MacOS Mojave: What's New And Different

Image: Apple

Apple has released the latest version of its personal computing operating system. macOS Mojave is the fifteenth major release of the OS that began the company's recovery through the second Steve Jobs-led era of the world's most valuable tech company. How do you get it? What's different and should you upgrade?

Can Your Mac Run macOS Mojave?

Apple supports a direct upgrade to Mojave from OS X Mountain Lion or later. You'll need a minimum of 2GB of RAM to run the new OS as well as 12.5GB of available disk space.

It is compatible with the following models.

  • MacBook introduced in early 2015 or later
  • MacBook Air introduced in mid 2012 or later
  • MacBook Pro introduced in mid 2012 or later
  • Mac mini introduced in late 2012 or later
  • iMac introduced in late 2012 or later
  • iMac Pro (all models)
  • Mac Pro introduced in late 2013, plus mid-2010 or mid-2012 models with a recommended Metal-capable graphics card.

Before You Start Upgrading

It should go without saying but just in case - make sure you do a complete backup of your system and check that the backup is error free.

Apple's update process is quite mature but things can go wrong.

Also, I'd suggest making sure you're connected to mains power if you're installing to a portable Mac.

How to get macOS Mojave

Apple makes the upgrade pretty easy, assuming you have a supported device. Just go to the App Store on your Mac, find Mojave, hit the download button and then follow the prompts to install the update. There's no cost.

On my current model MacBook Pro, the entire installation process, including download of the 5.7GB installer, took just under an hour.

If you're using OS X El Capitan v10.11.5 or later and set the App Store preferences to download newly available updates, Mojave will download in the background. A notification will pop up when Mojave is ready to be installed.

On my system, I was prompted to enter my password as the installer required a "Helper" app to be installed. Apple says the Helper app

  • Verifies your startup disk and attempts to repair directory issues, if needed
  • Loads only required kernel extensions
  • Prevents startup items and login items from opening automatically
  • Disables user-installed fonts
  • Deletes font caches, kernel cache, and other system cache files

After The Installation

Assuming everything goes smoothly, the installation will complete about 35 minutes after the process starts.

The first thing that came up after the process ended was a prompt to choose between the traditional "light" mode and a new "dark" mode. I chose Dark Mode, mainly out of curiosity. You can easily toggle between the two modes through Preferences | General and choosing the "Appearance" you prefer.

In my case, I was asked to give permissions to a couple of apps trying to access other applications. For example, the Event Web Clipper prompted me to give access to Safari. And I also had a notification suggesting I enable Encryption on my Time Machine backup.

Interesting New Features

As well giving the App Store a once over with a new design, Apple has added some nifty new features to macOS.

Camera Continuity

For starters, you can now use your iPhone, directly from a Mac to take a picture. If you need to send a receipt or some other document and you're working on your Mac, you can access your iPhone's camera, through the new Camera Continuity feature, as if it's a scanner.

New Screen Capture Utility

Being able to grab a screen capture is super handy. I've used the Command-Shift-4 shortcut for a while to capture specific regions on a screen. And the last update to the Preview app added some screen capture smarts. Now, when you hit Command-Shift 5 you get a nifty tool that lets you choose whether you're grabbing the entire display, a window or selected region. It also lets you record entire screens or selected areas.

It's a lot like the Windows Snipping Tool but with an obvious Mac twist.

Stronger Password Management

Apple has it's own password management tool, the Keychain, tightly integrated into macOS. They've now added automatic notification when you're using a weak password with the option to move to a stronger password. And if you re-use a password, you'll be prompted so you can make a better security decision.

Dynamic Desktop

Apple has added a new Dynamic Desktop option so the wallpaper and appearance of your system changes with the time of day. During the day, the wallpaper will have a daytime scene while at night, it reverts to a darker appearance. Rather than the usual random wallpaper change, you get something more attuned to when you're working.

Gallery View

Finder gets a few enhancements. My favourite is the new Gallery View.

I've long been a fan of Quick Look, which lets me see the content of a file without launching an application by pressing the space bar when a file is selected. The Gallery view offers a large preview of a file that I can also annotate it or directly create a PDF of the file without needing to launch an app.

New And Improved Apps

You'll also notice Apple has brought their News, Stocks and Voice Memo app to the Mac as well as boosting security in Safari.

The Home app, so you can control and manage HomeKit-enabled smart home devices also debuts on the Mac.

And, if you're one of those people who keeps dozens of icons on their desktop, there's Stacks feature that neatly organises all your files by grouping them using criteria such as file types and other file attributes, including date and tags.

Is It Worth Upgrading

There's always some pain when updating your operating system. There's a risk applications you rely on will break or not work correctly until an update is issued by the developers. And, you may have a particular workflow you depend on that is changed through an "enhancement" or deprecation of a feature you liked.

And there's always the risk that the first release has hit the market before all the kinks have been ironed out. Apple often ships an update to their operating system software within a week or two of the initial release.

I tend to update as soon as a new release is available so I can find out what's changed as I'm curious. But I don't run any really exotic applications. For example, I have a friend who's a musician and he's stuck on a five year old version of OS X as subsequent updates don't work with some of his equipment. Whenever an application I depend on is abandoned by its developers I look for an alternative so I'm not stuck.

If you've assessed the risks and checked all your applications work, this upgrade represents a solid, but incremental, update to macOS. Thus far, it's been crash-free for me, all the apps I've launched work as expected. The new features are handy (Apple has a long list of new features you can check out). While many of the changes are small or subtle, collectively they represent a worthwhile update.


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