AMITIAE - Saturday 26 October 2013

System Preferences in OS X 10.9, Mavericks: Date & Time

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By Graham K. Rogers

OS X 10.9, Mavericks is a major update to OS X and there are many changes to System Preferences including some new panels. Some of the older items have seen changes to the way they work. The Date & Time panel is for setting up and controlling how a computer uses and displays time data.

With the latest version of OS X, the settings within the Date & Time Preferences appear the same as before, but there have been some minor changes on the surface, in each of the three sections. Like other parts of OS X 10.9, Mavericks, there have been tweaks to the way data is displayed. In practical terms that does not mean much to users: the panels operate in the main as they did before. The Date & Time preference pane is in three parts: Date & Time; Time Zone; and Clock.

Date & Time

In the first panel the small calendar dislayed is the same as was shown in OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), although text appears sharper. Above the month display is a numerical confirmation of the current date: this may be displayed differently depending on regional settings. The date information cannot be changed if the checkbox at the top left - Set date and time automatically - is checked.

To the right of the calendar is an analog clock, with a digital time display just above. As with the calendar, this cannot be changed if the checkbox - Set date and time automatically - is active.

Date & Time

When the checkbox is used, the online server that is used (in my case Apple Asia) controls the date and time displayed. Other servers listed are Apple Americas/US and Apple Europe. With each of these servers, a server link is shown (e.g. This cannot be used to open a page in a browser. Alterations to settings can also be prevented by a padlock icon to the bottom left of the panel.

A button at the bottom of the panel will open the renamed Language & Region preferences where relevant language settings may be changed.

Note that if the battery fails and the calendar resets to 1 January 1970, in some cases automatic settings will need to be turned off as the computer may not be able to access essential functions, including Wi-Fi. Once date and time are reset, the checkbox may be used again.

Time Zone

The Time Zone panel displays a world map which is the same used since OS X 10.7, Lion. This uses data from a geographical database that covers all countries. When online, the system is able to detect the city location and will drop a pin, also selecting the time zone and displaying the city and country names.

These locations may also be changed manually. For example, visitors to Bangkok may wish to keep the computer set for their own home locations; and when I visited San Francisco, I kept the settings for Bangkok for working convenience (deadlines and phoning friends).

Date & Time

A checkbox near the top of the panel is for automatic setting of the time zone, so that a change in the computer's location will reset the date/time with no need for user input. As the location is changed (even within a country) an additional red pin may also be dropped to indicate a refreshed location. As that happens, a grey panel "floats" down onto the screen with the location.

[The change of location from my home to office - around 20 Kms - is enough to trigger this.]

All these settings may also be adjusted manually. For example, if I wanted to synchronise with an event in another country, I can click on the time zone: the zone/city/country are displayed with other relevant details. For automatic time zone operation, Location Services must be enabled in the Privacy settings of Security & Privacy preferences.


The panel marked Clock has a number of checkboxes for options as to type of clock, how the clock displays and other information. There is one small change with the Mavericks update (see below).

At the top is a checkbox for the display of time data in the menu bar. If this is used the options below are live. First are radio buttons to select a digital or analog (clock face) display. Selecting Analog greys out other options.

Date & Time

There are several choices for the digital displays, for example "Display the time with seconds" and "Flash the time separators". If the time format in Language & Region preferences has the 24 hour clock selected, "Use a 24-hour clock" is now greyed out, and "Show AM and PM" is not visible.

Two other checkboxes are available for displays of day of the week and date. If the Digital clock display is selected, these are shown in the menubar. When the Analog clock is selected, the checkboxes are now greyed out, but the day/date information is shown in a menu displayed when clicking on the analog clock.

An additional checkbox may be used to announce the time at intervals: on the hour, half-hour, or quarter hour. The voice used for the announcements can also be selected here using the button to the left.

Date & Time

This voice can used may be independent of the system voice. The speed and volume of time announcements may also be changed in this panel via sliders. A Play button here allows us to check the voice before pressing OK to confirm.

See Also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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