New macOS 'Compatibility Mode' Options Let Developers Decide How Fullscreen Apps Handle the Notch

While users and developers come to terms with the fact that the last-minute notch rumor for the new MacBook Pros was true, Apple has released new Human Interface Guidelines explaining how developers can make the best use of the extended screen areas around the camera housing if they think their app would benefit from it.

macbook pro 2021 notch
According to the new documentation, the fullscreen mode in macOS Monterey features a "compatibility mode" that automatically accounts for the camera housing by placing a black bar across the top of the screen to hide the notch and prevent app content from being placed there.

However, macOS also includes a new "NSPrefersDisplaySafeAreaCompatibilityMode" property list key that lets developers specify whether their apps should conform to compatibility mode or if their apps can expand to use the space on either side of the notch.

On Macs that include a camera housing in the screen bezel, the system provides a compatibility mode to prevent apps from unintentionally putting content in the region the housing occupies. When this mode is active, the system changes the active area of the display to avoid the camera housing. The new active area ensures your app's contents are always visible and not obscured by the camera housing.

macos notch new macbook pros
On Macs that have a notch, the Finder automatically adds a checkbox to an app's Get Info panel that can be used to manually enable or disable the new compatibility mode. Alternately, developers can force compatibility mode on or off using new code properties that define the safe area of the screen and allow them to make use of the areas on either side of the notch for active content.

Developers should confirm that their app layouts do not overlap with the notch area before setting the NSPrefersDisplaySafeAreaCompatibilityMode key to "false" to bypass compatibility mode.

The inclusion of a notch allowed Apple to make the bezels on the new 14-and 16-inch MacBook Pros considerably thinner compared to the previous 13-inch and 16-inch models. The new Liquid Retina XDR displays also feature ProMotion technology, which allows the screen to run at as high as 120Hz, and as low as 24Hz, similar to the iPad Pro.

The new MacBook Pros are available to order now and begin shipping next week, but delivery dates for various MacBook Pro configurations have already slipped, with some of the 16-inch MacBook Pro models now listing delivery dates ranging from November 2 to November 16, up from the original October 26 delivery date.

Update: This article was updated to clarify how the property list key for compatibility mode functions.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro 14 & 16"
Related Forums: macOS Monterey, MacBook Pro

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Top Rated Comments

Prabas Avatar
34 months ago
People don't realize that the notch area is extra screen space.

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Score: 66 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mockletoy Avatar
34 months ago

I feel like this is such a clunky solution for something that we didn't really need? Is this to house a single webcam? In full screen mode your screen size is smaller than it could've been…
It’s really not. In full screen mode your screen is the same size and aspect ratio it would have otherwise been.

In regular desktop mode, you get extra space, bringing the aspect ratio from 16:10 to something much closer to 3:2.

The thing most people seem to be forgetting is that on PC laptops that have have razor thin bezels, no notch, and a webcam, the cam is either in a weird place or it’s a piece of low-res garbage (with a tiny sensor).

I really do not understand why people are so up in arms about this. It makes the screen bigger in one mode, the same size in the other, and the camera vastly better.
Score: 54 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ghanwani Avatar
34 months ago
What a relief. I was worried I wouldn't be able to see the notch when using full screen mode.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mockletoy Avatar
34 months ago

Let's be clear here: this upper space is NOT an "extended screen area", right? The notch cut's into the regular screen resolution, right? The Finder configuration option therefore cut's away display space and will downscale the full screen app, is it?
That is all entirely wrong.

It is an extended space. In fullscreen, with the notch area blacked out, the screen is regular old Apple 16:10 that it’s always been.

In regular desktop mode, you get extra space for the menu bar and below that is the same old Apple 16:10 rectangle.

So, in desktop mode you get more space for content because the menu bar has been pushed up into the area previously occupied by the bezel, and the overall aspect ratio is closer to 3:2 than 16:10.

You lose nothing, in either mode.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mockletoy Avatar
34 months ago
I cannot begin to fathom why people cover their MacBook webcams with tape, for so many reasons.

1) The camera cannot physically activate without turning on the LED. It just can’t. If the camera has power, the LED has power.

2) If someone has so thoroughly owned your computer that they can spy on you through your webcam, then they already have total access to your system and you’re screwed anyway, so worrying that they’re going to catch you picking your nose while they riffle through every file on your system seems a bit hysterical to me.

3) How do you disable the microphones? Or do you just take extra care to never say anything sensitive within earshot of your MacBook?

It’s all quite silly, isn’t it?
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BvizioN Avatar
34 months ago

A larger bezel would be a much much better solution
For you I guess, for many others not. I would rather have a "bezel" I can use for menu icons rather than a dead frame. And lets be honest, not many people are fan of thick bezels. Just the way it is.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)