Archived - Mac OS X 10.4: Reading .plist preference files

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.


Mac OS X applications typically store preference settings in plist files, such as "com.apple.Mail.plist". In Mac OS X 10.3.9 and earlier, plist files were typically in XML format. In Mac OS X 10.4 and later, plist files are often in binary format for faster application performance.

Reading .plist files

Important: You should not usually modify preference files directly. Instead, you should use the associated application's Preferences menu(s) to customize your settings.

In certain situations you may need to read preference files directly using one of the following methods.

  • The Property List Editor application, included with Apple's Developer Tools, can open plist files in both XML and binary formats.

  • You can read a binary plist file in a text editor by converting it to XML format. Use the following command in Terminal:
    plutil -convert xml1 /path/to/file.plist

    Be sure to replace "/path/to/file.plist" with the full path to the file you want to convert.
Last Modified: Feb 20, 2012
  • Last Modified: Feb 20, 2012
  • Article: TA24670
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