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Change the System Prefs area names System
I noticed last night that my desktop machine had "Customize", "Gear", "Connectivity', "Nuts and Bolts" and "Misc" in place of the normal names within the System Preferences window. The normal names are "Personal", "Hardware", "Internet & Network", "System", and "Other". I'm not sure how these were changed on my machine; I honestly do not recall doing it myself (and I searched the site for a hint about renaming system prefs and came up blank). Perhaps some third-party preference panel that I installed and removed changed them at some point. If you have some idea of what might have changed this, let me know (out of curiousity more than anything else).

In any event, noticing that they differed from the official names as seen on my iBook, I set out in search of what was controlling the names and discovered that they are relatively easy to change.

Read the rest of the article for the how-to...

NSPrefPaneGroups.strings is the file that controls the names of the areas in the System Preferences, and it can be found buried in the System Preferences application. In the Finder, control-click on the System Preferences application, then open Contents then Resources then English.lproj. You should now see a listing of four files, including the NSPrefPaneGroups.strings file.

If you open the file with TextEdit, you'll see how it works - the category definition is on the left, followed by an equals sign, and then the displayed name is on the right. By default, the file will look like this:
"personal" = "Personal";
"hardware" = "Hardware";
"net" = "Internet & Network";
"system" = "System";
"addons" = "Other";
To change the names, just replace the words on the right with the words you'd like to use ... except this file is owned by root, so you won't be able to save the changes.

A terminal solution seems obvious, but the file is in Unicode (I believe) format, and I can't figure out how to use vi or emacs on a Unicode-format file. So you'll have to use alternative methods to save your changes. Here are two possible solutions.

The Slower Way: Logout and login as root, edit the file, save the changes, then logout and login as your normal user. The changes will show up in the System Prefs app the next time you launch it.

The Faster Way: Get the freeware app Skeleton Key. Launch it, then drag-and-drop TextEdit onto the Skeleton Key icon in the dock. Enter your admin password. Now drag and drop the NSPrefPaneGroups.strings file onto TextEdit. You are now editing the file as root, and you can save the changes you make. When done, quit and restart the System Preferences applications and your new names will appear!

As an aside, if there's a way to easily edit Unicode formatted files in the Terminal, I would be interested in the solution...
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Change the System Prefs area names | 9 comments | Create New Account
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but why?
Authored by: charlietuna on Jan 05, '02 11:52:12AM

interesting hint, robg. but i'm concerned about the fact that something changed your preferences and you don't know what! it's troubling to think that there's software out there that behaves like this without informing the user.

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Authored by: jantonc on Jan 05, '02 11:58:45AM

If you have the Developer Tools installed you can use the PropertyListEditor application to edit this can navigate down into the resource files for any application.

If you are logged in as the Admin user you can change these files, since the group is "wheel" which the Admin user is part of.

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Authored by: bhines on Jan 05, '02 07:29:29PM

You should have done some more investigation before editing the file - IE look at the modification time and search for other files modified at the same time to see what did this to your system.

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Authored by: mervTormel on Jan 05, '02 11:48:24PM

yep. i gotta agree with this. old school mac users ( of which i am one ) often apply the quick solution to a problem without considering these consequenses.

though you discovered another customization, the reason of the original munging is probably lost.

both would have been interesting-er and clever-er.

a lot (too many) mac users are compelled to customize visuals, but to what end?

seems to me it is rather foolish and creates a maintenence nightmare post-system-upgrades.

what compelling reason was there for moving the mail application and creating nightmare upgrade issues?

leave a distributed OS as is. customize what is useful you you and know/manage what will be stomped on by upgrades.

my two cents


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Authored by: skab on Jan 06, '02 08:18:34PM

I put all those Apple apps to a dedicated "Apple" folder, since I rarely use any of them, but don't want to scrap them altogether. I want a clean dir structure, so I put all apps into theme-folders like Graphics, Audio, Web etc., then app folders like "iTunes 2.0.3" (with version numbers, so I know immediately what version I got on my drive), then the app itself (without version numbers, since that looks ugly in the Dock).

But since I'm a clever guy, I put all Apple apps back to the original, App folder level before I start an updater ;-)

BTW, I also tried out Xounds, and it if really is the culprit (please confirm! If it is, they'll get an ugly mail from me!), it didn't do any harm to *my* System Prefs app - since it wasn't where Apple put it ;-)) There you are, this way I prevented the Xounds "update", too...

But I 100% agree, this customizing-to-death is totally pointless, like this stupid swap-partition-thing. Leave the system as far as possible as it was when it was installed (I more or less only change the apps folder levels), and you won't get any problems. From all Unix-like systems I ever tried or heard of this is the by far best configured one, out of the box. You just put a CD in the drive, click on some buttons and after a while you got a great desktop OS, a great small scale web server including PHP4, whatever. Just great. So leave it as it is, and let Apple do the updating...

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My machine is always tweaked!
Authored by: robg on Jan 06, '02 01:15:18AM

In the course of investingating stuff for the site, my machine is always in a state of disarrary :-). I don't really pay that much attention to it when things aren't normal, since, well, that's the normal situation.

Glad to see that someone figured out that it was Xounds!


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I know what changed it....
Authored by: Edison517 on Jan 06, '02 12:36:39AM
It was a shareware program that I also downloaded last night called Xounds. It can be found here. That's not the main purpose of the program, which is to add sounds to X like the Finder in 9, just a byproduct. Thought you might like to know.

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I know what changed it....
Authored by: bhines on Jan 06, '02 05:42:42AM


You know, for some reason i've never trusted unsanity. I think it is because their programmers bash OS X on the mailing lists.

I don't use any of their stuff anyway.

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I know what changed it....
Authored by: slava on Jan 08, '02 12:58:11PM

Nope, Xounds doesnt changes the preference group names. It even can't -- as mentioned in the article, you need to authenticate yourself to edit that file. Xounds Installer doesn't asks you to do so, therefore it cannot become root and alter the file.

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