Add all of your favourite Preference Panes to the Dock

System Preferences is one of the most important applications on your Mac, packed with preference panes that let you control everything from screen brightness, to parental controls, and whether your files are automatically backed up to iCloud.

However, not all preference panes are created equally! If there’s one or more preference panes that you use on a regular basis, then you may want a way to access these settings directly, without having to navigate through the ‘Apple > System preferences…’ menus every single time.

Most Mac users are aware that you can add applications to your Dock, including the System Preferences app – but did you know that you can also add specific preference panes to the Dock?

In this article, I’ll show you how to add all of your most frequently-used preference panes to the Dock, so all of your favourite settings are only ever a click away.

Where are the Preference Panes located?

While you typically access the preference panes by navigating to ‘Apple > System preferences,’ behind the scenes these panes are stored in your Mac’s ‘Library’ folder.

This folder is hidden in macOS 10.7 and above, but you can gain access by entering the Library folder’s file path:

  • Open a new ‘Finder’ window.
  • Select ‘Go > Go to Folder…’ from the menu bar.
  • Copy/paste the following into the subsequent window: /System/Library/
  • Press ‘Go.’

The Library folder contains a number of sub-folders; hunt down the ‘PreferencePanes’ folder, and give it a click. You’ll see that ‘PreferencePanes’ contains a file for each of your Mac’s preference panes.

To add a preference pane to your Dock, find its corresponding file, then drag and drop it onto the Dock, to the right of the divider (as shown in the following screenshot).

You can now access this preference pane at any time, by clicking its icon in the Dock. Now, just rinse and repeat for every preference pane that you want to add to the Dock.

Want easy access to all the Preference Panes?

If you have a long list of preference panes that you access on a regular basis, then adding all of these panes to the Dock is going to make your Dock cluttered. One possible solution, is to add the /System/Library/PreferencePanes folder to the Dock.

Drag and drop the /System/Library/PreferencePanes folder onto your Dock – once again make sure it’s to the right of the Dock divider. You can now access all of the preference panes within this folder, by long-clicking the PreferencePanes item and selecting a pane from the menu that appears.

You may also want to Control-click the PreferencePanes item and experiment with different ‘View content as’ effects, for example in the following screenshot I’m displaying the content as a grid, but you can also view its content in the ‘List’ or ‘Fan’ format.

Creating shortcuts for third party preferences

The /System/Library/PreferencePanes folder only contains macOS’ default preference panes. If there’s a third party preference pane that you want easy access to, then you’ll need to look elsewhere:

  • Open a new ‘Finder’ window.
  • Select ‘Go > Go to Folder…’ from the menu bar.
  • Copy/paste the following: ~/Library/PreferencePanes
  • Click ‘Go.’
  • Find the third party preference pane that you want to add to your Dock, and then drag and drop it onto the Dock.

Removing preference shortcuts from the Dock

If you find yourself accessing a certain preference pane less and less, then it may make sense to remove it from the Dock. To remove a preference pane, simply drag it out of the Dock, and drop it onto your Desktop.

If you want to remove the ‘System Preferences’ application from your Dock, then:

  • Long-click the ‘System Preferences’ app icon.
  • Select ‘Options > Remove from Dock.’

If the System Preferences icon doesn’t immediately disappear from your Dock, then check that the System Preferences window isn’t open somewhere in the background, as all open apps will appear in the Dock.

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About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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