Mac OS has long had a dark menu and dark Dock option, and macOS Mojave 10.14 has a true Dark Mode theme that shifts the entire visual appearance to a pleasing dark interface scheme. But if you’re running macOS High Sierra 10.13.x, you can use a defaults command entered into the terminal to enable a half-baked Dark Mode appearance that is system-wide, though it’s very incomplete and thus not appropriate for casual usage.
To be perfectly clear, while this technically enables a Dark Mode-like appearance in macOS High Sierra, it doesn’t work that well, and it doesn’t look particularly good either; there are mismatched colors everywhere, many user interface elements appear incomplete, many of the fonts aren’t colored correctly, and there are a variety of other very obvious visual issues with this. Basically, it’s very broken, which is probably why Apple didn’t enable this as an option in macOS High Sierra in the first place and instead waited for the complete implementation in macOS Mojave (if you’re impatient and want a fully functioning Dark Mode, try the macOS Mojave public beta). But it does work, in a broken not quite working sort of way.
It’s important to emphasize just how incomplete this implementation is, so this is more for fun and for testing than actually trying to use at any level. It’s interesting to discuss and share, but it’s probably not a good idea to even bother trying yourself unless you’re the type of Mac user who likes to tinker and doesn’t mind breaking things. It’s truly for the adventurous only.
For good measure you should backup your Mac before trying this out. While it’s just a defaults write command string that is easy to undo, if you happen to screw something up you’ll be happy you have a backup made to revert back to. You’ve been warned.
Ready to try out the broken Dark Mode appearance in macOS High Sierra 10.13.x? Open the Terminal application, and enter the following defaults write command to enable Dark Mode in macOS High Sierra:
defaults write -g NSWindowDarkChocolate -bool TRUE
Hit return, then reboot the Mac.
When it boots back up, the very broken implementation of Dark Mode in macOS High Sierra will be enabled.
You’ll likely find the macOS High Sierra implementation of Dark Mode to be completely intolerable to actually using the computer, so after you spend a minute or two with it, you’ll likely want to reverse course and return back to the normal bright white and grey appearance of macOS High Sierra (Light Mode?). To do that, return to the Terminal and enter the following defaults string, which deletes the DarkChocolate reference.
defaults delete -g NSWindowDarkChocolate
Once again, reboot the Mac, and you’ll be back to normal with the regular bright interface of MacOS High Sierra.
If you’re actually interested in Dark Mode, as many Mac users are, you can either install macOS Mojave public beta right now, or wait until the fall for the final version of macOS Mojave to be available to the general public. MacOS Mojave includes a full featured Dark Mode that looks great and is fully implemented, so if you’ve been wishing for a darker appearance to Mac OS, then MacOS Mojave will deliver for you.
Thanks to our friend Keir Thomas at MacKungFu for finding this interesting tip. If you try it out yourself, let us know how it goes! Just don’t forget to reverse back to the normal macOS appearance again.