Reduce display transparency on your Mac

In this post, John Espirian provides a quick tip to speed up your Mac by reducing the display transparency. You’ll also benefit by having a clearer view of your system menus and the Dock.

Reduce display transparency on your Mac

If you’re an Apple fan like me, you’ll appreciate the beauty of the Mac operating system. But when it comes to getting stuff done a little faster, what do you think about sacrificing a bit of that beauty for a small increase in your machine’s speed? If that sounds like a fair trade-off, this tip is for you.

Reduce transparency to speed up your Mac

We’re going to turn on a single setting to give our Macs a small speed boost. Here’s a quick video that shows what to do:

And here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Go to Apple | System Preferences…
  2. Click Accessibility
  3. In the Display section, tick Reduce transparency

Once you’ve done this, you should notice that the menu bar at the top of the screen and the Dock at the bottom of the screen both take on a more solid look. The same is true for all Finder windows.

Here’s an example of the difference in the Apple menu when transparency is reduced. Which do you prefer?

Transparency on and off

Transparency default (left), transparency reduced (right)

Does this really speed up my Mac?

Yes, though you’ll probably see only a small improvement. The setting we’ve just enabled means the Mac has to do less work to display its graphics across the entire system. When transparency is on (which it is by default), your Mac has to do a lot of calculations to display one window on top of another. This ‘onion-skin’ effect takes processing power, and the resulting drain on the computer can be noticeable when lots of apps and windows are open at the same time.

Dock transparency

Aside from the speed boost, I find that reducing transparency makes it easier to see which apps are open (or ‘active’ or ‘running’). You can see these by looking for the black spots underneath each app icon in the Dock.

I’ve always thought Apple could handle this better, but at least the experience is improved when transparency is reduced.

Bonus tip: increasing contrast

The Accessibility panel has many other useful features. One of them is ‘Increase contrast’, which makes the edges of windows and buttons sharper and clearer. Check out the above video to see what that looks like.

OK, that’s it. We’re another small step along the way to improving our productivity. If you’ve got any of your own tips for getting the best out of your Mac, please share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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Thanks for reading, John Espirian