How to Use Light Theme with Dark Menu Bar and Dock in MacOS Mojave

Oct 15, 2018 - 24 Comments

Modify Dark theme to limit to menu bar and Dock in macOS

Enabling Dark Mode in macOS Mojave tranforms the entire user interface appearance into an all-dark look, and while it’s very popular with many users, some other Mac users may not want a full dark mode appearance on their Mac. Instead, some Mac users may prefer a more limited Dark theme experience that only applies to the menu bar and Dock. Coincidentally, and as you may recall, earlier versions of MacOS system software had a dark menu and dark Dock feature that could be enabled, which transitioned only the Menu Bar and Dock to a Dark theme while preserving the regular Light theme across all other user interface elements. This tutorial aims to restore that latter functionality to macOS Mojave, allowing you to keep the Light mode theme for all user interface elements except the Menu bar and Dock, which will be placed into Dark Mode theme exclusively.

If you want to have a Dark theme Menu Bar and Dark Dock in MacOS Mojave without all the other Dark Theme interface applied to windows and UI elements, read on to learn how to accomplish this feat.


This approach requires the use of the command line and defaults commands, if you are not comfortable with the Terminal or modifying system elements it’s probably best to skip this. At the very least, backup your Mac before going further.

How to Enable Dark Menu Bar and Dark Dock Only in MacOS Mojave

Want Light mode with a Dark Menu Bar and Dark Dock? Here is how you can enable that in MacOS 10.14 onward:

  1. Go to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
  2. Select the “General” preference panel and under the Appearance section choose the “Light” mode theme in Mac OS
  3. Now open the Terminal application, found in /Applications/Utilities/ and enter the following command:
  4. defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool Yes

  5. Hit Return to execute the defaults command
  6. Execute the terminal command to adjust Dark mode behavior to impact menu bar and Dock only

  7. Pull down the  Apple menu and choose “Log Out”, then after logged out log right back in to the same user account
  8. Go back to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences” and return to the “General” preference panel
  9. Under the “Appearance” section choose “Dark” to change only the Menu Bar and Dock to be dark themed
  10. Choose the Dark theme again but this time it only impacts menu bar and Dock

You’ll now have the Dark Menu Bar and a Dark Dock, but all other interface elements in MacOS will be in the Light mode theme.

Dark menu bar and Dark Dock but Light theme in MacOS Mojave

This adjustment represents how the Dark theme effects worked in prior versions of Mac OS system software, where the Dark theme only applied to menu bars and the Dock, but not other interface elements elsewhere throughout macOS.

Whether or not you want to have a more limited Dark theme as described here, or if you want the full Dark mode theme, is entirely up to you. A reader requested this option in our comments and another commenter left the solution, so thanks to e01 and Kai for that helpful trick in our comments section!

If you make the change to limit Dark mode to only the Menu bar and Dock in macOS and later wish to return to full Dark Mode of all interface elements, next we will cover how you can reverse this change and return back to the default settings in macOS Mojave.

How to Revert to Default & Full Dark Mode in macOS Mojave

If you want to restore the default Mac theming behavior with full Dark Mode and full Light Mode in MacOS, here is how to revert the prior changes and return to the default theming options:

  1. Open the Terminal application, as found in /Applications/Utilities/ and enter the following command:
  2. defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool No

  3. Pull down the  Apple menu and choose “Log Out”, then log back into the same user account
  4. Return to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences” and return to the “General” preference panel
  5. Under the “Appearance” section choose “Dark” or “Light” to return to the normal default Dark Mode or Light Mode themes in macOS

This merely restores the default options to MacOS Mojave, where clicking on “Light” or “Dark” theme will impact the entire Mac OS interface and visual experience, with the ability to enable full Dark Mode theme or the full Light Mode theme.

So there you have it, you can customize Dark mode a bit to impact everything, or only the menu bar and Dock, it’s up to you! Enjoy!

If you know of any other interesting tweaks or adjustments to make to Dark Mode or Light Mode themes in MacOS, share with us in the comments below!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

24 Comments

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  1. Joss says:

    Great to know, thank you! Follow-up question. There used to be the option in “General” to set the “Appearance” to “Graphite” to have grey window buttons. Is that now done with the “Accent Color” setting? Or are we stuck with colored buttons now? Because… I really don’t like these.

  2. Robert Poland says:

    Up until Mojave I used cDock to give me a black dock )only dock) background allowing me to better see the icons that tended to meld into Apples choice of background colors. cDock also gave me activity dots that were a more visible size and color. It would sure be nice if I was able to control the Dock and the Menubar separately. I will give this routine and see if I can get used to a black Menubar.
    UNRELATED: I wish we could get the OLD trashcan back. I do not agree with Apples desire to make the current icon blend into the background.

  3. Arc says:

    This is an awesome tip. Thanks. I’ve always liked that look. I wish apple would incorporate the old dark mode only for menu bar and dock back into system preferences.

  4. Rob says:

    After doing this and reverting back (setting -bool No), firefox seems to get messed up and everything stays full black (unuable – https://i.imgur.com/tYwdI2Z.png – can’t open preferences, or addons or do anything ). The only way to get firefox to work again for me was to keep this setting set to Yes
    – defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool Yes

    Any ideas what’s going on?

    • Julian Wolfreys says:

      I’ve got the same problem with Firefox. I tried reinstalling but it’s no use. Also other apps (Utorrent) have problems now too. I don’t know the full extent of the problem, but it’s a major pain.

    • Rum says:

      The same for me. Going back is not possible, because Firefox can not open window anymore, or Adobe Illustrator doesn’t display the drawing

    • Luke F. says:

      Having the same problem, the following are broken after reverting.

      1. Firefox is broken and won’t start.
      2. The dock no longer changes to dark.

      Can we have a solution to fully revert or locate the settings file that I can restore from time-machine?

      • Cormac says:

        Reverse the settings, then go back to full dark mode. Then log out and back in, then go back to Light mode. It worked perfectly for me in all shapes. I can use the Dark menu and Dock with Light windows, or vice versa as well as have default settings like all Dark Mode and all Light Mode.

        It’s a terminal tweak so best left to those with full terminal understanding. can also use defaults delete, defaults read, etc to dig deeper into these settings. If you used sudo anywhere, that would be important too.

        • Luke F. says:

          I have tried that suggestion but that didn’t work. What else can I do from the terminal to force to the original settings?

    • Luke F. says:

      Having the same issue. When I reverted the following happen:

      1. Firefox is messed up with a black screen
      2. The dock no longer changes when I set Dark Mode.

      This is lame, can we have a solution?

    • Luke F. says:

      Here is a fix that worked I found no thanks osxdaily.com

      defaults delete -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance

      Now firefox is up and running again

      • Rob says:

        Nice! Thanks for the update and fix Luke! That worked for me as well.

        • Luke F. says:

          Does your dock turn dark?

          Even though I applied:

          defaults delete -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance

          My dock refuses to go into dark mode

          Any solutions?

          • Rob says:

            After setting the posts setting back to original with
            defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool No
            And then doing
            defaults delete -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance

            The light/dark mode acts like it should by default for all apps for me. I haven’t done anything extra.

          • Rum says:

            Thousands thanks Rob! Everythings is working again. Great job:-)

    • Chicago Joe says:

      You can use this tip to start certain apps in Light Mode and others in Dark Mode.

      1. Start in Dark mode by setting it in the preferences
      2. In the terminal, do: defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool Yes
      3. Launch Firefox (no need to reboot or restart the Finder or anything)
      4. Back in the terminal, so: defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool No

      You’ll find Firefox works great now. And you can do that trick with any app that is not quite ready for Dark Mode. If you want to get really Fancy, you can make an AppleScript like this:

      — functions to temporarily set dark/light mode for some apps
      on light_mode()
      do shell script “defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool Yes”
      end light_mode
      on dark_mode()
      do shell script “defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool No”
      end dark_mode

      — open some apps
      my light_mode()
      tell application “Firefox”
      activate
      end tell
      my dark_mode()
      tell application “Safari”
      activate
      end tell

      That will Launch Firefox in Light Mode, and Safari in Dark Mode (assuming you’ve set Dark Mode in your system preferences).

  5. Vador says:

    The best choice: light theme with dark menu bar and transparent dock!

  6. littlechristy says:

    What a great tip, I am now able to work on my mac without getting depressed with all of this darkness.

    Many Thanks

    littlechristy

  7. Omare says:

    Awesome tip! Dark mode is still not totally polished in Mojave. Some apps are also not ready to blend in with dark mode, and I just hate the light menu bar. So this is the perfect combination

  8. Michael says:

    This is awesome. Thank you for the information. I look forward to your daily tips. This was the first time I attempted to do anything in Terminal. Your instructions was clear and easy to do.

    Thank you,

    Michael

  9. Kortez says:

    Ever since I tried this switch I have had problems with the appearance of some of the apps I use. So, I used the command line to switch bak. I logged out but the appearance did not return to the way it was. I would like to switch to the way it was before the command-line change.

    I have tried rebooting, doing the process again, etc., but no reversion has happened.

    How do I revert without a reinstall of Mojave?

    Thanks.

    • Kortez says:

      Never mind! I re-read all the posts and saw LukeF’s post about the line to delete the addition. It worked. Thanks!

  10. Randy says:

    Is the notification panel dark with dark text and almost impossible to read for everyone else after doing this?

  11. JokerPower says:

    Hi

    Notifications fix:
    defaults write com.apple.notificationcenterui NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool No

    Finder fix:
    defaults write com.apple.finder NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool Yes; killall Finder

    Fix Notes (or any other app, just change the com.apple.Notes):
    defaults write com.apple.Notes NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool Yes; killall Notes

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