How to Enable Dynamic Desktops in MacOS

Oct 4, 2018 - 4 Comments

How to use Dynamic Desktops in MacOS

Dynamic Desktops are a new feature in MacOS that allow the desktop background wallpaper of a Mac to change throughout the day as the time changes. Perhaps the most prominent example of this feature is the default desktop in macOS, whether in Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, or Mojave, which when Dynamic Desktops is enabled will time-shift the scene from morning, day, and night. It’s a subtle effect that is really quite nice, even if it’s purely visual in nature and mostly just eye candy.

Dynamic Desktops requires MacOS Mojave 10.14 or later, earlier versions of MacOS system software do not contain the feature (though all prior versions of Mac OS X do have an ability to automatically change desktop wallpaper at a determined time interval, we’ll briefly discuss that further below).

How to Use Dynamic Desktops Wallpaper on Mac

  1. Go to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
  2. Select the “Desktop & Screen Saver” preference panel, then choose the “Desktop” tab
  3. Near the top of the desktop wallpaper images, look for “Dynamic Desktop” and choose an available dynamic desktop picture as the wallpaper
  4. How to use Dynamic Desktops on Mac

  5. Optionally, adjust whether to show the Dynamic Desktop as a Dynamic image (meaning it changes throughout the day as the feature intends), or if wallpaper shows as a still image (Light or Dark)
  6. Adjusing Dynamic Desktops to be Dynamic or Still

  7. Close System Preferences when finished

Once the Dynamic Desktop is set, the background wallpaper image will change automatically throughout the day in accordance with the time of day for your current location.

For example, if it’s the middle of the day, the Dynamic Desktop will show a bright version of the background picture:

Bright Dynamic desktop picture of desert wallpaper in Mojave

But if it’s the middle of the night you will find the wallpaper time shifts to a dark version of the background picture is set automatically.

Dark desktop picture of Mojave desert dunes when Dynamic and middle of night

There are many in-between pictures too, depending on the time of day. Essentially this gives the appearance of passing time, as if you were sitting in the same place for a 24 hour period watching the same scene change as the sun rises and sets, the stars appear, and the moon light casts different lighting and shadows on the scenery. It’s rather beautiful, really!

Dynamic Desktops may be a feature that is new to macOS Mojave 10.14 and later, but prior versions of Mac OS and Mac OS X have long been able to use a similar feature that automatically changes the desktop picture background at a set time interval (for example, every 5 seconds, every hour, every day, etc).

If you’re not on MacOS 10.14 or newer and you’re feeling left out, don’t worry too much, because you can achieve a similar effect by using the automatic changing of desktop wallpapers feature to mimic Dynamic Desktops on other MacOS versions as discussed here, and that trick works on even the oldest versions of Mac OS X system software.

Currently MacOS Mojave only includes a few Dynamic Desktops, but hopefully in the near future more of them will appear as options, and maybe the feature will even gain third party support either officially or through unofficial mods. The potential here is pretty notable, particularly since the iPhone camera is getting better and better, and the iPhone time-lapse photography video feature could be perfect for setting up unique and custom Dynamic Desktop displays by just about anyone.

If you know of any interesting tips or tricks about Dynamic Desktops, or how to modify or make your own, share with us in the comments below!


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


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Dennis says:

    So far, Mojave SUCKS!

  2. Louie says:

    I have been using the dynamic desktop for a few days and I like it. The only thing it’s missing is to also automatically switch between light and dark mode according to the wallpaper being displayed at a certain time. For instance, using light mode while the daytime Mojave desert images are shown as wallpaper, then switch to dark mode when the wallpaper changes to darker night Mojave desert image.

  3. Pete M says:

    Obtained “Blue Planet” world clock that now inhabits my primary monitor as the “desktop.” Throughout the day it shows the progression of the day/night terminator as it moves across a map of the world. This replaces “Hour World” (world clock) that I’d used for years and is no longer supported — and will be rendered unusable when 32 bit programs are no longer supported on the Mac.

  4. Ray Collins says:

    i loaded Mojave & now screen saver doesn’t work. is there a fix?

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