How to Enable Dark Mode for the Dock Only in OS X Yosemite
OS X Yosemite features a new dark mode that gives UI elements like the Dock, Menu Bar, and app switcher a dark transparent look. Many users love dark mode, but some may find it overwhelming. A good compromise would be a dark background for the Dock, but the traditional white background for other UI elements. Unfortunately, Apple does not yet offer this level of customization; it’s all or nothing when it comes to Yosemite’s dark mode.
Thankfully, like many other areas of OS X, users can enlist the help of some Terminal commands to manually create their own custom dark mode for just the Dock. To do this, launch Terminal and enter the following command:
defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleInterfaceStyle Dark; killall Dock
The above command enables dark mode and then restarts the Dock so you can see the change. It will appear as if you’ve achieved the desired effect: dark mode is enabled for your Dock, but disabled on the Menu Bar. But this is just a temporary condition. Dark mode is enabled and if you reboot your Mac, you’ll see full-on dark mode for all of your UI elements.
However, if you disable dark mode with another Terminal command, your Dock will stay in dark mode while your Menu Bar remains in the default light mode. That command is:
defaults remove NSGlobalDomain AppleInterfaceStyle
But wait, you’re still not done. Although your Mac will now operate just fine with only your Dock in dark mode, the entire UI will revert to the default light mode upon a reboot. The way to handle this is to create an Automator workflow that executes the above commands every time you boot. For those familiar with Automator, you need only create an Automator app containing the two commands above, with a 1- or 2-second pause in between to allow the Dock to relaunch. Then just set the app as a log-in item for your user account in System Preferences. Each time you boot into OS X, you’ll see the Dock flicker and reload briefly. When it’s done, you’ll have a dark Dock and a light Menu Bar. Voilà!
For those unfamiliar with Automator, we’ve created an app you can download and use yourself. Just save it to a safe place on your drive and then add it to the login items for your user account at System Preferences > Users & Groups > Current User > Login Items.
Note that while this works great with the current version of OS X Yosemite (10.0, build 14A389), we make no guarantees that it will work with future versions of the operating system. If you’d like to learn more about how this simple workflow works, just open the app with Automator to see its three commands.