Key Result Areas
In this section, you will learn the layout of each of the preferences in the System Preferences application, and how to use them to customize your computer to your liking.
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What is the System Preferences application?
System Preferences are settings that you can change to customize your Mac. In this module, we will give suggestions to make using the Mac a bit easier with VoiceOver.
Layout of System Preferences:
When you first open System Preferences, you will hear VO say, “System Preferences.”
Press VO-Right Arrow until you hear “Preference Pane Scroll Area”.
Interact with the scroll area by pressing VO shift Down Arrow.
You will hear, “28 items,” and focus will be placed on the General button.
Following is a list of buttons, one for each preference, available to you in the System Preferences Scroll Area:
- Desktop/Screen Saver
- Mission Control
- Security and Privacy
- Energy Saver
- Printers and Scanners
- Internet Accounts
- Users and Groups
- Parental Controls
- App Store
- Dictation and Speech
- Date and Time
- Startup Disc
- Time Machine
Note: Not all buttons will be covered in this module. Instead, emphasis will be placed on those preferences that pertain to using the Mac with VoiceOver.
Customizing Your Mac
The following section of this module will cover the buttons and the settings associated with each. recommendations will be made to increase ease of use with VoiceOver where appropriate.
The General button pertains to global settings on the mac. To activate the General button, navigate to it by pressing VO Right Arrow. Then press VO Spacebar to activate the button. Navigate through the settings by pressing the Tab key.
Settings associated with this button
note: the first several settings are only useful if you have some vision.
- Appearance: This pop-up button- allows you to choose a color for buttons, menus and windows.
- Highlight Color- allows you to choose the color of the area around the highlighted text.
- Sidebar Icon size- allows you to choose the size of icons in the Sidebar.
- Show scroll bars- allows you to show scroll bars automatically, when scrolling only, or always.
- Click in the scrollbar- this button determines what occurs when you click the mouse inside the scrollbar.
- Ask to keep changes when closing documents
- Close windows when quitting an application
- Recent items- allows you to determine how many recently used applications you want shown at a time
- Use LCD font smoothing when available
To return to the categories in System Preferences, press Shift-Tab to get to the “Back” button and press VO-Spacebar.
Desktop and Screen Saver
When you press VO-Spacebar on this button, you will discover there are two tabs associated with this category; they are Desktop tab and Screen Saver tab. To activate the appropriate tab, press VO-Right Arrow until you land on the appropriate tab and press VO-Spacebar.
Note: these tabs deal with visual appearance of the Desktop and Screen Saver, so will not be covered in this module.
This is where you customize your doc. Under this category is the following:
- Dock Size – allows you to adjust the visual appearance of the Dock.
- Dock Magnification checkbox – allows you to magnify the icons on your Dock.
- Dock Magnification slider – allows you to adjust how much magnification you want for the icons.
- Position On Screen – allows you to visually set the Dock’s position on the screen.
- Dock Effect Options – set visual effects for your Dock.
- Double click a window’s title bar to minimize checkbox
- Minimize windows into application icon checkbox
- Animate opening applications checkbox
- Automatically hide and show the Dock checkbox
- Show indicator light for open applications checkbox
This button will not be covered in this module because this feature of the Mac is a visual feature and thus is outside the scope of the series.
Language and Region
Allows you to change the language of your mac, helpful if you speak multiple languages.
Associated with this button are the following options:
- Preferred Languages table – allows you to choose your preferred languages on your mac.
- Region Popup button – allows you to choose the region you are in.
- First day of week – allows you to change what is considered the first day of the week.
- Calendar – allows you to choose among several calendar types, i.e. Gregorian, Buddhist, etc.
- 24-hour time format checkbox
- Add a preferred language button – adds the language to the Preferred Language table if it is not already there.
- Keyboard Preferences – allows you to change the layout of the keyboard for your chosen language.
- Advanced button
Security and Privacy
Allows you to set up settings to protect your mac against unwanted use. Following are the settings associated with this button:
Under the General tab:
- Change Password button
- Require password after sleep or screen saver checkbox
- Require password after sleep or screen saver interval – allows you to choose when the Mac prompts you for your password.
The File Vault tab allows you to set up a password and recovery key to protect your data. This will not be covered in this module.
Under the Firewall tab the following options are available:
- Turn on firewall
- Firewall options button
- The privacy tab allows you to choose what apps use your information. Under this tab is a table with applications you can choose from.
- allows you to set up the way your mac searches for and displays results. Settings associated with this button include:
- Search results tab:
- Spotlight categories table – allows you to determine what is shown in the search results for certain keywords. For instance, applications, System Preferences, etc.
- Spotlight menu keyboard shortcut- checkbox – allows you to define a keystroke to invoke the spotlight menu.
- Spotlight keyboard shortcut combo box – allows you to define the actual keystroke.
- Spotlight window keyboard shortcut checkbox – allows you to choose whether or not to use a keystroke to invoke the Spotlight window.
- Spotlight window keyboard shortcut combo box – allows you to define a keystroke to invoke the Spotlight window.
- Excluded Locations tab – contains an empty table and allows you to choose locations you do not want Spotlight to search. Press tab to navigate to the add button in order to add a location to the table.
Note: Be cautious when using this combo box. the mac captures whatever keystroke you press and uses it to activate the spotlight menu.
Note: as with the above combo box, any keystroke you press will be captured so be cautious.
Allows you to customize what you have in your Notification Center. Under this button there is a “Do Not Disturb” button. This will turn on or off the Do Not Disturb feature. Press tab and you will come to a table of applications you can choose to be accessed by the Notification Center.
This button deals with visual aspects of the way the mac displays information on the screen. This will not be covered in this module.
Allows you to customize how the Mac behaves to save energy.
- Turn display off after – allows you to choose how long it takes to turn off the screen when the Mac is not in use.
- Put hard disks to sleep when possible checkbox – allows you to choose whether the Mac goes completely to sleep when you close the lid or the hard-disks in use.
- Slightly dim the display while on battery power checkbox
- Enable power nap while on battery-power checkbox
- Restore defaults button
- Show battery status in menu bar checkbox
- Schedule button – allows you to schedule when the mac automatically wakes up or goes to sleep.
Power Adapter tab
- Turn display off after slider
- Prevent the computer from sleeping automatically when the display is off checkbox
- Put hard-disks to sleep when possible
- Wake for wifi/network access checkbox
- Enable power nap while plugged into a power adaptor checkbox
- Show battery status on menu bar checkbox
- Schedule button
Allows you to customize the way the Mac interacts with the keyboard.
- Delay key repeat slider – allows you to customize how the Mac behaves when a key is repeatedly pressed. This can be helpful if a person has difficulty typing because of lack of hand dexterity or tremor.
- Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard Function keys checkbox – allows you to switch the function keys from hardware to standard function keys.
- Adjust keyboard brightness in low light checkbox
- Turn off when computer is not used for slider
- Show keyboard and character viewers in menu bar checkbox
- Set up bluetooth keyboard button – allows you to set up a bluetooth keyboard to use in conjunction with your Mac.
- Modifier keys button – allows you to choose an action for the modifier keys, (Caps Lock, Control, Option, etc).
Note: it’s recommended that you check this checkbox to make Function keys work best with VoiceOver.
- Substitutions table – allows you to use several letters to replace long sentences or phrases. For instance, the letters O M W can be typed, and the Mac will type, “On my way.”
- Correct spelling automatically checkbox
- Automatic by language popup button – allows you to choose whether or not spelling is corrected by language.
- Use smart quotes and dashes checkbox – allows you to choose whether or not the Mac will fill in a quote or dash if inaccuracies are made.
Allows you to change the pre-defined shortcuts to keystrokes more to your liking. In this tab, there is a table where you can choose the categories you wish to modify. Modifying shortcuts is beyond the scope of this module.
Input Sources tab
Allows you to choose a keyboard layout appropriate for the languages you speak. In this tab is a table and an Add button where you can choose the language and keyboard layout (or input source).
The Mouse button allows low vision or sighted individuals to adjust mouse settings. This will not be covered.
Allows you to modify the gestures used by the trackpad. This is quite self-explanatory and will not be covered.
Printers and scanners button
Allows you to set up printers and scanners on your mac.
Allows you to adjust the way the sounds are routed on your mac.
Sound effects tab
Allows you to choose where sound effects such as those from VoiceOver (excluding speech) are played. Under this tab are the following settings:
- Alert sounds table- this lists all of the available sound effects. When you interact with the table and press VO right arrow to cycle through them, it will give the name of the sound, play it, and say what source it is playing through.
- Play sound effects through pop-up button- allows you to choose where to play the sound effects if you have multiple sources.
- Alert volume slider- allows you to adjust the volume of the sound effects.
- Play user interface sound effects checkbox- allows you to choose whether or not you want the sound effects to be played.
- Play feedback when volume is changed checkbox
- Output tab: allows you to define the way sounds (including speech) are played.
- Sound output devices table- allows you to choose where you want sounds played if you have multiple sources.
- Balance slider- allows you to define how sound is played in your speakers. For instance, if it is set to 50%, sound will be played equally through both speakers or headphones.
Allows you to choose to use a microphone if desired.
- Sound input devices table- as with the tables in the above tabs, this will allow you to choose the appropriate sound input devices.
- Input volume slider- allows you to choose the volume of your microphone.
- Use ambient noise reduction checkbox- allows you to reduce background noise when using your microphone.
The iCloud service allows you to have mail, contacts, and applications transfer easily from the mac to an I-device or two i-devices. Under this button is the following:
- your name button- if you have an iCloud account set up, this will show your name. By pressing VO space on this button the following can be determined:
- I-Cloud services table- allows you to choose which services you want to be in the cloud. Services include but are not limited to: mail, contacts, calendars, reminders, notes, Safari, etc. All of these services can be either enabled or disabled by pressing VO space on the checkboxes
- Account details button- provides details of your account.
- Sign out button- allows you to sign out of the iCloud account.
- Internet Accounts button- allows you to set up your internet accounts including mail, messenger, contacts, calendar, and other applications. Within this category is the following:
- Internet accounts table- allows you to set how you want your existing accounts to be used. For instance, you may want to use your iCloud account for messages, email, and contacts.
- Services- allows you to manage the services such as iCloud storage, etc.
- Add an account button- allows you to create an internet account
- Delete selected account button- allows you to delete an account.
This category in System Preferences allows you to set up network and wireless connectivity. Under this category is the following:
- Location pop-up button- allows you to choose whether or not the mac determines your location automatically.
- Services table- Press tab and you’ll come to the services table. This tells you what is on or off. For instance, it will tell you whether or not your wifi is on or off. It will also tell you if the bluetooth radio is on or off.
- Add service button- allows you to add a network services. Delete service button- allows you to delete a service you no longer wish to use.
- Action menu- allows you to perform several actions on a particular service. This is beyond the scope of this module.
This section of System Preferences allows you to set up a bluetooth device such as a bluetooth Braille display. Under this category is the following:
- Devices table- shows which devices are available that you have previously set up.
- Bluetooth on/off- displays whether or not bluetooth is on or off.
- Turn bluetooth on/off button- this is a toggle button that will turn your bluetooth on or off.
- Show bluetooth in menu bar checkbox- allows you to choose whether you want to have bluetooth shown in the menu bar.
- Advanced button- allows you to open the bluetooth setup assistant if you have difficulty setting up your particular bluetooth device.
Allows you to set up a local network. This is handy when you want to share certain files or music with family or friends in the same house. or files with colleagues at work. Under this category is the following:
- Computer name- allows you to choose how other people on your local network view your computer.
- Edit button- allows you to edit the computer’s name
- Services table- allows you to choose from several services including screen sharing, file sharing, printer sharing, remote login, etc.
- Allow access for- lists who has access to your computer. Choices include: all users or only these users.
- Users table- allows you to choose specific users that you allow to access your computer.
- Add user button- allows you to add a user to allow him/her to use access your computer through the network.
Users and groups
This category allows you to set up different users on your computer. This is useful if you have multiple family members using the same machine. Under this category is the following:
- Password tab- Under the password tab you have the following:
- User picture button- allows you to insert a photo of yourself.
- Change password button- allows you to change your logon password.
- Full name- your full name
- Change button- allows you to change your name
- Open button- allows you to open your contact card (contact information you have stored for yourself on the mac).
- Allow user to reset password using Apple ID checkbox- allows you to reset password using just your Apple ID.
- Allow user to administer this computer checkbox
- Open parental controls
- Click the lock to make changes- allows you to change something when your mac is password-protected.
Login items tab- items that will open automatically when you log in. Under this category is the following:
- Applications table- lists applications you wish to have open upon login. These include iTunes helper, speech synthesis server, and anything else you may want to have open upon login.
- Add login item button- allows you to select from more applications and insert them into the table.
- Delete login item button
- Add user or group
- Delete user or group
- Master password settings- settings for the master password on your mac.
This allows you to block certain features of your computer from children. This will not be covered in this module.
This category allows you to adjust app store settings. Under this category is the following:
- Automatically check for updates checkbox- allows the mac to automatically check for any updates including operating system and applications.
- Download newly available apps in the background button
- Install app updates checkbox- this is beneficial because sometimes apps updates are not accessible with VO. This checkbox allows you to decide whether or not updates are installed automatically.
- Install system files and security updates
- Automatically download updates purchased on other macs checkbox
- You are signed in as
in the app store.
- Last update check- gives you the last time your mac was checked for updates.
- Check now button- allows you to check for updates.
Dictation and speech
This category allows you to set the text to speech engine for the mac as well as the way dictation is handled. Under this category is the following:
Under Dictation tab: Under this tab is the following:
- Dictation on/off radio buttons
- Internal microphone menu- allows you to choose a microphone to use when dictating.
- Use enhanced dictation- allows for dictating without an internet connection and continuous feedback.
- Language pop-up button- allows you to dictate in other languages.
- Shortcut- allows you to choose what keystroke invokes dictation.
- About dictation and privacy button- provides information about the dictation program such as version etc.
Text to speech tab: allows you to set the system voice for your mac. This is not the same as VoiceOver voice. Under this tab is:
- System voice- allows you to set the system voice.
- Speaking rate- allows you to set the speech rate of the synthesizer.
- Play button- plays a test message so you can determine if the speaking rate is right for you.
- Announce when alerts are displayed checkbox
- Set alert options button- allows you to set options such as
- delay of alerting you to something, change alert voice, etc.
- Open date/time preferences to have clock announce the time button
- To change Voiceover settings, open accessibility preferences button
Date and time
This category allows you to adjust the date/time settings. Under this category is the following:
Date and time tab: allows you to do the following:
- set date and time automatically checkbox
- Network time server combo box- allows you to choose from a server to set your timezone.
- Date- shows the current date
- Current time
- Open language and region preferences- allows you to set the date and time formats. For instance, if you wanted to set the time format to 24 hour time, this is where you would do it.
Timezone tab: allows you to adjust settings dealing with your timezone. Under this tab we have the following:
- Set timezone automatically using current location checkbox
- Timezone world map- provides your current location
- Timezone button
- Closest city
Clock tab: the clock tab allows you to adjust settings dealing with your clock.
- Show date/time in menu bar checkbox
- Time options- allows you to choose visually how time is displayed. Digital shows it in numbers whereas analogue shows a clock face.
- Display the time with seconds checkbox
- Flash the time separators checkbox
- Use a 24-hour clock checkbox
- Show am/pm checkbox
- Show the day of the week checkbox
- Show date checkbox
- Announce the time- allows you to determine whether or not you want the time announced aloud.
- on the hour button- allows you to choose how often you want the time announced.
- Customize voice button- allows you to adjust which voice you want to announce the time.
This category allows you to set up what disk you want the mac to boot first. This is beyond the scope of this module.
Time machine button
This category allows you to adjust settings dealing with time machine. This will be covered in greater detail in a later module.
This category allows you to adjust settings dealing with accessibility. When you press V-O spacebar on this button, you will find the following:
- Accessibility features table: upon interacting with this table you will see:
- Display image: Stop interacting with the table and press V-O right arrow. You will hear:
- Invert colors checkbox
- Use grey scale
- Enhance contrast slider
- Cursor size slider
- Open display preferences (to adjust display resolution).
- Show accessibility status in menu bar checkbox
- Zoom image: allows you to adjust zoom (a magnification feature of the mac). Under this category you find the following:
- Use keyboard shortcuts to zoom checkbox
- Toggle zoom: Option command 8.
- Zoom in: Option command =
- Zoom out: Option-Command-Dash
- Toggle smooth images: option-Command-Backslash
- Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom checkbox
- Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom combo box
- Smooth images checkbox
- Zoom follows the keyboard focus checkbox
- Zoom style popup button
- More options button
- Show accessibility status in menu bar checkbox
Voice-Over: Under this category you will find:
- Toggle Voice-Over: Command-F5
- Enable Voice-Over checkbox
- Open VoiceOver training button
- Open Voice-Over utility button
- Show accessibility status in menu bar checkbox
The next category in the table is the “hearing” category. Under this category you will find:
- Flash the screen when an alert sound occurs checkbox
- Test screen flash button
- Play stereo as mono checkbox
- Open sound preferences
- Show accessibility in status in menu bar checkbox
The next category deals with captions. This is for profoundly deaf or hard-of-hearing and will not be covered in this module.
The next category is “keyboard”. Under this category you will find:
- Enable sticky keys checkbox
- Options button
- Enable “slow keys” checkbox
- Options button
- Open keyboard preferences button
- Show accessibility status in the menu bar
Next you will find “mouse and trackpad”. Under this category is the following:
- Enable “Mouse keys” checkbox
- Options button
- Double click speed slider- allows you to adjust the speed at which a person double clicks the mouse.
- Ignore built-in trackpad when wireless mouse or trackpad is present checkbox
- Trackpad options button
- Mouse options button
- Show accessibility status in menu bar checkbox
Next you will find the “switch control” category. This is designed for individuals using external switches to control their computers instead of the keyboard. This will not be covered in the module.
Next you will find the speakable items category. Under this category you will find three tabs:
Settings tab: Under this tab you will find:
- Speakable items on/off radio button
- Microphone popup button
- Calibrate button
- Speak command acknowledgment checkbox
- Recognition sound popup button
Listening key tab: Under this tab you will find the following:
- Change listening key button
- Listen only while key is pressed
- Listen continuously with keyword listening method
- Keyword state popup button
- Keyword edit field
Commands tab: Under this tab you will find:
- Command set table: this includes name of contacts, global speakable items, application-specific items, application switching, etc.
This is the end of the System Preferences module. We recommend that you take some time to go through some of these settings and change any that you want to. Just be very careful not to change something that you do not understand.