How to Enable Dark Mode for the Dock Only in OS X Yosemite

Posted by Jim Tanous on October 29, 2014

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.


Dark Mode enabled for both the Dock and Menu Bar

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.


Dark Mode for the Dock only

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.

7 thoughts on “How to Enable Dark Mode for the Dock Only in OS X Yosemite”

tom says:
confirm no longer works, even after disabling csrutil
Andrew says:
Not working in High Sierra 🙁
Jason says:
No longer working for me in High Sierra. Anyone else?
Worked fine in Sierra.
Darby says:
Came here to ask the same question. I’ve been doing this little hack for so long my machine feels weird without it.
Mike says:
same here, hopefully there’s a way,
Zachariah says:
Yes. Would be nice to have that functionality back in High Sierra.
Luis says:
Looking for the new command too!
Hope someone help us here.
Jayme Ayres says:
This’s working in Sierra version?
TMM says:
works for me. haven’t used it long or rebooted though.
Julo says:
Does not working on 10.10.2 🙁 Still reverts back to light mode…
eM Ge says:
Same here. Whenever changing to dark satus & dock, they back light after reboot.
GeniusUnleashed says:
How do you get all of your apps in the dock to be circles?
TekRevue says:
I’m just using custom icons. You can read more on how to do that here.
GeniusUnleashed says:
Sweet, thanks!
Spapk Com says:
I am wondering if there is a way to do the exact opposite by leaving the dock in light mode and the menu in dark mode which would make OS X and iOS look even more similar.

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