Working with the System Preferences Utility

The System Preferences utility enables you to set preferences for many areas of Mac OS X. If you read through the previous chapters, you already have some experience with this application. However, because you will use the System Preferences utility so frequently, it is worthy of a more detailed look.

You can open the System Preferences utility in various ways, including the following:

  • Choose Apple, System Preferences.

  • Click the System Preferences utility icon on the Dock.

  • Open the Applications directory and then open System Preferences using its icon.


Because the System Preferences utility is so frequently used, Apple should have provided a keyboard shortcut to open it, but didn't. If you use a macro utility, such as QuicKeys, you should set and use a keyboard shortcut to open this application. Or you can add it to your Login Items (use the Hide option so that it is hidden on startup) so that it opens each time you log in to Mac OS X.

The System Preferences utility provides a window with a toolbar at the top and a series of icons or buttons in the bottom part (see Figure 4.3). To access the controls for a specific area, you click its icon. The System Preferences utility window changes to show the pane for that area (see Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.3. The System Preferences utility enables you to configure and customize Mac OS X to suit your needs and personal preferences.


Figure 4.4. The Sound pane of the System Preferences utility enables you to change your system's sound settings.


The default panes contained in the System Preferences utility (listed in alphabetical order rather than the order in which they appear) are the following:

  • Accounts

  • CDs & DVDs

  • Classic

  • ColorSync

  • Date & Time

  • Desktop

  • Displays

  • Dock

  • Energy Saver

  • General

  • International

  • Internet

  • Keyboard

  • Login Items

  • Mouse

  • My Account

  • Network

  • QuickTime

  • Screen Effects

  • Sharing

  • Software Update

  • Sound

  • Speech

  • Startup Disk

  • Universal Access

By default, these buttons are organized into the following categories: Personal, Hardware, Internet & Network, and System. The Personal buttons configure aspects of the user account that is currently logged in. The buttons in the other three categories make system-wide changes (and so require that you are logged in under or authenticate yourself as an Administrator account).


You can choose to list the buttons in alphabetical order if you prefer. Just choose View, Show All Alphabetically. The categories will disappear and the buttons will be listed in alphabetical order (from left to right, top to bottom).

You can also open a pane by clicking its button in the toolbar at the top of the System Preferences utility window. You can add buttons to this toolbar by dragging them to it and you can remove buttons by dragging them out of the toolbar.

If you prefer to use a menu to open a pane, select the pane you want to open on the View menu.

After you have selected a pane, you can show all the panes of the window again by clicking the Show All button; by choosing Pane, Show All in Categories or Show All Alphabetically; or by pressing graphics/symbol.gif+L (which is the Show All in Categories keyboard shortcut).

Specific panes are covered in the parts of this book that explain the features they are related to. For example, the Accounts and My Account panes are explained in the section "Creating User Accounts," in Chapter 2.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Lifestyle