eXtensions - Wednesday 28 September 2016

System Preferences in macOS, Sierra: Date & Time

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By Graham K. Rogers

macOS Sierra is the most recent update to the operating system for the Mac. There are many changes to System Preferences, although certain panels remain basically unchanged. The Date & Time preferences panel is for setting up and controlling how the computer uses and displays time data.

The Date & Time Preferences panel has the same structure as before, with the three main sections (or panes): Date & Time; Time Zone; and Clock. Each section operates as before. The three parts of the Date & Time preference pane are:

Date & Time

In the first panel both the small calendar display and the clock appear to be unchanged. 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, an online server (Apple Asia, in my case) controls the date and time displayed. Other servers listed are Apple Americas/US (time.apple.com) and Apple Europe (time.euro.apple.com). With each of these servers, although a server link is shown, this cannot be used to open a page in a browser. Alterations to settings can also be prevented by using the padlock icon to the bottom left of the panel.

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

Note that if the battery fails and the calendar resets to 1 January 1970, automatic settings may 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. 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.

Above the map is a checkbox marked, Set time zone automatically using current location. When the checkbox is used, the location and time zone will change depending on where the computer is, resetting the date/time with no need for user input. Location Services must be enabled in the Privacy settings of Security & Privacy preferences.

These locations may be changed manually, by clicking on a specific country on the map. This is also useful when travelling: visitors to Bangkok may wish to keep the computer set for their own home locations; and when I have visited San Francisco, I kept the settings for Bangkok for working convenience (deadlines and phoning friends).

Date & Time

As the location is changed a pin is dropped to indicate a refreshed location. Some countries will offer more than one city as location on the map. At the botom of the panel are two information items: Time Zone and Location. By clicking on the Time Zone name (e.g. Indochina Time), the time in relation to GMT (GMT+7) is shown. The Location can only be changed when the automatic time zone box is unchecked and several cities for each country are then available for selection.


The panel marked Clock has a number of checkboxes for options as to type of clock, how the clock is displayed and other information. This is basically unchanged from before.

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 checked, but greyed out. A further option - "Show AM and PM" - is not visible if the 24-hour clock is selected.

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. Using that menubar item, the user may also switch back to the digital display. Settings are changed automatically in the preference panel when this is done.

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 which opens a panel for customization of announcements.

Date & Time

The voice used may be independent of the system voice. The speed and volume of time announcements may also be changed in this panel via sliders when the "Use custom rate" checkbox is live. 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. 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. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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