What is System Preferences?

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System Preferences is the area within Mac OS X where a user can modify system settings and preferences.  Mac OS X has a variety of preferences that can be adjusted to make changes to the system and how Mac OS X appears and behaves.
Windows users are familiar with the Control Panel.  System Preferences is the corresponding application in Mac OS X.

system_preferences_leopard_dock.pngIt's easy to launch System Preferences.  If you have a default installation of Mac OS X, Apple has configured the Dock with a System Preferences icon as shown on the right.  You can click on the icon or click on the Apple Menu and then select System Preferences.  When launched, the following window (or something very similar) will appear.

Here's how System Preferences look in Mac OS X Leopard

Here's how System Preferences look in Mac OS X Tiger

As you can see, Apple has grouped the preferences in an easy to use and easily identifiable pattern and by default System Preferences in Mac OS X Tiger has been divided into the following categories:
  • Personal
  • Hardware
  • Internet & Network
  • System
  • Other
You can modify the view and show the icons in alphabetical order by clicking on View -> Organize Alphabetically in the System Preferences Menu Bar to show the following:

system_preferences_leopard_02.pngNotice how the categories are no longer shown as you are presented the list of configurable areas in alphabetical order.
System Preferences is Hardware Specific
Depending on the hardware configuration of your Mac, certain preferences will either appear or not appear.  For example, if your Mac does not have a Bluetooth module installed, the Bluetooth icon will not appear.

System Preferences and Third-Party Software
The "Other" category will list preference icons for third-party software (applications) installed on your Mac that have the ability to be modified via preferences.  The first image in this guide shows that three third-party applications "NetUpdate", "Growl", and Flip4Mac WMV" can be  configured via the Mac OS X System Preferences.

  • April 29, 2009 - content revision and images updates
Created: 4:03 PM on Jan 2, 2007
By: switchtoamac