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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Wish List: Settings search for iOS

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Settings on iOS

Let’s try an easy one this week. Ever tried to find an obscure feature in iOS’s Settings app? Sure, you might be able to reason it out, but sometimes it’s just annoying as heck to have to scroll and tap your way through a lengthy list of items just to find the one thing you’re looking for. (I’m looking at you, Notifications section.1)

Especially because OS X has already shown us an easy and elegant way to handle this. Launch System Preferences on your Mac, and you’ll see a search box at the top. Type any term into that box and not only will you get suggestions for the feature you might be looking for, but you’ll also see a little spotlight shining down on the related preference panes. As you continue to refine your search, the spotlight isolates the pane in question, and selecting that term and hitting return takes you right to it.

System Preferences

So why not offer the same feature in iOS’s Settings app? Let us pull a search field down from the top of the screen–just as we might in Mail or Notes–and enter a term, then provide some shortcuts that take us directly to the right section. Likewise, letting users search for a specific pane in Spotlight would help–another feature that exists in OS X.


For those of us who frequently delve into Settings, this may not be a huge issue, but it could be a real boon to those who don’t like even opening the Settings app without someone to guide them. iOS is generally easier and more friendly than OS X, but this is one place where it definitely seems to lag behind

  1. Admittedly, tweaking Notifications for an app got a lot easier in iOS 8 with the “unified” Settings screen. Now you can browse the alphabetical list of apps at the top level of Settings and then access Notifications through that. But the Usage section that tracks how much space apps are taking up could still use a similar improvement. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]

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