My thoughts on Light vs Dark Mode when using Mac OS Mojave

Dark mode is a feature that basically flip the colour palette of all UI elements on your computer from light colours like sliver or white to dark grey and black.

With dark mode, the most visible change is the overall theme and text. It changed the text colour from black text on white background to light grey on dark background. User interface (UI) elements like windows, popup dialogs, and buttons use dark grey for its background with light grey icons and text. Because of that, the whole UI don’t distract a user from what they are working on. When working on a computer for long period of times, dark mode also doesn’t strain the eyes too much and reduce fatigue.

So I believe there are a substantial amount of creators, be it artists, programmers or writers, who prefer the use of dark mode over the traditional light mode because they have to work at their computer for long period of time and want to be able to focus on the content they are creating.

For me, as a programmer and writer, I also prefer dark mode because of the reasons mentioned above.

But I didn’t start out using that because there was never such an option on the earlier version of Windows. Back then, I always thought whatever Microsoft gave was good enough, starting from Windows 95 to Windows 8. So I read, wrote and coded using dark text on white background for as long as I remembered. It was only until 2015 when I started tinkering with the integrated development environment I used for software development to use dark mode after I found some articles on why it’s better. And it was only one of the few applications that I used that allowed for customisation without fear of breaking the whole operating system. Since then, I have never quite gone back to using light mode or light themes when writing or coding.

However, I continued to use light themes for the whole operating system even after jumping into Apple ecosystem because I didn’t quite want to tinker with the operating system.

Apple finally decided to add Dark Mode support for Mac OS with the release of Mac OS Mojave. We should applaud them for it since they did spend quite a fair amount of resources to implement dark mode properly for Mac OS. As the saying goes, “To do it is easy but to do it right takes effort.”

Well I didn’t hesitate and make the switch upon the release of that OS update.

Here is the Finder application on the Mac. For those who never used a Mac before, Finder is basically the Mac OS version of the File Explorer on Windows.

The first is the light mode. Look at how everything looks so bright, maybe a little cheery and not so dull.

And here is the dark mode version. It looks cool and professional on first sight.

And here is iTunes on the Mac.

In light mode, the whole application does look a little glaring and bright because of the white background. The music albums doesn’t look as enticing. It just give you the feeling that everything is of equal importances.

The whole experience changes in dark mode. The music albums simply pop out. They bring your attention to them and you can forget about the rest of the stuff. This is where I thought dark mode is well implemented.

Finally in the writing application that I predominantly use, iA writer. It supports both light and dark mode.

In light mode, the dark text on white background looks fine. It’s like what majority of us experienced when browsing the web and reading on printed reports. But if your monitor brightness and contrast are set high, then it can be very glaring.

And on dark mode, everything feels different. Definitely less straining on the eyes. With that, I swear I could write for hours and hours. My attention are all brought to the text on the screen and not the blank canvas around it.

It all sounds fine and good. Dark mode is the best if you want to get work done and get into the zone quickly. But here’s the kicker. After using dark mode for several months now, I’ve come to realised I didn’t like dark mode as much as I thought.

Yes, dark mode looks cool and professional but it’s a depressing sight. It gives you the impression that life is boring. Everything is all about work and no play. And on the Mac OS, certain aspect isn’t done as well as you thought.

For example, when you combine dark grey with translucency like the one you see when you open up the Finder, it makes the dark colours look a little washout and doesn’t look as futuristic or cool as you thought it should. Furthermore, the colour mix Apple chose for the various UI elements made everything looks boring too. Other than the usual blue, dark grey, light grey, and the traffic light buttons at the top, there isn’t much else to spice up the overall UI.

Here are some example of dark mode/theme that I thought are well done. They are themes for the Linux operating system.

https://www.addictivetips.com/ubuntu-linux-tips/best-dark-themes-for-linux-in-2018/

Look at the vibrant colour selections. Some of them don’t use dark grey for the background of the various windows. They go with something that’s slightly more bluish. And there isn’t much translucency to be found on these linux versions. There’s nothing wrong with translucency. But if you want to do it, do it only when it’s light mode because translucency kind of represent openness and joy. When you do it for dark mode, it gives conflicting signals like how can you be dark while being open or joyful.

Lastly, the dark mode hasn’t really been helping with my mood lately.

So I’ve decided to switch back to light mode when it comes to using the operating system and my creative tools. I want to feel happy when I’m using my computer. Don’t want it to suck the joy out of my life. It’s depressing enough.

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