How to Set System Preferences in Mac OS X Lion - dummies

How to Set System Preferences in Mac OS X Lion

By Bob LeVitus

Everyone likes to use Mac OS X Lion in a particular way. Finding out how to tweak various options will get Mac OS X Lion to work just the way you like it. You should start by becoming familiar with System Preferences, which appear on 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 three different ways:

    • Choose Apple→System Preferences.

    • Open the System Preferences icon in your Applications folder.

    • 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.

  3. When you finish working with a System Preference pane, click the Show All button to return to the window with icons for all available System Preference panes, or press Command+L.

    Or, if you want to work with a different System Preference pane, you can choose it from the View menu. 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. Back and Forward commands also appear on the View menu.


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.

If you press System Preferences’ icon in the Dock, a 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.