More Lion Preferences

lionI’m all for progress, and I at least try to work with new systems before I succumb to what I call “changephobia” (apologies to anyone with a psychiatry degree) and try to undo the progress.  Be that as it may, we all have to support the changephobic, so we may be called upon to make Lion behave more like Snow Leopard.

In an effort to ease this burden, here’s a compilation of user interface changes in Lion and how to revert them back to familiar behavior for your changephobic charges.

Note: If this information is a bit confusing, refer to the documentation on managing preferences in your client management software.  If you don’t have client management software, type “man defaults” into Terminal to learn how to make use of this information at the command line.

Hidden Scrollbars

Scroll bars appear on demand by default in Mac OS X Lion.  The scroll bars, or lack thereof, are governed by .Globalpreferences.plist.

The key that governs when scrollbars appear is called AppleShowScrollBars.

The key contains a string item with the following possible values:

  • Automatic – Default Lion behavior.  Scroll bars are visible when scrolling with an Apple trackpad and always visible with a mouse.
  • WhenScrolling – Scroll bars only appear when scrolling, regardless of pointing device.
  • Always – Scroll bars are always visible.

Applications Retain Open Windows

Apps now remember where you were and/or what you were doing when you quit.  For example, if Safari is running with and YouTube open in tabs and the Safari preferences window open and one quits Safari without closing those windows, the next time Safari is launched, a tabbed window with and YouTube will open as will the preferences window.  On one hand, this seems pretty useful.  The app remembered where I was! On the other hand, when I attach my laptop to the conference room presentation system, I may not want Safari to show my colleagues my bank statement, Aunt Gussie’s secret carrot cake recipe or something not quite appropriate for the office.

This behavior is also managed by .GlobalPreferences.plist.

The relevant key is NSQuitAlwaysKeepsWindows.

This key stores boolean values, either true (default Lion behavior) or false (apps don’t remember your windows).

Dock Indicator Lights Are Missing

This is an odd case.  I have been hearing and reading reports of this behavior, that is the blue dots that have appeared under the Dock icons for open applications are missing, however my own observations have shown that the indicator lights are on by default.  Whatever the case may be, this is also manageable behavior.

Since we’re working with Dock behavior, the preference file in question is

The key is show-process-indicators.

This key uses a boolean value where true means the indicators will be present, and false means they will be missing.

User Library Folders Are Hidden

It makes sense that Apple, being a self-proclaimed consumer device company, would hide things that the typical, non IT-savvy, user wouldn’t need to see and probably wouldn’t understand.  Not all users were created equal, and some of the more savvy folks will miss the ability to get at their Library folder.

A user can access their own Library folder with Finder in two ways, both using the Go menu.  The first method is to hold down the Option key when exposing the Go menu.  This causes “Library” to appear between “Home” and “Computer”.  The second method is to choose the “Go to Folder” menu item and type the path (~/Library) into the drop down sheet.

From the command line, a user could execute the following command:

open ~/Library

The following command will make the Library folder permanently visible in Finder.

chflags nohidden ~/Library

Scripting tip: if you read your users from dscl into a variable, using a for loop, and the explicit path to each user’s Library (using the users variable) you can make this change for all users.

That’s the first batch I’ve found.  If you have noticed any other new behavior you’d like to be able to change, let me know in the comments.

8 thoughts on “More Lion Preferences”

    1. @Rainer Thanks! I haven’t had a chance to play with all the apps yet. This key may be available in several Apple apps. This bears more testing. 🙂


    1. @Giuliano Thanks for the input! You’re absolutely correct, and this info is great for a home user or someone who wants to change the setting on their own account. This article was intended for sysadmins who may need to preset or manage these settings for a large user community.


  1. Thanks for the AppleShowScrollBars setting. Like this, I have been able to globally show scrollbars (in System Preferences), but hide Terminal scrollbars on a per application basis:

    defaults write AppleShowScrollBars WhenScrolling

    BTW, have you seen that a transparent fullscreen Terminal will use the login screen background picture ( /System/Library/Frameworks/AppKit.framework/Versions/C/Resources/NSTexturedFullScreenBackgroundColor.png )?


  2. Regardless of the preference setting, the indicator light for iTunes is never there no matter if iTunes i stunning or not.


    1. I have not been able to reproduce this behavior. I would suggest creating another user account and see if the behavior occurs under the new account.


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