Managed Client: How to manage settings using the preference editor

Learn how to locate and manage preferences using Workgroup Manager's preference editor. 

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You can use the preference editor to manage many settings that aren't available in the user interface of Workgroup Manager. Use the steps below to locate, import, and edit preferences.

Note: Not all settings can be managed using Workgroup Manager (MCX).

Locate preference files
  1. Configure the settings on your admin system. Optionally, you may configure the settings on another system and copy the preference file(s) to the system that is running Workgroup Manager.
  2. Look in common places where preferences are stored, such as ~/Library/Preferences or /Library/Preferences. Using the Finder, change the view to List and then sort by the Date Modified column to look for recently modified preference files. Some settings are stored in files that aren't visible in the Finder such as /Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences.plist
Note: Applications that store their preferences outside of ~/Library/Preferences or /Library/Preferences may not respect the managed settings defined in Workgroup Manager. This includes applications that create a folder inside of the Preferences folder (for example ~/Library/Preferences/MyApplication/com.example.MyApplication.plist).
Import preference files
  1. Once you have located the correct preference file(s), open Workgroup Manager.
  2. In Workgroup Manager, select the record you would like to manage.
  3. Click Preferences in the top toolbar.
  4. Click the Details tab.
  5. Click the plus button (+) to navigate to the preference file. You can specify which preference domain you want to import the settings into by using the "Manage imported preferences" pop-up menu (once, often, or always). Some settings will only work with the "often" preference domain.
  6. Click Add to import the preference file.
Items that appear with italicized text do not have a preference manifest. Items that appear with regular (non-italicized) text have a preference manifest. A circle-with-an-arrow icon appears when there are managed settings present for that item.
WGM preferences sample
Sample list of preferences in Workgroup Manager
If you want to manage all of the imported settings from the preference file, you may skip the remaining steps and go to the Verify section. If you want to manage specific preferences only, continue to step 7.
  1. Highlight the newly-added item in the list in Workgroup Manager, then click the Edit button (the button with the pencil icon).
  2. Select the disclosure triangle next to the preference domain where your settings are (once, often, or always) to reveal its contents.
settings sample


  1. Remove any attributes that you do not wish to manage. Add any additional attributes and the appropriate values that you would like to manage.
  2. Once done, click Apply Now to save the changes.
  3. Click Done to dismiss the preference editor.
Log in on a bound client to test the managed settings.
If the settings do not appear to be managed, use System Profiler or the mcxquery command line tool (in Mac OS X v10.5 or later) to determine what the effective managed preference settings are. While logged in as a managed user, open System Profiler and look in the Managed Client section. In there, you should see all the managed client settings and the record name where they come from (user, group, computer, or computer group).
If the managed settings appear correctly when using System Profiler or mcxquery but the preference itself is not respected, try moving the setting to another preference domain (for example, if it's in Always, try Once or Often). If the settings still aren't respected after trying all of the available preference domains, it's possible the setting cannot be managed. Check with the application developer to see if there is a preferred way to manage those specific settings.

Note: Settings defined by the Active Directory Plug-In appear in System Profiler as Computer preferences.

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