AMITIAE - Wednesday xx October 2013

System Preferences in OS X 10.9, Mavericks: Language & Region

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By Graham K. Rogers

There have been a number of changes to System Preferences in OS X 10.9, Mavericks. The old preferences pane for Language & Text has been renamed and the options within the panel changed significantly. Two of the panes are now moved to the Keyboard preferences. Language & Region provides settings for users to set language and other settings for localised use.

The preference panel for Language & Region controls the way the system uses specified languages for display and input related to the way the system can be used. There is now a single panel, with an Advanced panel available for more fine-tuning. Some of the features that were available in the predecessor of this panel are now in Keyboard Preferences.

The main section of the panel has a window to the left that displays a list of languages that can be used on the Mac. The right side of the panel has a number of buttons and a checkbox: these are used for fine-tuning settings for a specific account.

Language & Region

Main panel - Languages

The top language in the list is the display language. Macs can display menus in several languages and can input text in many more. If the Mac does not support the first language, the second language will be used.

In earlier versions of OS X, all the languages that were supported were in the display to the left side of the panel. With the update to Mavericks, the display on my Macs only shows those languages I have specified. English is shown as the "Primary" language. Beneath that is Thai which was added with the 10.7.3 update: menus can be displayed in Thai if this is selected. A display language can be changed by dragging the required one to the top of the list and restarting the computer.

At the bottom of the panel on the left is a + button to add a language (the - is greyed out until a language is highlighted). There are 31 languages that are listed. Below a grey line are several more although it is expected that these will only change the keyboard.

Examples of the languages listed below the line are British English and Burmese. When any of these languages is highlighted, a yellow warning triangle appears and the text, "While some applications and web pages can use the selected language, it is not fully supported by OS X." The British English would be used with the Primary language English, while Burmese is only a display option. There is a Burmese keyboard (See Keyboard Preferences)

Main panel - Buttons

There are four buttons to the right of the main panel. These control the way dates and other options (such as currency) are displayed by the system:
  • Region changes the settings on the Mac to suit the country in which the Mac is used. The menu shown by the button is split into 5 continents: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Each of these accesses a further menu listing the countries in the respective continents.

    First day of week displays all 7 days of the week. Some users may require these to be changed for financial, religious or social reasons. Using this will change the calendar display in Date & Time preferences, but will not change the Calendar application, where these settings are available separately in the Preferences of that application.

  • Calendar has 11 options: Buddhist, Coptic, Ethiopic, Ethiopic (Amete Alem), Hebrew, Indian National, Islamic, Islamic (Civil), Japanese and Persian. In my case (in Thailand), the default is Buddhist, so when I change to Gregorian - the standard for Western countries - the Region is changed to Thailand (Custom).

  • List sort order offers me Universal and Thai.

Between the last two buttons (above) there is a checkbox for 24-hour time.

Below the settings is a display showing examples of the way information (dates times, numbers and currency) is to be displayed. These are fine-tuned by using the Advanced button at bottom right.

A final button at the bottom (center) of the panel takes a user directly to the Keyboard Preferences panel.

Language & Region


The Advanced panel opens a series of 3 panels that allow information display to be set to the user's requirements. The panels are General, Dates and Times.

  • General has a series of buttons and panels that allow settings to be changed in the ways that certain data is displayed. The Format Language menu reveals a menu with all languages/keyboards available for datas numbers and times.

    • Below this, Number separators have two panels for "Grouping" and "Decimal." Many users split thousands using the comma (e.g. 1,234, while others may use a period (1.234). There are options here also for space, ' and None. There is also a Decimal separator. Options are comma and period (e.g. 1,234 or 1.234).

  • Currency allows selection of a specific currency to be used by default. In my case, the currency is Thai baht. There are 161 currencies listed. Related to this button are Grouping and Decimal separators (as above).

  • Measurement units allow two options with my installation: Metric or US.

As with the main panel there is a display showing examples of the way information (dates times, numbers and currency) is to be displayed.

When any of the settings is changed (e.g from Metric to US) a Restore Defaults button at bottom left becomes live. If there are no changes, or of the settings are returned to the original, the button is greyed out.

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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