Tuesday, August 1, 2023

System Settings That Aren’t in System Settings

Howard Oakley:

By rights, settings in an app should only control the behaviour of that app. Settings for macOS behaviours should be controlled in System Settings, after all that’s what the name says. However, over the years Apple has hidden some away in its bundled apps, leaving users confused as to how these settings get changed without their control. Here’s a list of useful and important system settings you might otherwise struggle to find.


To change the destination and other details for screenshots, press Command-Shift-5 for its floating panel with the Options menu.

There are, of course, several third-party apps that give more coherent and extensive access to these and other controls, but it’s frustrating that instead of rationalising them, System Settings doesn’t centralise them any better than System Preferences did.


Update (2023-08-09): Thomas Clement:

The default web browser setting is under “Desktop & Dock” 😐

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Putting the default mail client setting in Mail is especially bizarre since you can't access Mail's settings without setting up an account first – which presumably you don't want to do if you are interested in changing that setting.

Yeah, ditto. The default email setting blew my mind. From a blog post…

This is precisely that "happy path or no path" mentality [at Apple] that I've complained about before. If you were green fielding a new OS, there's no way you say, "I know where we'll put the setting for the default mail app! In OUR email app!"

I mean, it makes sense (?) if Mail.app is the only mail handler on your box. I'm guessing I can't delete it even though I don't use it, because if I could I wouldn't be able to select another client to replace it! I also bet the percentage of people using 3rd party email apps for their company email inside of the infinite loops is really low.

In any event, Apple does a great job defining one clean-room use case for its products and, I assume, efficiently implementing that mvp. But it's not very creative at the next step: Coming up with potential real-world fail conditions once the mvp is running.

The mail client thing has been an omission for 20 years.

I filed Radar 3479927 (later migrated to FB5601954), “Missing system prefs for mail client and web browser”, back on 11 November 2003:

>Somewhere between Jaguar and Panther, the system preferences options for controlling the preferred e-mail client and web browser (URL handlers for mailto and http/https respectively) have disappeared. Word has it that it is necessary to use preferences tools in Apple's proprietary Mail and Safari applications in order to set these system-level preferences. (Seems like the marketing folks ganged up on the usability/technical folks for this one...)
>Similarly, there has never been a way to modify handlers for other URL schemes (e.g. ftp:, nntp:, etc.) without resorting to third-party software. This is a stunning oversight.
>Please bring back the amputated functionality (mailto: and http: controls in system preferences) and augment it with what it needs to be fully useful (the other URL schemes, configurable).

In Feedback Reporter the issue is still open.

The passage of time makes this no less egregious or more excusable.

@Ben IIRC, they instead went the other way and some of the APIs don’t work in sandboxed apps.

> Default web browser
> This is set in System Settings > Desktop & Dock

The organization of the new System Settings is just so incomprehensible. This is one papercut amongst hundreds.

> This is one papercut amongst hundreds.

That's a very good way of putting it. Apple is in love with its little papercuts now.

It's so disappointing that they had an opportunity to fix all of the myriad of problems with the old System Preferences and instead made it significantly worse in nearly every respect. But this is the kind of incompetence I expect from modern day Apple.

The death by a thousand cuts metaphore is on point. Its a bit sad to see the slow but steady decline in software quality at Apple, especially as there is no real alternative. (Windows 11 is starting to look cute, though)

Worse is you have to open and set up Mail before you can get into the preferences to change it as the default mail client (it railroads you through setup). I had to force quit Mail and use a 3rd party app to change it.

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