Enable Dark Menu Mode with a Keyboard Shortcut in Mac OS X

Oct 24, 2014 - 7 Comments

OS X Dark mode

Dark Mode impacts the appearance of the Dock and Menu Bar in Mac OS X, turning both from their grey on white defaults to a higher contrast white text against black background dark alternative. The effect is sort of iOS-like, but it also makes a great addition to the Increase Contrast feature on a Mac with the latest MacOS X version. Typically to enable Dark menu and Dock Mode on a Mac you have to go into the System Preferences and toggle a switch, but another option is to enable a hidden keyboard shortcut instead, as we’ll show you how to do.

This trick allows users to instantly turn Dark Mode on or off by just hitting a set of keystrokes, which is obviously much faster than digging around in appearance settings in Mac OS X.

You’ll need to turn to the Terminal app and use a defaults write command string to get this working, but it’s quite easy:

  1. Launch the Terminal app, found in /Applications/Utilities/ or with Spotlight and enter the following command string:
    sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences.plist _HIEnableThemeSwitchHotKey -bool true

  2. Hit Return and enter an admin password to execute the defaults command
  3. Now log out and back into the Mac (the quickest way is by going to the  Apple menu and selecting “Log Out”)
  4. Log back in as usual
  5. Hit the following keyboard shortcut to toggle Dark Mode ON or OFF: Command+Option+Control+T

You can rapidly toggle Dark Mode on and off by hitting the keystroke repeatedly, the effect in either direction is instantaneous allowing for a quick toggling of the feature to suit your preference.

Dark Mode On:

Dark Mode ON in Mac OS X

Dark Mode Off:

Dark Mode OFF in Mac OS X

As mentioned before, Dark Mode pairs quite well with greater interface contrast options if you’re finding the appearance of the newest Mac OS X to be a bit hard to distinguish.

This keyboard shortcut will remain active until you disable it with a defaults string again, which can be done by entering the following defaults command into the terminal:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences.plist _HIEnableThemeSwitchHotKey -bool false

(You can also use a defaults delete command if you want)

Heads up to CultOfMac for the awesome find. For those who remember when Dark Mode was first shown during the WWDC keynote, Apple VP Craig Federghi used a keystroke on stage to show off the feature, which is perhaps what this is from.


Related articles:

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


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  1. Casper says:

    Note if you change keymap (e.g. DVORAK) it is still the T key on a US keyboard (not the K key when in DVORAK).

    Also a weird quirk for me: it brings up the second menu extra context-menu (as if I had right-clicked on it).

  2. John says:

    Yosemite looks and works great for me jack

  3. Marcus Jarrett says:

    This applescript will toggle dark mode, no need for a terminal hack:

    tell application “System Events”
    tell appearance preferences to set dark mode to not dark mode
    end tell

    save it as a document, and trigger it with your favourite hotkey app.

  4. WillyChilly says:

    Looks great on a Retina MBP

    • Heb Walker says:

      Here’s how to make OS X Yosemite look decent:

      * Use Dark Mode

      * Use Increase Contrast

      * Replace the horrible Helvetica System Font with Lucida Grande

      * Use a 24″ or larger monitor

      • Heb Walker says:

        Oh another big help is to recalibrate your display and use 2.2 Gamma

        Make everything darker yourself since Yosemite is a white washed eye sore

  5. chillywilly says:

    OS X Yosemite is so ugly and blurry, I can’t believe they named it after such a beautiful national park. Poor Muir.

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