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Computing with Bifocals - Tiger System Preferences
by - August 12th, 2005

As promised in my last column, this column is going to review the System Preferences of Tiger, reviewing one of the basics, but primarily focusing on the features that are new to Tiger.  System Preferences is actually one of the many applications that are part of the operating system of your Mac.

For the sake of comparison, here are images of the System Preferences panes from Panther and Tiger shown in icon view.

System Preferences Pane - Panther

System Preferences Pane - Tiger
Tool Bar Features

The first thing to note is the tool bar which features a new search element.  I love this feature.

Ever try to remember which system preference you needed to open to make a specific change?  Tiger makes it easy to find the right one.  Enter a key word in the field at the top right portion of the window for something you want to check or change, perhaps "mouse."  In the image below, you'll see what you will get.   Note the pop-up menu that automatically appeared.  Each white circle indicates a preferences pane that has something to do with "mouse sensitivity" since that is the one I have pointed to.

System Preferences Pane

Move from "Mouse sensitivity" to "Exposé mouse shortcuts" or any of the other options in the pop-up menu and the highlighted areas will change appropriately.  Tiger even puts the brightest highlight over the preference setting that it recommends you check out first.

System Preferences Pane

It doesn't even stop there.  If I choose "Exposé mouse shortcuts" from the pop-up menu, Tiger knows there is only one preference pane that will address that topic, so it automatically takes me there.

The "Show All" button, which allows you to quickly get back to the full Preferences pane from any individual pane, is featured on the toolbar also.

Locking Secure System Preferences

The ability to lock certain preferences is not new to Tiger, but it is very important, so it should be covered here. 

To keep your computer's settings secure, some of the preference panes in the System Preferences application can be locked to prevent users who aren't administrators from changing them. These preferences, called "secure preferences," have a lock icon on them.

System Preferences Lock Icon

The preferences that you can choose to lock include:  Security, Energy Saver, Print and Fax, Network, Sharing, Accounts, Date and Time, and Startup Disk.  You can choose to lock only one, or all eight.

If you're an administrator on the computer, the lock icon on secure preference panes is unlocked when you log in to the computer. You can change this default setting so that secure preference panes stay locked when you log in.

You can still click the lock icon on a preference pane and enter an administrator name and password to unlock it. When you close the pane, it locks automatically.

To keep secure preference panes locked by default:

  • Open System Preferences and click Security.
  • If some settings are dimmed, click the lock icon and type an administrator name and password.
  • Select "Require password to unlock each secure system preference."
Individualized Keyboard and Mouse Pane

The Keyboard and Mouse Preferences have been combined in Tiger and there is a new, customized element included.    As an example, here are images of the panes of a computer using a standard USB keyboard and mouse, and one using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse connection.  As you can easily see, the preferences information adjusts to reflect the addition of the Bluetooth equipment for the second computer.  (Bluetooth equipment provides wireless connectivity.)

Keyboard and Mouse Preference Pane - USB Connection

Keyboard and Mouse Preference Pan - Bluetooth Connection

Addition of Dashboard to the Preferences Pane

Although Dashboard is a huge new element of Tiger and one of the features most talked about, there is almost nothing relating to it in the System Preferences.  If you click on the Dashboard & Exposé preference you are offered the option of setting a feature that allows you to set a Dashboard shortcut to show or hide the Dashboard by selecting a specific active screen corner (or corners).  By this I mean that once set, you can "drag your mouse off the screen" in the designated corners and it will effect whatever change you have previously selected.  I personally find that to be a really annoying feature because I do it without intending to do it, but, to each his own.


Spotlight Window

Spotlight is the name of the new search component that is a feature of Tiger. It's also what powers the cool search I showed you at the beginning of this column.  When you enter a search word or words in the field, spotlight will search the messages in Mail, contacts in Address Book, iCal calendars, system preferences, and applications in addition to all your documents for any reference to your search words.  For instance, when I put in the name of one of my daughters I instantly got a list that included emails, notes, address listings, AIM listings, music she has recorded, photos with her name attached, and all documents containing her name, no matter what application I used to create them.  

Most of the features of Spotlight are built-in, but there are some preferences you may want to set, particularly if you find yourself using Spotlight frequently for a particular kind of search.  You can adjust the order in which the results are listed, and you can prevent selected folders and disks from being included in Spotlight searches.

Spotlight  Preferences Search Results Pane

To eliminate any category from the search fields just unclick the box next to the name.  Use drag and drop to rearrange the order of the categories.

To apply privacy settings to a folder or disk click the Privacy button.

Spotlight  Preferences Privacy Pane

Drag folders or disks to add them to the Privacy list, or click the Add (+) button to browse for an item. To remove an item, select it and click Delete (-).

Privacy settings apply only to Spotlight searches. You can still locate the items using the Find command in the Finder.

I hope you will agree with me that there is really nothing scary in any of this.  I have found Tiger to be stable, easy and fun to use.  I like the new features. 

I hope you will come back and read my next column.  It has to do with email scams and what to watch out for.  I think it will be especially helpful for brand new users, but since some of the scams are getting to be fairly sophisticated, it doesn't hurt any of us to do a reality check now and then.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.

Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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