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Starting with macOS 10.15 Catalina, the contents of System Preferences are divided into two categories. This is a change from 10.14 Mojave in which the panels are divided into four rows.

What is the logic that determines how the panels are divided up in Catalina? There is no name that appears for the category, so I'm not sure what is common between the various panels that make up a category group.

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  • I am on Mojave, so cannot give you directly the categorisation, but use Accessibility Inspector app to "inspect" the window and see "Hierarchy" to get hints about the function of the classification. – anki Dec 31 '19 at 22:47
  • @ankii This is a great tip in theory! But I tried it, and in the Hierarchy both groups appear as a single object NSScrollView object. – Nic Jan 1 at 0:36
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    And I have found a way to bypass Apple's (seeming) random arrangement & re-arrangement of preferences. "Organize Alphabetically" in the view menu. Not trying to be argumentative here, just offering an alternative that (I, at least) may find more logical. – Steve Chambers Jan 1 at 17:01
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According to /System/Applications/System Preferences.app/Contents/Resources/NSPrefPaneGroupsBanner.xml, there appear to be 3 primary categories now:

  • __banner - Apple ID and Family Sharing pref panes
  • personal - the set of pref panes from General to Security
  • hardware - the set of pref panes from Software Update to Startup Disk (or more, depending on your hardware)

Two further categories are listed in the file:

  • net - empty, unclear what pref panes would go here
  • addons - this category is historically used for user-added PrefPanes, and presumably remains so in Catalina
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