Setting Patching preferences
The Patching pane of the Max Preferences window contains a listing of parameter settings related to how Max behaves as you use it to create patches.Max's behavior as you patch (e.g. segmented patch cords, enabling Assistance in a patcher, etc.), and settings that control how the Max interface responds to you (e.g., auto fix width, autocompletion, etc.)
Preferences for working with Max object boxes
There are several preferences you can set that will control the way that Max object boxes behave while you're creating them, and how you'd like them to behave while you edit the box content and type text into them (in both patching and Presentation Mode.
You can enable or disable autocompletion by clicking in the Object Box Autocompletion checkbox in the Patching pane of the Preferences Window. You can also enable polite autocompletion (where autocompletion will be turned off then you hit the backspace key once) by clicking in Polite Autocompletion checkbox in the Patching pane of the Preferences Window (by default, polite autocompletion is disabled).
You can change the way that Max behaves when you click on an object so that you can begin editing the text in a box as soon as you click on an object by clicking the Edit Box on Click and Typing Automatically Edits Selected Box checkboxes in the Patching pane of the Preferences Window. You can enable or disable these features independently for both patcher and Presentation Mode.
When Select Text on Click is enabled, clicking on a text object box selects it immediately for editing. When disabled, clicking on a text object box selects the entire box instead of selecting the text inside.
When Typing Automatically Edits Selected Box is enabled, typing begins to edit an entirely selected box immediately. When disabled, typing does not affect an entirely selected box until you click it again to select the text.
Preferences for how object boxes are displayed
While you can easily change the size of a Max object box by clicking and dragging its resizing handles, you may find it useful to set your preferences so that boxes are automatically resized at a fixed percentage size based on the text you type into them.
When the Auto Fix Width is enabled, Max will automatically adjust the width of all object boxes, a comments, or a message boxes to accommodate all the text they contain on a single line.
When performing this automatic resizing, Max sets the proportion of the text line length used when autosizing using the Fix Width Ratio setting found in the Patching pane of the Preferences Window.
Grid preferences for the Max application
Although you can control the presence and size of Max visual patching grid in individual windows using the Patcher Inspector, you may want to set these parameters to automatically be set whenever you launch Max and start patching in new patcher windows.

Viewing the Grid on startup

Setting the default grid size

Enabling Snap to Grid on startup

Real-time patching behavior settings
You can choose to use straight or segmented patch cords as a default setting as you patch with Max.
In addition, you can also avail yourself of the entertaining feature that lets you control the rate at which objects appear and disappear from an unlocked patcher window as you add or remove them, and also control similar timing for scrolling automation.

Enabling segmented patch cords at startup

Fade and scrolling fun
To set the default time it will take Max objects to appear and disappear when you create them while patching, double-click in the Values column of the Box Fade Time or Scroll Animation Time settings to get a text cursor and type in a value, in milliseconds.
Setting the Object Palette's color and transparency
You can change the default color and transparency of the Object Palette.

Changing the look of the Object Palette