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The overall look of Mac OS X has now largely stayed the same for several major OS X releases, but earlier versions of the OS had a brighter whiter look for window frames and panels, with some pin striping in it. If you’re tired of the newer dark, modern theme that exists all over OS X, from Snow Leopard to Mavericks, you can re-theme the look of things and get a retro white theme complete with restyled window elements. The resulting appearance is flatter and whiter, and aside from the retro-looking pinstripes, it’s actually kind of like something Jony Ive would do with OS X with inspiration from iOS 7, which is generally brighter colors, less shadows and a flatter look general.
If the difference is not immediately apparent to you, it is because the change in appearance is quite subtle. This animated gif shows the two overlap to demonstrate this, but keep in mind that a GIF has a limited color palette:
Re-theming OS X in this way requires the use of the Terminal app, found in / Applications / Utilities /, and while it’s a simple default command string, if you’re not comfortable with the command line you may want to reconsider whether or not to do this. Yes, it can be easily reversed if you are not satisfied with the results. This has been tested and confirmed to work in OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) and OS X Mavericks (10.9), although it may work in older versions as well.
Re-theme OS X Windows with a Bright Flat White Theme & Pin Stripes
Launch Terminal and enter the following command string:
defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSUseLeopardWindowValues NO
To get the full impact system-wide, you must sign out of OS X and back into a user account, or you must restart the Mac. If you don’t have time for that, relaunching apps will cause the theme to reappear on startup, or you can kill the finder for the change to take effect there first so you can get a sense of how the things look like:
Again, to apply the full effect system-wide, you will need to quit all apps and log in again.
Here’s an earlier image of a Mac Finder window with the default modern gray OS X theme:
And here’s the same Mac Finder window with a new theme with the look of the white window:
And here’s a before / after of the system preferences with and without the new theme, here it is before with the default Mavericks look:
And here are System Preferences with the white theme, notice that the pinstripes are faintly visible:
Longtime Mac users will find that this isn’t the super bright candy color scheme found in the early releases of OS X 10.0 and 10.1, but as the command string indicates, it’s a later, more refined version of Leopard.
The whiter, flatter look goes well with other iOS-style tweaks you can make on the Mac, so if you’re planning on making OS X look like iOS, you may want to go a little further to complete your new theme. Don’t forget to choose a nice wallpaper.
If you are confused how to Do this, the short video below shows how to enter the command in the Terminal and kill the Finder for the changes to take effect there. For things that apply system-wide, you’ll want to log out or restart:
Return to the modern OS X theme and window view
Not keen on the faded retro theme with white pinstripe? It’s very easy to go back to the OS X Mavericks default theme, just go back to the Terminal and enter the following command string:
defaults remove NSGlobalDomain NSUseLeopardWindowValues
For a complete turnaround, sign out and back in, making sure to close all open apps on the go. You can also restart, or if you just took the time to test it with the Finder at first, you can simply disable the Finder again to
You will return to the new normal dark gray window scheme.
As far as we know, the new default and this white theme are the only two major window display options lurking in Mac OS X that don’t require third-party downloads – let us know in the comments if you find another.
We’re big fans of customizing the way things look, if you are, don’t miss our other customizations guides and walkthroughs to tailor OS X and iOS to your preferences.
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