How to enable Yosemite’s hidden dark mode

hidden-darkmode

Step away from the light with Yosemite’s dark mode, photo Buster Hein

OS X Yosemite is the biggest visual overhaul Apple’s made to the Mac in years, but developers at WWDC seemed most excited about one tiny UI tweak – dark mode.

Beta testers eager to try out the the new OS X 10.10 feature were disappointed to find out it didn’t make it into the first Yosemite beta, but our friend Jean-David Gadina, from the DiskAid developers team, has done some digging into the OS X Yosemite beta and discovered a new file not present in Mavericks that can be manipulated to enable the hidden dark mode feature.

Here’s how to do it:


turnonDarkMode

  • Open your /System/Library folder by clicking Go >> Computer on the Apple menu bar, click your Yosemite drive then go to System >> Library
  • Open the CoreServices folder
  • Right click SystemAppearance.bundle and choose Show Package Contents
  • Open Content >> Resources
  • Rename “DarkAppearance.car” to “GraphiteAppearance.car”
  • Open System Preference >> General
  • Under Appearance switch from Blue to Graphite
  • Logout and log back in

Jean-David notes that the dark theme is clearly not finished – hence its omission from the first Yosemite beta. A lot of stuff is missing in the dark interface so only a few controls get the new dark look, while windows and menus keep the default light grey background.

However, the DarkAppearance.car file is very interesting because it uses the same system as the one used in iOS 7 & 8, which should allow people to build their own “.car” theme files in the future.

For those wondering about the .CAR files, they contain definitions for the appearance of all UI elements of OS X. According to Jean-David’s research, it looks like they are built by the “distiller” utility Apple added in Mavericks, that can be found in a private framework called “CoreThemeDefinition.”

Once you’ve had your fill of partial darkness, revert back to the Blue appearance and fix the .car file names to their original state.

  • Tomáš G. Masaryk

    the rest isn’t dark though =(

    • http://greekiphone.gr piratx

      what file you right clicked on CoreServices?

      • BusterH

        SystemAppearance.bundle

  • Jordon

    Ummm, yeah – this isn’t dark mode.

    • BusterH

      it is, it’s just not completely finished.

      • Tomáš G. Masaryk

        will be the wholy UI be dark? or just the menubar like on the keynote

      • http://www.eazycomputers.com/ PhoneTechJay

        Jordon is right this is not dark mode. Fact: Dark mode is not in this build of the OS. If it were we would be able to enable it the same way it was shown in the keynote.

      • BusterH

        Fact: dark mode is not ENABLED in this build of the OS, because Apple hasn’t finished it. That is the .CAR file they’re using to control dark mode.
        Just because it doesn’t work the same way you saw in the keynote doesn’t mean this isn’t it. It is. It’s just not completely finished yet so Apple hasn’t made it an option in the Appearance settings. But by tweaking the .Car file names you can see their current progress.

      • http://www.eazycomputers.com/ PhoneTechJay

        Sorry this is merely changing the unfinished theme colors. Not enabling the “Dark Mode”.

    • Kr00

      And this is the reason why Apple doesn’t let morons test their beta versions. FFS, it’s beta 1.

  • Adrayven

    Thats not dark mode.. He’s changing the theme colors..

  • http://mackozer.pl/ Krystian Kozerawski

    I did it by the numbers and it destroyed the system.
    First the System Prefs crashed, then Finder… and Yosemite doesn’t boot.
    There is no system recovery partition. I’m downloading Yosemite on my 2nd Mac and I will try to reinstall it from USB drive.

    I guess the problem is the language set (Polish in that case)

  • Jesse Smith

    So I was watching the keynote and exactly at 16 minutes and 10 seconds they talked about Dark mode. Is this the set up for that?

  • http://greekiphone.gr piratx

    Next to unhide receive and make calls :p

  • Cory Aitchison

    There was also a VibrantLight.car is that another mode? Or was that always there?

  • Eitot

    Looks like the dark mode will have more than just a dark menu bar and dock. Dark windows would look incredible.

  • Guest

    wow i don’t have this core services folder

  • Technocrz!

    I already have both file names???

  • Aloogy

    Followed the instructions step by step, but somehow it crashed finder and upon a reboot bricked my whole system. I couldn’t get past a white screen with a black square in the middle.

    If anyone else has this issue, here is the fix: Go into recovery mode (Command-R when booting), use Terminal to move (cd) to the same directory (/Volumes/HD/System/Library/…) and rename (mv) the files back to their original names.

    • Apostolos Marios Mzkpls

      Hey, I had the same issue. The thing is that on the recovery terminal you don’t have sudo or administration privileges so I’m not able to do what you are saying because it is a read only file system. How did you login to your user account? account?

      • Aloogy

        In recovery mode, I don’t think you need admin rights do rename files. That or perhaps I enabled root or something. It was a while back so unfortunately I don’t remmember. Sorry.

  • kavok

    This is just hacking the Graphite elements; it is not the dark theme they showed in the demo. Someone saw the word dark and thought this was where it was supposed to be. The dark theme is at the very least finished to the point they could show it during the demo. You notice he used a keyboard command to change it, not a GUI. I bet that it’s there in the beta, if one knew where exactly to look, instead of trying to hack it.

  • Tyler James Winters

    This killed my whole system. I had to do a internet restore and im now in the process of reinstalling yosemite. Thanks.

  • El Flamenco

    The article above is omitting an essential step of first duplicating “DarkAppearance.car” and then rename that file “GraphiteAppearance.car” would be my guess to prevent the crashes. Anyways, DP3 is already out, so this is obsolete info.

    Namely, you can never ever rename an original system file …

    Duplicating: option+d
    enter your admin password

    renaming: press enter or slowly double click the file name
    enter your admin PW

About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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