Welcome to Mojave
Today, Apple released macOS 10.14, named Mojave. As always, this is a free upgrade for Macs that support it. The good news is that we haven't found any serious bugs in our testing, so if you're running High Sierra already, you can probably upgrade without worrying about running into problems with the new OS. The less-great news is that there are no accessibility updates for us to talk about in Mojave. Much like iOS 12, Apple seems to have put their resources into bug fixes and stability this year, rather than making major changes. This is good, and I'm happy to see it.
Because there are no big changes in VoiceOver or Zoom, I'll focus on the mainstream features instead. I'll explain each feature briefly, then note any accessibility-specific details I, or the other testers on the AppleVis Editorial Team, have discovered. For full details on the non-VoiceOver changes in Mojave, I recommend Apple's Mojave overview page.
The Migration Begins
At WWDC in June 2018, Apple announced a project set to be released in a year or so. The goal is to allow developers to make apps that will work on both macOS and iOS, with minimal work from the developer. Partly as test subjects, and partly to introduce some much-needed productivity and utility to macOS, Apple started testing this feature on apps they make in-house. Mojave introduces News, Home, Voice Memos, and Stocks.
All four of these apps do what you'd expect, and act similar to their iOS counterparts. With the cloud syncing all your preferences and information (favorite stocks, news interests, and even Voice Memos recordings), each app feels like you're using the app's service, not the app itself. Whether you're on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone, you get the same information in a more-or-less familiar layout. It's quite nice, and I find myself liking News on macOS more than I like it on iOS in some ways. Think about how similar email is on either platform, and you'll understand where I'm coming from. In either case, you have lists of messages sorted into mailbox folders, and you can reply, forward, delete, move, and so on. The Mac offers more keyboard shortcuts and a different layout, but your mail and the actions it supports are the same.
Apple has started something similar with the migration of these apps. News, for example, will still show you stories from the outlets and topics you've set up on iOS, yet it does so in a somewhat more Mac-like manner. Rather than rotor actions and buttons to like a story or manage channels, you have hotkeys and dropdown menus. Instead of a list of stories broken up by headings, you get a table of contents from which you can pick a topic or channel, then a list of stories that fit your choice. Yet the whole experience is intuitive and easy.
Home--the other app I tested the most--has a similar feel. You can do everything you can in the iOS version, though I didn't try adding an accessory or making an automation. All the settings for all your homes will sync from macOS to iOS and vice versa, and you can get and set the actions for any of your devices. Yet, rather than tabs and rotor actions, you have a toolbar and more dropdown menus.
The only odd thing we found in testing is that some iOS behaviors seem to have followed these apps into Mac land. When you press vo-space, for instance, you hear the sound VoiceOver on iOS makes when you double-tap. Also, text fields sometimes have hints like, "press control, option, space to start editing", yet no such action is needed before the field will accept keyboard input. These small quirks don't get in the way, and I've even found that I really like the double-tap sound when I vo-space. I hope it comes to the rest of macOS in the future.
Desktop and Finder
There are a few changes here. I'll quickly list most of them without providing much detail, as none of us were able to test these.
- Dynamic Desktop wallpapers let the wallpaper change to match the time of day
- Stacks automatically uses file types, tags, and dates to make stacks of files on your desktop, organizing them without you having to do any manual sorting.
- Finder offers expanded options--from quick actions to basic file editing for some file types--right in Quick Look. It also shows full metadata.
- You can customize the available actions, metadata, and other details of the newly available views.
Now, the feature I did test, albeit relatively briefly: Gallery View. Visually, this new Finder view puts a preview of one file at a time on the screen, with file details below it. It's great for glancing over text files, PDFs, or images, especially when paired with actions. So why did I put it in its own section? I find it quite useful, believe it or not.
For VoiceOver users, Finder shows your current files, one at a time, as you navigate them. You'll hear the name of the newly selected file when you move to it, just as you always do in Finder. Movement is accomplished with left or right arrow, though, not up or down as you might be used to.
Here's the cool part, though. When a file is selected, you can press vo-left to land on the file's content. I use this with RTF documents, so I can interact with and read the text of the current file without opening the file in another app. If this is the file I want, I can press cmd-o to open it, else I can arrow to another file and try again. If I vo-right from the file list, there's a scroll area with file details--location, size, date, type, and so on. Finally, there's a button (which currently has no VoiceOver label) that lets you access the actions for the file. I haven't set those up yet.
Gallery View isn't something you'll use all the time. It has its place, though. You can certainly make the argument that it's as many keystrokes to vo-arrow and interact as it is to press cmd-i or use the Quick Look feature. Certainly, Quick Look wins if you're reviewing audio files, as it plays them automatically while Gallery view does not. Yet, Gallery View requires only basic VO commands, with no need to remember extra keystrokes or take your fingers away from where they are while you're using VoiceOver's navigation. I also suspect that low-vision users might find Gallery to be a useful option, though none of us using the Mojave betas have enough sight to test my theory.
Dark Mode has finally arrived on the Mac. While VoiceOver users may not care about what their screens look like, some low vision users will definitely enjoy this addition. Head to System Preferences > General to turn it on.
Dark Mode does what it says on the box: it darkens things. It doesn't turn screen brightness down, but rather makes backgrounds dark instead of white and adjusts the color of text accordingly. This can cut down on glare, making things easier to see for many users. I can only see the light on my screen, not what it's doing or any detail at all, but I've kept Dark Mode enabled the entire time I've tested Mojave. Why? It's dim enough that the glaring light of my screen is reduced, yet I can keep the screen on for when others need to look at it.
Mojave includes a lot of good features, but none that impact VoiceOver directly, to the best of our knowledge. I'll run through most of these below, but I again point you to Apple's website or other write-ups and articles for full information.
- Continuity Camera lets you request a photo on your Mac, take it on your iPhone when it automatically opens the Camera app, then have the photo appear on the Mac
- Safari lets you use website icons on tabs, block trackers more aggressively than ever, and more easily use strong passwords it can auto-generate
- Siri has more abilities, including control over HomeKit devices, locating saved passwords, and "knowledge" of food, celebrities, and motorsports, according to Apple's website
Now the bit we all hate: the problems. Mojave, like iOS 12, has relatively few new accessibility bugs to speak of. Plus, we found no serious bugs, as already mentioned. Here are the Mojave-specific bugs we were able to find. If you encounter any not on this list, and which haven't been present since before Mojave, please let us know in the comments.
- VoiceOver's reading of Wikipedia articles in the built-in Dictionary app is unreliable
- VoiceOver may announce “System Preferences has new window,” when navigating certain preference panes
- when going back a page in Safari, VoiceOver's focus does not always land on the point of the returned-to page from which you left
- when sending a message in Mail, VoiceOver speaks "send again" rather than "send," since the menu item for this action has the wrong text
- in Safari's address bar, VoiceOver may speak the character to the left of a character just erased, rather than the removed character itself
- Apps ported from iOS have small oddities, like playing the double-tap sound when vo-space is pressed
- there may be navigation problems in the App Store
- The TouchBar can, on rare occasions, act as though VoiceOver is not running, responding instantly to touches
- Finder's Gallery view has a menu button for file actions. This button lacks a label for VoiceOver and is spoken as "button," not even "menu button" as it should be
Mojave is a solid update. Its focus is stability and bug fixes, but it still manages to offer HomeKit control; Dark Mode; Gallery View; and a slew of other features and improvements. We can't think of any major bugs for VoiceOver users, and we encountered no show-stopping bugs elsewhere in this version of macOS. Our recommendation is to update when you're ready. You may want to give others some time to find the bugs or other problems we missed, but most users should be okay to pull the trigger now.
Let us know what you think of Mojave once you get it. If there are features, bugs, or other notes you feel should be included in this article, please leave a comment!