How to Move around the Mountain Lion System Preferences Window - dummies

How to Move around the Mountain Lion System Preferences Window

If you want to set up your Mac to your personal preferences, you should start by becoming familiar with Mountain Lion’s System Preferences window, which you can access from the Apple menu and in the Dock.

The following steps explain how to move around the System Preferences window, no matter what you’re trying to tweak:

  1. Open the System Preferences window.


    You can do this in at least four ways: Choose Apple→System Preferences, open the System Preferences icon in your Applications folder, click the System Preferences icon in Launchpad, or click the System Preferences icon on your Dock.

  2. Click any of the icons in the System Preferences window.

    The bottom part of the window changes to reflect the options for whichever icon you click. When this happens, the bottom part of the window is called a pane. So, for example, when you click the General icon in the System Preferences window, the bottom part of the window becomes the General System Preference pane.

    When you finish working with a System Preference pane, you can, of course, choose System Preferences→Quit System Preferences (shortcut: cmd+Q).

  3. To work with a different System Preference pane, click the Show All button in the toolbar; choose View→Show All Preferences; or press cmd+L to return to the window with icons for all available System Preference panes.

    Alternatively, you can choose a different System Preference pane right from the View menu, as shown. Also notice that you can navigate to the next or previous pane you’ve viewed with the Back and Forward buttons below the red and yellow gumdrops (shortcuts cmd+[ and cmd+], respectively). Back and Forward commands also appear on the View menu.


One last general tip before you work with an actual System Preferences pane: If you press (don’t click; just press and keep pressing for a couple of seconds) the System Preferences icon in the Dock, a menu that looks almost exactly like the View menu pops up and lets you open a specific System Preferences pane without first seeing the System Preferences window.

If you know which System Preferences pane you need, this shortcut is often the fastest way to get to it.

You can get rid of the categories altogether and display the icons in alphabetical order. As a bonus, it makes the System Preferences window roughly 25 percent smaller on-screen. To do so, choose View→Organize Alphabetically. The categories disappear; the window shrinks; and the icons are alphabetized. To switch from alphabetical view back to category view, choose View→Organize by Categories.

System Preferences is actually an application; you can find it in the Applications folder. The Apple menu item and Dock icon are merely shortcuts that open the System Preferences application. The actual files for preferences panes are stored in the Preference Panes folder, inside the Library folder in the System folder.

If you choose to install third-party preference panes, they should go either in the Preference Panes folder in the Library folder at the top level of your startup disk (if you want them to be available to all users) or in the Preference Panes folder in the (hidden) Library inside your Home folder (if you want to keep them to yourself).

Don’t sweat this technical stuff too much; most System Preferences panes come with an installer that puts them in the proper folder for you.