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Why f.lux is better than Night Shift on Mac (for now)

I've been using f.lux for nearly as long as it's been in existence. I get up before the sun rises and used to feel blinded by how bright my screen was while the rest of the house was still dark. A friend turned me on to f.lux, and I've had it installed on all of my Mac computers ever since.

I've been using Night Shift for Mac for about two weeks and I'm less than impressed with Apple's version of the screen dimming software program. Maybe it's because I'm so accustomed to f.lux. Maybe it's because I was hoping Apple would do more with Night Shift on Mac than it did on iOS. It's a solid program that works perfectly, every time. But it's lacking some features that I find invaluable on Mac.

Customization on Night Shift for Mac is scant

f.lux on Mac

On my iPhone, I absolutely love Night Shift. I set it up when it first launched and haven't had to think about it for a single second since then. On the Mac, however, I need a little more than just the ability to adjust the effect and switch it off in Notification Center.

The size of a Mac's screen means our eyes are covering more landscape than on an iPhone. The larger the screen, the more blue light invades our space. Human beings are affected by light in different ways and are more or less sensitive under different occasions, like changing seasons.

For this reason, some of us prefer the ability to customize the output of a blue light-restricting program with such things as different levels of effect during different times of the day and night or the ability to disable it only while using a specific app, or even just to set our Mac to a dark theme only after sunset.

You can manage f.lux's lighting effect with such things as fast transition, which quickly brightens or dims your screen instead of taking about an hour to get to the full effect. You can set it up to trigger later on the weekends or earlier in the evening for kids, and there is an expanded daytime setting that you can customize to match the lighting in your office.

I'd love to see Apple add some more color customization options for Night Shift, like the ability to dim and warm the screen even more than it currently does or multiple preset filter settings for different times of the day (like daytime, sunset, and bedtime).

f.lux goes beyond screen warming and dimming

f.lux Dark Room mode on Mac

f.lux also incorporates a couple of souped-up effects that are incredible under certain circumstances, like Dark Room, which turns all of the blacks red and all of the colors gray to black. Imagine working in an environment where you have to have the room very dark, like when developing film or burning a silkscreen graphic. With Dark Room mode enabled, you can use a computer in such an environment without risk of destroying what you are working on.

You can set f.lux to disable whenever you use a specific app. So, if it's getting late in the evening and you're still working, but you want to take a break to watch an episode of a television show via iTunes, f.lux will automatically disable as soon as you open iTunes and will re-enable whenever you select a different app. You can keep the blue light off your eyes while using your writing program but have it automatically switch off when you want to check something out in a different app, then switch back on when you're back writing.

Movie mode in f.lux is especially good for watching movies late at night when you're trying to get some sleep but just need something to distract your thoughts. When you have Movie mode set up, it will still work to reduce the blue light emitting from your screen but will keep the colors and shadow details bright to make the orange filter less obvious and won't affect the colors in the movie as much.

For people that have trouble prying themselves away from their computer, f.lux has a Backwards alarm clock that reminds you at the top of every hour that it's time to go to bed. You can turn it on when you know you're working late to give you that gentle nudge that whatever you're doing can wait until tomorrow.

I would love to see Apple implement some additional screen adjusting filters that we can access quickly from Notification Center or a bedtime reminder that will give us a nudge when we've been sitting at the computer for too long. A version of Movie mode on Night Shift would be invaluable.

What Apple got right

The level of customization and detail that f.lux offers isn't for everyone. Many people don't even know that there are software programs you can use to reduce blue light that shines from your computer and may not even care. Night Shift is the perfect feature for most Mac users — for those that don't even use their computer after sundown or before sunrise or don't stare at a screen for 10 or more hours every day. It's a nice little addition to the Mac that can be set up once and then completely forgotten (in a good way), just like it works on the iPhone and iPad. It's simple, mostly effective, and doesn't intrude on other activities you do on your computer after dark.

It's especially convenient that you can turn Night Shift on or off with just the click of a switch in Notification Center, too.

In the end, it's all about preference. If you like how simplified Night Shift is, you're going to prefer it to f.lux, which has a lot more features but might be a little overwhelming to someone that just wants to add a pleasant warm hue to their screen before bedtime. Not everyone needs f.lux, but if, like me, you do want more customization and need even deeper blue light filtering late at night, Night Shift just doesn't hold a candle to f.lux (see what I did there?).

Your thoughts?

Do you prefer Night Shift to f.lux? Do you think Apple should add more customization features? Let's talk about our feelings in the comments.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

10 Comments
  • I think you're missing the point of Night Shift, the idea is that it's supposed to be simple and "just work" if you may. Night shift is subtle, and the slow transitioning is part of what makes you forget that it's even enabled. You can set it to come on when the sun sets, and the idea is that it stays on regardless of what you're doing because otherwise it defeats the purpose and you would start straining your eyes again if you started using certain apps that disabled it. The only exception I can think of to wanting to turn off Night Shift, is doing photo/video editing, where you need to be able to see the true colors, but for generally watching a movie you should keep it on because otherwise you'll be straining your eyes again.
  • I'm not missing the point of Night Shift. It is a matter of preference, as I wrote in the last paragraph. "If you like how simplified Night Shift is, you're going to prefer it to f.lux, which has a lot more features but might be a little overwhelming to someone that just wants to add a pleasant warm hue to their screen before bedtime."
  • Your article perfectly illustrates why I had to de-install f.lux. The ugly orange tint to everything was horrible. I played with the adjustments for a couple of weeks before I gave up. I much prefer Night Shift. It doesn't get in between me and the content on my screen.
  • +1
  • yup, exactly my take as well. Night Shift works smoothly and provides a decent looking screen.
  • Hi Lory
    I too loved f.lux, but there is (or there was, 6 months ago) an issue with Safari and Youtube. Here's a transcript of the problem a lot of users ran into before removing f.lux from our Mac: "I'm having an issue with bright colours in youtube videos seeming to max out in brightness and pixelate. This only occurs when flux is activated and youtube is in fullscreen. When I move my mouse and the top and bottom bars are visible, the problem goes away, and then immediately returns when they hide". Since f.lux is removed, all is back to normal with Safari and Youtube.
    Cheers
    Johnny
  • I think night mode should be left as it is. If someone needs specific features such as provided by f.lux, developers can provide that. It is more options for different needs and different people.
  • There's probably some way to turn on/off Night Shift by the terminal, which would mean that it can be scripted to turn on/off when certain applications are opened or what else, but yes I agree I don't think it needs any more options for the standard user
  • If only f.lux had a sundown to sunup schedule, it would be perfect to me.
  • These products may serve some utility in everyday computing. But, as far as our work is concerned, it turns the screen into a useless piece of glass. I disabled both on all of the design machines with much happiness from the artists. The vernal office machines are okay. Don't
    mess with the carefully calibrated colors of my world. I make a living with them.