone who tried to make an OLED monitor failed.  Remember when Asus announced their OLED display in CES?  It's still "coming soon".
    edited June 2018
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