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Make your devices a little easier on the eyes
Dark mode is a feature that lets you switch the color theme of an app, or an entire desktop operating system, to black or something close to it. Beyond the thrill of invigorating a tired design, some like to have the option available because it makes looking at your devices a little easier on the eyes. If you use a smartphone that has an OLED display, it might save some battery life, too.
These days, you can find official support for dark mode in a lot of places; Google just added a system-wide dark mode to its third beta of Android Q, and you can find it at the operating system level in macOS Mojave and on the Nintendo Switch. Dark mode is also available in several popular apps, including Slack, Twitter, and Google Chrome, and Google’s now committed to bringing it to every major first-party Android app it produces. But it isn’t everywhere just yet.
If you’re curious as to whether your favorite app or platform supports dark mode, we’re keeping track of every development. If it doesn’t, but you’re eager to experiment, there may be some third-party workarounds depending on your device. Either way, here are a few ways you can put dark mode into your day — or night.
Before you try to move mountains, however, it’s worth keeping in mind that any unofficial dark mode is likely to be imperfect, and app compatibility could be a mixed bag for you.
HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR IPHONE
If you’re an iPhone user, you probably already know that iOS doesn’t officially support dark mode. iOS 12 currently offers a smart color inverter that almost achieves the effect. It’s an accessibility feature that, according to Apple, “reverses the colors of the display, except for images, media and some apps that use dark color styles.”
Unlike a regular color inverter, it excludes certain, but not all, elements on the screen from being inverted. It works surprisingly well with Apple’s own pre-installed apps, as well as apps that support dark mode, like YouTube. But hopping into Apple Maps, and other apps that don’t yet have dark mode renders everything inverted, which can be jarring.
To turn on smart color inversion:
- Tap on the Settings app.
- Scroll down and tap on General, then on Accessibility.
- The fourth option from the top should be Display Accommodations. Tap on that, then find Invert Colors in the menu and tap on it.
- Switch on the Smart Invert option.
If that’s not what you’re hoping for, full support might come once iOS 13 debuts, according to a January 2019 report from Bloomberg. Similar to the implementation of dark mode in macOS Mojave, the next major software update for iPhones may work the feature in at the operating system level, impacting the iOS user interface. It might even allow your third-party apps to run in dark mode, the way that the Google Chrome and Firefox apps switch to dark mode on automatically when you have the setting activated on macOS Mojave.
A growing list of apps, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Microsoft Outlook, support dark mode on iOS. But unless you want to jailbreak your iPhone, it’s not currently possible to switch on dark mode system-wide.
HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR ANDROID PHONE
Dark Theme, Google’s name for a system-wide dark mode, launched in Android Q’s third developer preview. It’s worth noting that while the beta is available on all Pixel phones, as well as the 15 other devices, Dark Theme can only be experienced (for now, at least) on Pixels.
To activate Dark Theme, pull down from the top of the display to reveal the Quick Settings, then you’ll find a button to switch it on. If you don’t see it, pull the Quick Settings bar all the way down, then tap the pencil icon. Once you see Dark Theme, drag it into your main lineup. When you click it, it will force the Dark Theme across Android Q, as well as many of Google’s own apps. In case your favorite app hasn’t made the switch yet, you should know that Google is committing to building the feature into each of its first-party apps.
According to my colleague Dieter Bohn’s hands-on with the beta, Google is developing an API that can alert third-party apps when Dark Theme is on. It’s also giving developers a line of code that can be implemented to play nicely with system-wide Dark Theme, though for unsupported apps, it’s just inverting the colors for now.
If you don’t have a Pixel running the latest Android Q beta, the story differs a bit depending on the phone that you have. But even where dark modes do exist, there are usually some limitations.
If you own a Samsung phone that has Android 9 Pie via Samsung’s One UI update, you can turn on Night Mode by opening up the Settings menu located in your app drawer, going to the Display option and toggling Night Mode. My colleague Dieter Bohn says that this feature, among a few others, is “genuinely useful,” though it’s not without its problems. For example, having Night Mode on currently confuses Android’s Auto in-car software into thinking it’s night all day long, according to Android Police.
To active its dark mode:
- Find the Settings menu and tap Display > Advanced.
- You’ll find “Device theme” near the bottom of the feature list. Activate the Dark setting.
Regardless of the phone that you own, if it runs Android 9 Pie, you can set Night Mode to remain on at all times — but you have to have Developer options (which give you access to some extra features) enabled first.
- To enable Developer options, open up Settings, then tap on “About phone.”
- At the very bottom of this screen, you’ll see “Build number.” Tap that seven times. This will give you access to the Developer options, which you can then find in Settings by going to System > Advanced > Developer options.
- Scroll down until you see Night Mode near the bottom of the first section of the menu. You can set it to “Always on” or “Automatic (based on time of day).”
If you want a quick, easy dark mode solution for your phone, downloading a launcher from the Google Play Store is an option. The Nova Launcher, to name one of several examples, is free and lets you switch most of your Android user interface — including the app drawer, search bar, and app groups on your home screen — to dark mode. There are still a few areas where the default color cannot be overridden, like the notification pull-down window or Google Chrome.
HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR MACOS COMPUTER
If you use the latest macOS Mojave software, it comes with a system-wide dark mode. As mentioned above, this feature switches the color scheme of the user interface, and it can automatically trigger dark mode to toggle on in other third-party apps that are built to support it. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, to name two examples, switch automatically to dark mode if they detect the feature running on your computer.
To enable dark mode on a computer running macOS Mojave:
- Open up the system preferences by clicking the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen.
- Click on General.
- At the top of the menu window, you will see the option to switch the look of the interface to dark in the Appearance section.
- Apple’s own apps (such as Mail, Maps, Notes, TextEdit, and Dynamic Desktop) each have a dark mode setting that can be switched on — they won’t turn dark mode on automatically. Depending on the app, the switch will either be in the View or Preferences setting. While Safari doesn’t have a dark mode, Safari Reader lets you change the background to black.
If you only want dark mode some of the time, third-party apps like f.lux and NightOwl can also automatically shift the color scheme of your computer between light and dark mode, depending on the time of the day.
HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR WINDOWS 10 COMPUTER
It’s fairly easy to switch to dark mode in Windows 10. As with most dark modes, Microsoft’s implementation doesn’t extend to every single window that you open up on your Windows 10 laptop or desktop. It does work on most apps that come pre-installed with the operating system, though there are some that just flat-out don’t support it, including WordPad and Microsoft Edge.
- To set up dark mode on your PC, first head to the Personalization menu within the system’s settings, which you can quickly pull up by right-clicking on your desktop.
- Select Colors on the sidebar. Under App Mode, select the Dark option to turn on dark mode.
HOW TO GET DARK MODE ON YOUR GAMING CONSOLE
If you play games, you probably want dark mode on your gaming console, too. Thankfully, the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch all offer some sort of option to turn on a dark mode, even if in some cases it’s just a theme.
The PlayStation 4 doesn’t have a dark mode built in, but you can get something close to it by personalizing your theme.
- Make your way to Settings on the top navigation bar.
- Look for a section called Themes, and within that, click Default. This section lets you change the background color, so if you’re looking for a quick solution to make the interface darker, you can select the black background.
- If that doesn’t do it for you, you can download a custom theme from the PlayStation Store that suits your style. Inside of the Themes menu, you’ll find a quick link that takes you directly to where you can browse for free and paid themes.
Microsoft’s gaming console offers fairly robust theme options, allowing you to change the color of the operating system’s interface and that of its smaller touches, like Achievement blips.
- To get started hit the Xbox button on your controller, then select Settings from the pop-up menu.
- Select Personalization > Theme and motion.
- Now you can switch on dark mode. You also have the option of having your Xbox switch back and forth between light and dark depending on a user-specified time, or just in accordance with sunrise and sunset.
- If you want to sync up the color of tiles and the accent surrounding them, navigate to “My color & background” within the Personalization menu, then select “My color.”
The Nintendo Switch console defaults to a white background, but changing it to black is simple. Once you do so, the theme will carry through most of the portable console’s user interface, with the exception of the eShop and the NES app that is included for free with Nintendo Switch Online.
- Navigate to System Settings within the string of buttons found along the bottom of the main menu.
- Find your way down to the setting called Themes, then turn on the Basic Black option to activate the Switch’s version of dark mode.
DARK MODE FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
We figure you probably don’t want to read a long, long list of how to enable dark mode in each and every app under the sun — ping us if you do — but we’re tracking all the major app updates that bring dark mode in our Dark Mode StoryStream, which you can check out here.