eXtensions - Thursday 6 October 2016

System Preferences in macOS, Sierra: Internet Accounts

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By Graham K. Rogers

Internet Accounts

Changes to System Preferences with the update to macOS, Sierra include some minor differences to the Internet Accounts Preferences panel as more services have been added. This is for setting up accounts to use with apps on the Internet. In earlier versions of OS X this preference panel was called Mail, Contacts & Calendars.

The Internet Accounts panel is for setting up accounts to use with Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Messages and other apps. With recent versions of OS X, the panel saw an expansion in the number of apps listed: an indication of the way iCloud is more integrated into the OS; and of how other apps are now better integrated into daily operations. Using Internet Accounts preferences simplifies the creation of new accounts and is aimed at those who use online services.

When first opened the interface is in two parts: to the left, a panel that lists services that have already been joined; and to the right a list of online services.

internet accounts

If the user is already using services such as Mail, or has one of the online accounts, the details should have been automatically entered when macOS was installed. As well as iCloud and related services, I found that Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin details were automatically included in my regular account on the Mac.

When an account exists and is listed in the panel to the left, highlighting the account name usually changes the main panel to show account details of the service: email address, full name and description. It will still be necessary to enter a password to make the specific service active in the Internet Accounts panel.

With some services (for example iCloud or Facebook), a list of specific parts of the service (mail, calendars, chat) are shown, with a checkbox beside each to show if it is in use. With iCloud, the panel is identical to the iCloud Preferences pane. The Google item shows which services are in use, with basic account details. A "Details" button to the right opens a panel with account information, but this now longer shows a password box.

Other services will display connection data specific to that item (e.g. iCloud Messages, Facebook chat). Icons of any inactive services are greyed out lower down the panel. If visible, there may be data already available and a checkbox (active/inactive) will bring them to life again, if wanted.

internet accounts

To add an account, we click on the + Add Account item at the bottom of the list of services. On a new computer (or new user account on a computer) to create an account, we press the same + Add Account item in an otherwise empty list.

There are a number of changes to the account types offered. The order of services listed is not alphabetical: iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Google, Yahoo! and AOL have been joined by Twitter, vimeo, Flickr and Linkedin. Other links may be offered depending on country.

Clicking on any of the listed services reveals a panel with Full name (in some cases already entered), other identification details, depending on the service (e.g. Apple ID, Yahoo! ID, email), and password.

internet accounts

At the bottom of the services list is Add Other Account. A panel opens with six options. These are the same as in previous versions of OS X:

  • Mail account. Full name, email address and password are required;

  • Messages account (formerly iChat account). Names accessed using a button are AIM, Google Talk, Jabber and Yahoo!. Username (or Account name) and password are required to start the process although a Jabber account also displays server options (Auto is the default);

  • A CalDAV account is a type of account that allows multiple users to access calendar data on a remote server using the iCal format. The panel revealed now requires email address and password. More information is needed if users select Manual or Advanced options (Automatic is default);

  • A CardDAV account (like CalDAV) allows users to access calendar data on a remote server and is based on HTML. The panel revealed requires User name, password and Server address, but as with CalDAV more information is needed if users select Manual or Advanced options;

  • The LDAP account uses a protocol for accessing and maintaining directory information services over an Internet Protocol (IP) network. This option has been updated. The panel has the following data fields: Description, Search base (people, company), Scope (Subtree, One Level or Base) and Server Address.

    A Server Address is now not an option and there is a box for entering port number (default Auto); there is a checkbox for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Below the data entry fields is a button for Authentication: options are None (default) or Simple. This section is now displayed as part of the panel but before was accessed by clicking on an icon near the bottom of the panel.

macOS Server

  • Server account has seen some cosmetic changes, beginning with its name (previously OS X Server account). It allows a user to enter details of a server. The user clicks on a server listed in the panel or enters an address (IP number). A Next button then becomes live. Pressing this opens a panel with server information displayed plus text boxes for Host Name, User Name and Password. There are three buttons: Cancel, Back and Sign In (greyed out until data is entered).

  • Game Center account is new. In my case, details were already entered in the main section, taken from iOS and iCloud. To set up a new account in the Internet Accounts panel, a user would need first to delete or disable the existing account.


Although some of the connection or account methods are self-explanatory and may be easy to complete for users with the information, some (like the LDAP account and the Server account), which are more likely to be used by companies or organizations, may require assistance from a system administrator.

Some of the entry types in Mail, Contacts & Calendars are duplicated in Apple's Mail, through online web pages of the specific services, or via other applications.

The Internet Accounts Preferences panel is a form of centralised control so that a user may add new accounts easily without going through the separate applications/sites. It is also a way to assist users who are increasingly expected to use online services.

See Also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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