Dynamic Desktops are an interesting feature in MacOS Mojave that cause the desktop wallpaper to change throughout the day with the time, mimicking the changes in lighting that would occur in a scene as the day and night progresses. It’s a subtle but cool feature that brings some life to an otherwise static wallpaper.
But you actually don’t need macOS Mojave (whether in public beta or otherwise) to gain a Dynamic Desktop feature on the Mac, and you can accomplish a very similar effect by using existing features available to every version of Mac OS system software.
To mimic Dynamic Desktops on any version of Mac OS, you will need a collection of wallpapers that are of the same scene but have different lighting or colors. If you’re creative with Pixelmator or Photoshop you can make them yourself, you can download collections of them found on the web (as we’ll do in this tutorial with images from Mojave default wallpaper), you create these yourself with Time Lapse photography on iPhone or iPad, or you can compile your own collection of images on your own – just make sure the pictures have file names that are labeled sequentially in the order of how you want them to show up (file1, file2, file3 etc). For optimal effect you will want somewhere between 10 and 25 images that are of the same general scene or landscape. Aside from that, you’ll simply be using the existing Automatically Change Desktop Picture feature of Mac OS that has been around since the earliest days of Mac OS X.
Here’s how to set it all up.
How to Mimic Dynamic Desktops in Mac OS
- First, gather a collection of images that feature the same scene but in different lighting conditions – for example you can download the full collection of macOS Mojave default wallpapers from here or here (zip file) – place this image collection in a folder that is easily accessible
- Now pull down the Apple menu and go to “System Preferences”
- Choose “Desktop & Screen Saver” and go to the Desktop tab
- Drag and drop the folder of images into the left side menu in the Desktop section (or you can click the + plus button and find the folder manually)
- This will load the image collection into the Desktop preference panel, now click the checkbox for “Change Picture:” and select an amount of time between when you want the wallpaper to change automatically (“Every hour” is pretty close to how Dynamic Desktops works in Mojave)
That’s it, simple! Now your Mac wallpaper will change dynamically for the amount of time you set.
You can quickly test out how it will work by setting the Change Picture time to “Every 5 seconds” but you will probably find that’s a bit too fast and can be distracting, though it does demonstrate rather quickly how the feature works.
The video embedded below demonstrates this setup and effect, with the aggressive 5 second setting so that you can see how it works and appears:
Note this is on a Mac running macOS Sierra, not Mojave, but you can get the same effect in literally any version of Mac OS X system software as the feature has existed since the beginning.
Another way to get dynamic-style wallpapers is to use a screen saver as the desktop wallpaper in Mac OS as discussed here, but keep in mind that trick will use some system resources to maintain. Another way to get a visually active desktop is to set an animated GIF as the wallpaper though that relies on a third party tool and also uses a fair amount of system resources to maintain. But they’re options if you’re into that.
Of course you can also just use Dynamic Desktops in macOS Mojave too, and while it’s currently under active development you can install macOS Mojave public beta on any compatible Mac and check it out yourself if you’d like, just be sure to backup your Mac before doing so.
If you want some inspiration to try this out yourself, browse through our wallpaper posts or a site like Unsplash, you can make multiple copies of the pictures then modify the brightness, hue, colors, and exposure of images to keep the scene the same while the ambiance shifts.
Do you have any other interesting image collections or combinations for using a dynamic desktop on Mac OS? Maybe some particularly cool wallpapers for this purpose? Share with us in the comments below!