System Preferences is a hubbub of settings and controls on your Mac computer. Yet, it’s quite possible that if you are a fairly new Mac user you probably have made changes to only a few of the many items found in the Mac System Preferences. You might have added another user account or set up your server connection. But there are other items that you should know about that will make you a more powerful Mac user.
The items I will cover are found in the Snow Leopard version of System Preferences. I’m not going to cover each section of System Preferences or some of its more self-explanatory items. I will cover some of the hidden and useful items that you may want to change or adjust.
One of the elementary items that every Mac user should know about is selecting applications that you want automatically launched when your computer is booted. To do this, open Accounts (in System Preferences, of course) and click on the Login Items button. Click the + button to add applications you want to automatically launch when your computer boots.
Later, if you find that your computer is taking too long to start up, you might want to cut back your number of login items.
Also, you can add apps to your login by right- or Control-clicking on an application in the dock and selecting Options>Open at Login.
When you need to access recently opened items, there’s no need to go hunting for them in folders. You can click on the Apple icon in the far left of the menu bar and select Recent Items where you will find a list of documents, applications, and Servers you have used.
You can control the number of items that show up on that list by going into System Preferences and clicking on Appearance. Near the bottom, you can select the numbers of recent items you want listed.
If your computer is accessible to other people on a regular basis, you might want to password protect it. Select Security>General and click on Require password. The password will be the same one you use for your account. After the time you set, your computer will log out and will require a password to log back into your account.
CDs & DVDs
Clicking on CDs & DVDs in System Preferences, you can set what you want to happen when you insert a disk into your computer. For example, by default, you might want iTunes to open each time you insert a blank CD, because you typically burn songs to a disk. Or maybe when you insert a photo CD you want Photoshop to open instead of iPhoto.
There are a whole slew of items and controls under Keyboard. In this area you can add, change, and delete keyboard shortcuts for nearly all the applications on your computer. Click Keyboard Shortcuts and then select Application Shortcuts. It’s there you can select an existing application and change or delete corresponding shortcut keys.
You can also add shortcut keys to menu items of any application. Read this article to find out more.
Limit Spotlight Searches
You can do what is called a Spotlight search of everything that is saved on your Mac hard drive, but you might only want certain places to be searched. After clicking Spotlight in System Preferences, you can click off items that you don’t want search results from, such as iCal events or fonts. You can also drag the order in which you want results to appear.
Active Screen Corners
You paid a hefty price for your Mac, so learn to use every inch of it. Click on Exposé & Spaces. Under the Exposé tab, you can assign a few actions to the four different corners of your computer screen. If, for example, you want to quickly put your computer to sleep without using a keyboard shortcut, you can arrange to activate it simply by putting your cursor in an assigned corner.
You will also notice that there’s another set of pull-down buttons for you to assign F-stop keys to perform various actions.
And by the way, if you don’t use Dashboard anymore – very few of us do – you can use its assigned F12 key for something else. So click on the pull-down button and assign no key to it.
Default Sound Settings
If you’re using a couple of sound outputs, for your external speakers and headphones, you can set the default for the level of sound. Click on Sound and then select Output. Select the sound device and then adjust output volume to your liking. For instance, you might want the headphone volume lower than the speaker volume. Now whenever you select a volume output device, it will be at the volume level you set.
In the next part of this article, we’re going to go over a few advanced items in the Mac System Preferences. Let us know if you have any questions concerning this part of your Mac.