A Better Way to View macOS’s System Preferences

The System Preferences app in macOS organizes hundreds of discrete settings behind a couple dozen preferences panes. Navigating the app is a bit confusing, because of the way the icons are organized. By default, the icons are sorted by “category,” but I really don’t understand what the categories are.

Pref category

The top section is clear: it’s about me and my Apple ID. And the bottom section, where third-party preferences go, that’s clear too. But what about the other two? I don’t see anything in common across the different preferences. What could make sense would be if there were, say, user preferences in one section and administrator preferences in the other, but some preference panes – such as Sceurity & Privacy – have options available to users, and others that are locked and require administrator access.

(Update: A reader commented with an explanation for the different sections. The second section is “personal” settings, and the third is “hardware” settings. See this article.)

But there’s a better way to view them: choose View > Organize Alphabetically.

Prefs alphabetically

Not only are the preferences easier to find, because you can scan according to the name of the preferences you’re looking for, but the entire window is more compact.

6 thoughts on “A Better Way to View macOS’s System Preferences

  1. Thanks! SP looks much cleaner alphabetized. You can also click hold the System Preferences dock icon to get an alphabetized list of Panes from which you can go right to the one you want.

    • Yes, I mention that, and another useful tip, in an article that I’m writing for another website. I’ll link to it here when it is published.

    • Thanks for that. It’s an odd division. There’s a lot in the “hardware” category that isn’t about hardware: Software Update, Energy Saver, Date & Time, Sharing, and Profiles, if it’s visible (I think it’s only visible if you have at least one profile installed).

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