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Apple's MacOS Mojave update offers lots of nice touches that continue to make Apple's desktop operating system a pleasure to use.

What is MacOS Mojave?

MacOS 10.14 Mojave is the latest version of Apple's desktop operating system, following up on last year's High Sierra. Since 2011, Apple has been on an annual release schedule for MacOS revisions, pushing out a major MacOS update each summer or early fall. Since 2014, Apple has also been making available a public beta of MacOS, so curious and brave Mac users can check out the upcoming OS if they can't wait till Apple ships the final release.

Out of the box, MacOS is ready to go, with the Safari web browser; iTunes; and email, note-taking, calendar, photo-editing, and text-editing apps. Apple also has a handy collection of creative and productivity tools you can download, including GarageBand and Keynote apps.

What's new in MacOS Mojave?

Unlike last year's High Sierra update -- where Apple made most of the changes under the hood -- Mojave comes with a basket of visual improvements that are readily apparent. For example, Mojave -- finally -- gives Mac users the chance to switch to dark mode. The new color scheme is applied throughout the OS from the built-in apps to the desktop, where a nighttime desert scene appears. And Mojave's dynamic wallpapers desktop changes to match time of day. If you turn on dark mode, you cycle through nighttime images; with it turned off, you cycle through daytime desert scenes.

Or if cluttered and untidy desktops are a trigger, Mojave comes with Stacks, which automatically organizes your files by type, date, or tags and gathers everything into tidy stacks of files.

Mojave's improved Finder lets you more easily browse and manage files. A Gallery View lets you browse through your files using large preview images. And Quick Actions options give you quick commands for working with files.

And perhaps most interestingly, Apple has moved over four of its own iOS apps to Mojave: Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home.

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(Credit: Apple)

Pros

  • iOS apps on the Mac. With MacOS Mojave, Apple begins the process of porting iOS apps to its desktop operating system. The first four apps are Apple's own: Apple News, which displays a personalized feed of news stories from trusted sources; Stocks, which lets you view your stock watchlist, monitor stock prices, and see daily performance charts; Voice Memos, for recording and storing voice memos and other audio recordings in iCloud; and Home, to help you set up and control all your connected HomeKit accessories. In 2019, Apple will open up MacOS to third-party iOS developers who will then be able to move their own apps to the Mac App Store.

SEE: Apple's iOS 12 is an essential update.

  • Keeping you secure and guarding your privacy. Getting Mojave versions of your favorite iOS apps is cool and all. But the one thing that may impact you the most in Mojave is Apple's ongoing efforts to protect your privacy online, especially around preventing browser fingerprinting. Mojave's Safari web browser will prevent data companies from tracking you across the web through your browser fingerprint by presenting a simplified system configuration. Apple is also limiting how social media elements on a webpage can track you. Like and Share buttons and comment fields on a webpage can track you whether you click them or not. With Safari, you will need to opt-in to each social element so it can't track you without your permission.
  • Keep it dark. From YouTube and Gmail to Firefox, it seems like every app has an optional dark mode. With Mojave, you can now finally turn off the lights and switch to a dark mode to bring your content to the front while moving everything else into the background. The dark theme is available in all the built-in Mojave apps -- including Photos and iTunes -- and third-party apps can use the mode as well if their developers take advantage of the theme.
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(Credit: Apple)

Cons

  • iTunes frustration. From selling movies to managing your music, iTunes tries to do it all. Thank goodness it doesn't try to manage our iOS apps anymore. But having one app manage your songs, TV shows, movies, audiobooks, and podcasts can make you crazy. iOS takes a more sensible approach, splitting iTunes into individual apps for music, video, and store purchases, so you know where exactly to look for your items.
  • Limited iCloud backup. Take backing up your Mac files, for example. To make a local backup, we have the useful Time Machine utility. But simple backup to the cloud -- like what iOS offers through iCloud Backup -- is lacking. While Mac users can use third-party tools for remote backup -- I love Carbon Copy Cloner -- a built-in method from Apple that uses iCloud would be welcome.
  • Limited collaboration through iCloud. While you can collaborate with others on Keynote, Pages, and Numbers files, iCloud really is designed to give you as an individual a place in the cloud to store your files. If your goal is to share and collaborate with others, Google's cloud service may be a better way to go.
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(Credit: Apple)

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Bottom line

Unlike the past few updates -- which have felt a bit underwhelming as far as interesting new user features -- MacOS Mojave comes with a nice collection of updates and new capabilities that make the Mac look and feel fresh and keep a tighter hold on your privacy.

Apps

  • MacOS 10.14 Mojave. The latest update to Apple MacOS software is available for free and runs on iMac, late 2012 or newer; iMac Pro, late 2017 or newer; MacBook, early 2015 or newer; MacBook Air, mid 2012 or newer; MacBook Pro, mid 2012 or newer; Mac Mini, late 2012 or newer; Mac Pro, late 2013 or newer; mid 2010 and mid 2012 with a Metal-capable GPU.
  • GarageBand. You need to grab it from the Mac's App Store, but Apple's GarageBand puts a music studio right on your Mac, giving both musicians and the musically challenged a broad range of powerful tools you can use to create and edit songs.
  • iMovie. Again, Apple's useful video app doesn't come with MacOS, but download it from the Mac App Store if you want to create and then share your own video creations.
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(Credit: Apple)

Competitive products

  • Windows 10. Honestly, it's probably not been a fair fight between Windows and the Mac since before Windows 95. But if you are looking for an affordable machine running a usable OS, Windows 10 is not the end of the world.
  • Chrome OS. If you live online -- and especially if you hang out in Google's world of Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and collection of Docs editors -- Google's Chrome OS is a sensible, usable, affordable, and secure way to get things done.

Also see

Clifford is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he sits next to fellow editor Josh Rotter and roots for the A's.