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.

Lion Scroll Behavior

lionNow that Lion has been released, some of you may have  noticed the new scroll behavior.  For those of you who haven’t yet, scroll behavior is reversed in Lion as compared to previous versions of Mac OS X, and matches the scroll behavior in iOS.  This means that when you move your fingers/wheel down, content moves down and when you move your fingers/wheel up, content moves up.

Apple calls the new behavior “natural”.  Whether you love it or hate it, you may be called upon to change it.  Luckily, this is a setting stored in a standard plist file , making it easy to manage.

The preference file involved is .GlobalPreferences.plist

The key is

Values are true (Lion behavior) and false (previous behavior).

To change the scroll behavior for the current user (there are no line breaks in this command)…

defaults write ~/Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences -bool <value>

To change the scroll behavior for all users (there are no line breaks in this command either)…

defaults write /Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences -bool <value>

For example: the following command will make scrolling in Lion behave as it did in prior versions of Mac OS X, for the current user (again, no line breaks).

defaults write ~/Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences -bool false

Note that the behavior will not change until after a logout.  When changing the setting via the System Preferences GUI, it would seem that System Preferences is also forcing a re-read of the .GlobalPreferences.plist file.  If any readers know how to force that re-read, please share that information in the comments.

I have not yet tested it, but all indications point toward this working as an MCX setting.  This should work just as well as managing any other .GlobalPreferences item with MCX.

Lion Server

lionSo, the rumors were true.  Or they weren’t.  Or  both.

According to Apple’s website, there will, in fact, be a Lion Server.  However, it seems that it will not be sold in its own box, but rather Lion server is going to be a component of Mac OS X Lion.

Currently, there are only four paragraphs and three low-resolution screenshots available to the general public, but here’s what I’ve been able to glean.

  • There will be no separate Server OS.  Lion Server is a set of tools in Mac OS X Lion.
  • Profile Manager – A system for “profile-based setup and management for Mac OS X Lion” and iOS.  From the screenshot, it looks like Lion Server will provide iPhone Configuration Utility functionality for both iOS and Mac OS X Lion.
  • Wiki – Apple devotes one of the four paragraphs to this item.  They mention Podcasts, so this admin assumes that Podcast Producer or its replacement will be present.
  • Wireless File Sharing for iPad (via WebDAV- another paragraph is devoted to this item.  Only the iPad is specifically referenced.
  • Other services mentioned: Users and groups, Push notifications, File sharing, Calendaring, Mail, Contacts, Chat, Time Machine, VPN, Web

My questions…

  • What is a “profile” as defined by Profile Manager and what is configured and contained in/by it?
  • Is wireless file sharing for iPad truly for iPad only?  Is this an oversight in the Lion preview info, or are iPhones and iPod Touch devices left out in the cold by this feature?
  • Does “users and groups” refer to the next iteration of Open Directory?  I’d assume so, but Apple often surprises us.
  • Since Lion Server is a component of the client OS, are there any charges for it?  This seems unlikely unless Apple is changing its model.  One possibility (and pure speculation on this Admin’s part) is that the server components could be a paid download from the Mac App Store.  I doubt that Apple would introduce CALs.

To me, it makes sense that Lion Server is part of, or an add-on to, the client OS.  Mac OS X Server has always been a superset of Mac OS X.

Apple’s Mac OS X Lion page: