The hub of Mac customization is System Preferences, the modern-day successor to the old Control Panel (Windows) or Control Panels (previous Mac systems). Some of its panels are extremely important, because their settings determine whether or not you can connect to a network or go online to exchange email. Others handle the more cosmetic aspects of customizing Mac OS X.
This chapter guides you through the entire System Preferences program, panel by panel.
Only a system administrator (Section 12.1.2) can change settings that affect everyone who shares a certain machine: its Internet settings, Energy Saver settings, and so on. If you see a bunch of controls that are dimmed and unavailable, now you know why.
A tiny padlock in the lower-left corner of a panel is the other telltale sign. If you, a nonadministrator, would like to edit some settings, call an administrator over to your Mac and ask him to click the lock, input his password, and supervise your tweaks.
You can open System Preferences in dozens of ways. Most people choose its name from the
menu or click its icon in the Dock, but if you have a laptop, Option-volume key (one of the speaker-adjustment keys on the top row of the keyboard) or Option-brightness keys opens System Prefs, too. (These tricks open the Sound and Displays panes, respectively, but you can then click ...