Can you use a dark menu bar and Dock with macOS Catalina?

Despite the shortcomings we’ve seen with macOS Catalina, some cool tricks can be found. One of those discoveries involves keeping the menu bar and dock in dark mode while the rest of the system user interface remains in light mode.

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This is a callback to the High Sierra days where that was one of the themed options. However, when it came to Mojave, you were stuck with one or the other and without intermediaries. Thanks to the wonderful Apple community, there is a way to get that High Sierra look with macOS Catalina.

What’s new with macOS Catalina?

Perhaps the biggest change in Catalina is the introduction of three new apps: Music, TV, and Podcasts. All of these combine to replace iTunes with the help of Catalyst, which is essentially iPad applications for the desktop.

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Can you use a dark menu bar and Dock with macOS Catalina?

Plus, Sidecar lets you use your shiny iPad Pro as a second screen for compatible Macs. This could eliminate the need for a secondary monitor as you could only use your iPad and even the Apple Pencil.

There are some other features with Catalina, but we are digging into some customizations. Dark mode is here and it makes it easy to save battery while looking stylish without downloading additional apps.

Can you use a dark menu bar and dock?

It’s all good (and more than welcome) that system-wide dark mode is finally here with Catalina. However, what if you just want the menu bar and dock to appear dark mode?

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It turns out that there is a way to turn this into reality with the help of the Terminal app. You will need to enter a couple of prompts for things to work properly, but this is how you can go about it.

  1. Make sure you have the light mode enabled in System Preferences
    1. Opened System preferences on your mac
    2. Faucet general
    3. Below Appearance, Select Light
  2. Opened Terminal on your mac
  3. Enter the following message on the command line:
    • defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool Yes

Can you use a dark menu bar and Dock with macOS Catalina?

After you’ve entered the above message and pressed Enter, you may be asked to enter your password. Do so and then hit Enter again. This is what you will need to do next:

  1. Tap on the Apple logo at the top right of the menu bar.
  2. At the end of the list, select Sign off
  3. Once you’ve logged out of the computer, go ahead and log back in
  4. Opened System preferences
  5. Faucet general
  6. Below Appearance, Select Dark
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Your menu bar and base will change automatically, but you will notice something different. Can you use a dark menu bar and Dock with macOS Catalina?

The System Preferences panel remains the same as when you had opted for light mode. But both the menu bar and the dock are in dark mode!

Everything other than the menu bar and the Dock remains under the Light theme.

Don’t you see the volume indicator anymore?

After switching your Mac’s menu bar and Dock to dark mode, try changing the volume and see if the volume indicator appears on the screen and is easily visible, as in this example.

Can you use a dark menu bar and Dock with macOS Catalina?

As some readers point out, when you switch macOS Dock for Catalina + to dark mode, you may no longer see the on-screen volume indicator on your Mac.

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You can continue checking or adjusting the volume on your Mac in the top menu bar. If the volume control is not on the menu bar, choose Apple menu> System Preferences> Sound> Output and check the box for Show volume in menu bar. Can you use a dark menu bar and Dock with macOS Catalina?

Alternatively, to see your on-screen volume indicator, follow the steps below to disable the use of a dark menu bar and dock.

Notification Center is now broken?

Some users have reported that it is impossible to view Notification Center messages after this change. But, the wonderful Apple community has found the right command prompt to use.

Here’s how you can get the Notification Center to work on your Mac:

Can you use a dark menu bar and Dock with macOS Catalina?

  1. Opened Terminal on your mac
  2. Enter the following message
    • defaults write com.apple.notificationcenterui NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool No
  3. Press Enter on your keyboard
  4. Enter your password if necessary
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You will then need to log out and log back into your user profile for this to work. Once completed, you will be able to view the Notification Center messages again without any hassle.

How to disable this workaround

In the event that you are done experimenting with the macOS appearance change, you can reverse it. This puts the entire Mac system in Dark or Light mode when making the selection in System Preferences.

Can you use a dark menu bar and Dock with macOS Catalina?

  1. Opened Terminal on your mac
  2. Enter the following message
    • defaults write -g NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool No
  3. Press Enter on your keyboard
  4. Enter the following message:
    • defaults write com.apple.notificationcenterui NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool Yes
  5. Press Enter on your keyboard
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This will revert both the System UI and the Notification Center to follow the default themes.

After entering both prompts, you may need to log out of your user account (or restart your Mac) and then log in again.

If you don’t see your screen reverting immediately, try logging out and back in

  1. Tap on the Apple logo at the top right of the menu bar.
  2. At the end of the list, select Sign off
  3. Once you’ve logged out of the computer, go ahead and log back in

Conclusion

The macOS Catalina launch hasn’t been as smooth as Apple expected, but things are definitely looking up. With features like the Catalyst, Sidecar, and even Screen Time apps, Catalina has the makings to be pretty awesome. Of course, after all the bugs have been resolved.

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If you’ve had trouble using the Terminal commands above, let us know in the comments below. If you’ve found something that works a little better with the Catalina theme, please say that we love hearing about new options.

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