How to reference Mac settings in the Ventura era?

Here’s a question for longtime readers. It’s bad enough that when we refer to some setting that exists on both the iPhone and Mac, we have to specify where to find it twice. With Ventura, however, things become even more complicated because at minimum, System Preferences is now called System Settings, and some items are in different locations. So if I wanted to tell someone how to turn off icon badges on multiple platforms, I’d need to include:

  • iPhone/iPad: Settings > Notifications > App Name > Badges
  • Mac pre-Ventura: System Preferences > Notifications > App Name > Badge App Icon
  • Mac in Ventura: System Settings > Notifications > App Name > Badge App Icon

I can’t see any coherent way to abbreviate any of that without introducing confusion, but I also can’t see any good way to make it more readable in running text.

Even when it’s just a Mac setting, we’ll often need to specify what it is in Monterey and Ventura for quite some time, so the System Preference/System Settings dichotomy is going to be an issue.

The best thought I’ve had yet is to do this via footnotes, where someone could hover over the note number to see all the pathways to the setting.

Howard Oakley wrote about this recently too and mentions @gingerbeardman’s suggestion of deep linking. And Rich Trouton talked about that as well.



Interestingly, Apple’s Help application can open System Preference panes in Monterey at least, using this URL format:


However, building that URL into text doesn’t work because browsers don’t know what to do with x-help-action. I wonder how one would go about registering a new URI scheme? Hmmm, SwiftDefaultApps might help, but I need to get back to writing and stop going down this rabbit hole.

Would specifying a settings/preferences search term work? That’s how I find 99% of stuff in settings these days – I don’t even bother to remember where things are located any more. Between all the OS updates and different computers on different levels, it’s pointless.

The trick would be finding the correct search term that works for all three scenarios (pre-Ventura, Ventura, and iOS). I have noticed that sometimes I have to try several terms to find the item I’m seeking, so getting the correct term is key.

Maybe you add a link to an explanation page for newbies on how to search. I picture something like this:

…to find this option, search preferences/settings for “battery” (see

Or something like that, if it’s not too wordy.

Not a terrible idea, though searching in iOS’s Settings app often doesn’t work well for me. Perhaps it’s better in iOS 16. I’ll ponder…

An idea for your consideration, although I’m not sure how elegant or appropriate this would be.

How about implementing some kind of in-line selector? I’m imagining in the text, seeing three buttons - something like the below. They would act as radio buttons (although the usual circles would probably add further confusion in this context), so only one is selected at a time. The current selection affects the text that appears after the buttons.

[iOS][macOS][macOS Ventura] Settings > Notifications > App Name > Badges

It’s been a while since I’ve done this sort of thing, but I think that’s do-able in JavaScript, although perhaps not so easy to convince the CMS to allow it? Would also need to avoid a line break occurring between the buttons, to avoid further confusion, and I expect there are many other caveats.

The alternate methods should be easily discoverable and displayable/copyable on any platform. Often I’ll have something to find out for one machine that I need to look up on another platform/OS version. Don’t hide the non-local commands or directions.

Although it wouldn’t help on iOS, on macOS, I believe the actual settings are still packaged as “prefPane” objects (e.g. /System/Library/PreferencePanes/Disaplays.prefPane). I know that if you double-click one of the prefPane files (at least on the Mac I have with me right now, which is not running Ventura), it launches System Preferences and switches to that panel.

What happens on Ventura? I read that it is still using prefPane files, even though the app that presents them is different. So maybe you could provide a path to the panel?

Of course, for those of us who are not as nerdy, that might be even more confusing.

Open System Settings (or, on older computers, System Preferences), then go to Notifications > App Name > Badge App Icon.

Drop the parenthetical in a future revision of the document, maybe a year from now.


To further complicate things, some Settings(Preferences) aren’t even in the same panes anymore, renamed, or completely new ones. I have been leaning on the Search field more and more.


[System] Settings/Preference > Notifications > App Name > Badge[s] / Badge App Icon

In an ideal world it would but Apple have changed the terminology of a lot of settings in Ventura.

So the problem is how to refer to them across OS and versions thereof.

But do the old search terms still work? I don’t have Ventura and can’t test it, but one of my favorite things did was that when iChat became Messages, you could still use Spotlight to search for iChat and it would launch Messages :wink:.

That’s a cool idea, though it almost certainly wouldn’t work in email versions.

Wonderfully geeky, but probably more confusing for most. :slight_smile:

Clever and concise, but it would probably need to come with instructions for decoding. :slight_smile:

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I vote for the original suggestion. Yes, it’s kind of verbose, but it’s also visually set out so it’s easy to skip over if you just want to read about what a setting does. If you actually want to try the setting it’s also pretty easy to select the line for the system you want and skip the others.

While the other suggestions are good, I think they all have disadvantages that outweigh their advantages. Just having the 3 different ways listed out a) should work out of the box on every browser and email client; b) doesn’t rely on search working and for the search terms being the same across all OS types and versions; c) is copyable; and d) doesn’t take much brain power to parse.


Spotlight can search and access system settings

My instinct is that you’re unlikely to find a one-size-fits-all approach to this. Your approach probably needs to be different depending on a combination of factors:

  1. Are you talking about just MacOS or iOS, or both?
  2. Does the article have loads of references to various System Settings/Preferences, or just one or two?
  3. Are all the settings in the same place in System Preferences and System Settings, or have some or all been moved to a completely different location in System Settings?
  4. Possibly something else?

For instance, if you mention a single setting that is in the same location pre- and post-Ventura, you can probably get away with:

Open System Settings on MacOS Ventura and later, or System Preferences on earlier versions and go to the following location: …"

If you’re talking about several settings which are all in the same location on all platforms, you can probably put a note at the beginning of the article along the lines of (come up with a preferred TidBITS wording and just use it in all such articles):

For the settings discussed below, you need to open System Settings in MacOS Ventura and later, or System Preferences in previous versions[, and the Settings app on iOS].

However, if you are discussing settings that are in different locations on different versions of the OS, you probably need to do something along the lines of your first post above.

And in all cases, you could embed links to open the appropriate setting where available (from the list on the Der Flounder post or elsewhere).

There are various other permutations of course. But I think it makes sense to do whatever is clearest and least intrusive based on the specific needs of the article.

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There has already been a similar issue on MacOS since Catalina with iTunes and the separate music, podcast, etc. apps, especially when trying to help people who want to sync or backup iPhone or iPads with computers using a cable (or WiFi sync I suppose). For example, “click on the icon representing the device in the taskbar in iTunes (or in the Finder if you have Catalina or later)”. This settings vs system preferences is going to make things even harder because those issues at least were pretty specific and uncommon - I really think most people, for example, are now using iCloud sync rather than connecting devices to computers.

I’m not sure I really have a good shorthand method for system settings that won’t be too confusing.

Do Apple get around this by issuing totally new and different documentation for each version of macOS?

Yeah—in Apple’s User Guide posts, there’s a pop-up menu for choosing the version of macOS. For instance:

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The shortcut in this tweet uses a different URL format I’ve not seen before.


Only tested in iOS.

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