How to use Light Mode for messages in Mail with Dark Mode on macOS Mojave

Dark Mode in macOS Mojave is really awesome, but it shines in some apps better than others. Dark Mode is excellent in iTunes and Photos where colors pop off the screen, but it can make reading more difficult in text-focused apps.

macOS 10.14 only gives you two options: Light Mode or Dark Mode. There’s no option to use Dark Mode in some apps but Light Mode in other apps at a system level. Fortunately Apple’s Mail app is a slight exception to this rule with its own preference that disables Dark Mode specifically for messages.

For messages in Mail, this appearance preference has two benefits:

First is legibility. You can use Dark Mode for the chrome around Mail but still use Light Mode for the actual message that you need to read. Second is consistency. A lot of email you receive will likely be rendered in a way that doesn’t let Dark Mode change its appearance — just like the web when browsing with Safari.

Most emails from Apple like order receipts and marketing messages fall into this category with lots of white backgrounds. The option also addresses the idea that an email should look the way it was composed when it arrives to you — without forcing that viewpoint on the recipient.

How to use Light Mode for email and Dark Mode everywhere else on Mac

  1. Enable Dark Mode in System Preferences → General → Appearance → Dark
  2. Launch Mail → Use Command ⌘ + , keyboard shortcut or click Mail then Preferences in the top left corner of the menu bar
  3. Click the Viewing section and uncheck ‘Use dark mode for messages’

That’s it. Now you can close the Preferences window by clicking the red circle in the top left corner and begin viewing your emails in Light Mode while using Dark Mode across the rest of macOS Mojave.

Personally, I prefer this option as it dramatically makes text more readable to me, emails look consistent even if they’re HTML-heavy, and a lot of other apps on my screen are only available or preferred in Light Mode like Safari, Slack, and Tweetbot — even if the chrome around these apps can be dark.

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macOS Mojave is currently in developer and public beta and expected to be released officially around September or October.

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