eXtensions - Sunday 22 October 2017


eXtensions - System Preferences in macOS High Sierra: General

By Graham K. Rogers

In macOS, High Sierra there are updates to some parts of System Preferences. The General System preferences panel controls how the Finder operates and displays files. This panel has no noticeable changes.

General preferences has a single panel (with 5 sections) to control the way that the Finder displays information. The first section has the same 3 buttons previously available: Appearance, Highlight color and Sidebar icon size. The first, Appearance, has the two options as before: Blue and Graphite. This changes the color of displays like download progress bars. The wording at the side of the button remains the same: "For Buttons, Menus, and Windows".


Selecting the "Graphite" option also changes the color of the red/yellow/green controls at the top left of an application window (for close, hide and minimize) to the same graphite color. The purpose is to help those who work in graphics and who may want more neutral displays.

Immediately below this button is a checkbox marked, "Use dark menu bar and Dock" which changes the normal white menubar to black (with white text). This was new in Yosemite. The Dock has a dark grey finish when this feature is selected and the black dots beneath an open application change to white.

Below this is a checkbox (new in Sierra) marked "Automatically hide and show the menubar". When this is selected, the menubar disappears when not in use, giving a completely clear working screen (much like Hide and Show for the Dock). When the cursor is moved towards the top of the screen, the menubar appears; disappearing again when the cursor is moved away. Despite the usefulness of a clear screen, this feature will not suit all users. For example a quick glance at icons (battery state, time and others) is not possible.

The Highlight color button, below, controls the way that a highlighted file name is displayed in the Finder, as well as the color of highlighted text. As before, there are 9 default colors and "Other" which allows a user to choose any color using a selector panel that opens when this option is selected.


Below is a button that first appeared in Mountain Lion (10.8): Sidebar icon size (Small, Medium, Large). This makes a significant difference to the icon size in the Finder sidebar. Those with specific needs may find this useful. The change is made instantly.

The placing of scroll bars at the side of a panel is controlled in the second section which is in two distinct parts (unchanged): "Show scroll bars"; and "Click in the scroll bar to".

There are three radio button options for showing scroll bars:

  • Automatically based on mouse or trackpad;
  • When scrolling; and
  • Always.

Below these controls are two items that control where the content moves to when the scrollbar is clicked - Click in the scroll bar to:

  • Jump to the next page; and
  • Jump to the spot that's clicked.

The third section has a single button for selection of the default web browser. Options seem to depend on which browsers the user has installed. For example, downloading and installing Opera added that to the list when System Preferences was restarted. However uninstalling a browser, may need a restart of the computer before it is removed from the list.

The fourth section is concerned with document and application behaviour when windows are closed. There are two checkboxes at the top of this section:

  • Ask to keep changes when closing documents; and
  • Close windows when quitting an app

Text below reads, "When selected, open documents and windows will not be restored when you re-open an app". This may save the frustration of wading through several windows when all that is wanted is to open a new document.

The Recent Items option in the Apple menu is controlled by a button below those checkboxes. The single button works for Documents, Apps and Servers, allowing 5, 10, 15, 2o, 30, or 50, plus None, to be shown in that menu.

The Recent Items list in the Apple menu (top left of the screen) assists a user with a swift way to re-open a program or file. The Servers item allows a quick reconnection to a networked disk or computer. At the bottom of the recent Items menu is an option to Clear Menu. When accessing the menu, pressing the Command key adds the option to "Show" a specific item in the Finder (not available for Servers section).

Below this is a checkbox that allows use of the Handoff feature: users of macOS and iOS can start a task (such as viewing a browser page) on one device and then pick this up on another.

Finally, there is the checkbox for "Use LCD font smoothing when available".

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. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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