Defaults delete

Five years ago, I started using some defaults write customizations of Safari (which was on Version 6 at the time) that bumped up the default font sizes and made most websites easier for me to read. Today I deleted those customizations because I learned of a preference setting that made them superfluous.

Safari 6 took away the Appearance preference pane, which I had been using to increase its default font size from 16 to 18.

Old Safari appearance settings

This was one of those infuriating things Apple often does: sacrificing user freedom on the altar of simplicity. Luckily, the settings in the deleted pane were still accessible via the command line. These four lines,

defaults write 18
defaults write Georgia
defaults write 'DejaVu Sans Mono'
defaults write 15

brought me back to where I’d been. Surprisingly, those additions to the preference have continued to work through all the updates in the intervening five years.

Generally speaking, these changes to the defaults have worked well, but there are some stupidly designed web sites that become unusable if the default font size is anything other than 16. On these sites—whose designers, come the revolution, will be the first up against the wall—my changes cause buttons to get covered up by other page elements and become unclickable. I’d like to simply avoid these sites, but one of them happens to be the new online portal to my company’s bank. It’s a site I really need to use.

So today I took the plunge and deleted the troublesome preferences with

defaults delete
defaults delete
defaults delete
defaults delete

and the bank site adjusted itself to make the buttons clickable. The tradeoff would be text that’s harder to read, except…

At some point, Safari added the incredibly useful Page Zoom setting to the Advanced preference pane.

Safari page zoom

I remember OmniWeb had this setting back in the day, and I was glad to see it in Safari. Now I have sites that work right and have text large enough for me to read.

But it did raise the question: how long has this setting been in Safari without me knowing about it?

I’ve run into this problem before. An application I’ve been using for years releases an update with a few big new features that get a lot of fanfare and several smaller ones tucked away in odd corners. Because I think I know the product very well—after all, I’ve been using it for years—I don’t look in those odd corners and miss out on capabilities that would really help me. Sometimes, as with Safari’s Page Zoom, I eventually find them on my own. Sometimes I complain about a “missing” feature and get gently corrected on Twitter.

I’d feel more embarrassed about this if I didn’t know we’ve all done it.