OS X 10.9 Mavericks promises more than 200 new features, but many of those aren't the kinds of things you'll see plastered across Apple's website. Some instead are found in subtle changes to application and system settings. As part of our comprehensive coverage of Mavericks, we take a look at OS X's System Preferences utility, pointing out the differences between Mavericks and its predecessor, Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8).
The first thing you'll likely notice, if you've spent a decent amount of time in the System Preferences utility in the past, is that the icons for the individual preference panes are slightly larger, and Apple has updated some of those icons, such as the one for iCloud.
The second general change is that while System Preferences still organizes individual preference panes into rows, it no longer displays the category names present in earlier versions of OS X: Personal, Hardware, Internet & Wireless, System, and Other.
In OS X 10.8 and earlier, when enabling LCD font smoothing, you could opt to have the OS disable smoothing for fonts smaller than the size you specify, presumably because smoothing didn't always work well at small font sizes. In Mavericks, this option is gone--font smoothing is either on or off.
Desktop & Screen Saver
Your options in the Desktop & Screen Saver pane haven't changed, though you of course get a new desktop photo--the Mavericks-inspired wave image.
There are no changes here, either, though I'm quite sad that the trick to revert the 3D dock to the (much better, in my opinion) 10.4-era 2D appearance, which has worked in every version of OS X since 10.5, doesn't work in Mavericks.
You get one new option here: Displays Have Separate Spaces. With this option enabled, you can set up separate Spaces workspaces for each display.
With this option enabled, workspaces will switch independently, and if you use a keyboard shortcut or gesture to switch workspaces, that command affects only the display containing the pointer--the other display remains in the current workspace.
Language & Region (Language & Text in OS X 10.8)
Apple has completely revamped this pane in Mavericks. Instead of separate tabs for Language, Text, Region, and Input Sources, you now get a single screen for choosing your preferred languages, region, first day of the calendar week, calendar type, and time format.
Unlike in OS X 10.8 and earlier, which displayed all languages--you could only rearrange the order of preference--in Mavericks you choose only the languages you actually use and, if you have multiple languages enabled, their order of preference and systemwide sort order in lists.
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