Apple macOS Mojave, First Take: Eye-candy and productivity in equal measure

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It may have been overshadowed by the new iPhone range and the release of iOS 12 earlier this month, but macOS 10.14, codenamed Mojave, turns out to be one of the more interesting updates to arrive on the Mac in recent years.

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Dynamic Desktop changes the lighting and colour scheme to match the time of day.

Images: Cliff Joseph/ZDNet

Available during the summer as a public beta, Mojave made headlines with eye-catching graphical enhancements, such as the new Dark Mode and Dynamic Desktop, which change their lighting and colour scheme to reflect the time of day. The latter feature is typical Apple eye-candy, but Dark Mode already seems to be popular with Apple's professional users in fields such as design and photography who need to focus on the visual impact of their work. That might be less useful for business users who simply need to create documents in Word or Excel, but there are many other features in Mojave with an emphasis squarely on productivity.

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Dark Mode helps designers and photographers focus on their content, without beign distracted by OS components.

Image: Cliff Joseph/ZDNet

Stacks of files

Many business users find that their desktop can become cluttered with random files -- web pages, photos, PDFs and other documents -- so Mojave can now create 'stacks', which group files together in order to quickly tidy everything up. Each type of file is grouped into its own 'stack' icon on the desktop, and you can use Apple's trackpads or touch-sensitive mice to 'scrub' through and preview the contents of each stack in order to quickly locate the file you're looking for. You can also organise stacks by date, or with colour-coded tags if you prefer, making it easier to locate recently-used files or files related to a specific project.

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The Stacks feature helps you clear up a cluttered desktop (left) by grouping files and stacking them neatly (right).

Image: Cliff Joseph/ZDNet

When browsing through files and folders with the Finder, a new Gallery View replaces the older Coverflow, providing a larger preview of the file's content, as well as details of its metadata. The editing and markup tools normally found in the standalone Preview app have also been incorporated into both the Gallery View and the Quick Look preview mode. This allows you to perform many simple editing tasks on the fly, such as annotating a document, cropping or rotating a photo, or signing a PDF, without having to open any other applications.

Three-finger salute

Journalists around the world will soon be hitting Shift-Command-5 to activate the new Screenshot controls, which include options such as timers, visible cursors, and even simple audio and video recordings. And as soon as you create a screenshot, a large thumbnail preview appears in the lower-right corner of the screen, allowing you to activate the Quick Look preview mode, along with the new markup and editing tools.

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It's also possible to use the Mac's Continuity feature to take a photo or scan an image using your iPhone camera, and import it directly into Mac apps, such as Apple Mail, Pages or Keynote.

Security is improved, with the Safari browser now able to prevent social media, such as Twitter or Facebook, from tracking you if you use content from those sites that's embedded on other websites. Safari can also remember if you use the same password on multiple websites or accounts, and suggest more secure alternatives.

iOS apps

The convergence of the macOS and iOS platforms continues as well, with four popular iOS apps now appearing on the Mac for the first time. The Stocks, News, and Voice Memos can all be useful for business users, but the arrival of the Home app on the Mac is perhaps the most significant for Apple's future, as this will be a key app for Apple if it hopes to challenge Amazon's Alexa in the emerging smart home market. More recent Mac models will also be able to use Siri voice commands to control the Home app, along with HomeKit-compatible devices such as smart lights, and Apple's own HomePod speaker.

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Four iOS apps -- Stocks (above), News, Voice Memos and Home -- appear on the Mac for the first time in macOS Mojave.

Image: Cliff Joseph/ZDNet

Apple has been accused of neglecting the Mac in recent years, as it continues to focus on the all-conquering iPhone, and some of the more recent macOS updates have seemed rather underwhelming. However, Mojave has the feel of a well-thought out update that focuses its attention on the Mac's traditional strengths of simplicity and ease-of-use, while also bringing some of its newer mobile technologies onto the Mac for the first time. And, with months of beta testing under its belt, Mojave seems to be a pretty stable release as well.

32-bit phase-out

One important thing to remember is that Apple is now planning to phase out support for 'old' 32-bit software and apps on the Mac. The company has announced that Mojave will be the last version of the operating system to support 32-bit software (future releases will be 64-bit only), and there have been reports that the beta version had problems running some 32-bit apps. Now that the final version of Mojave is now available (as of 24 September), business users would be advised to perform a preliminary software audit to ensure that their business-critical software and apps are compatible with the new operating system before upgrading.

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