What is PrefEdit?
PrefEdit is an application to manage nearly all aspects of the preference system contained in every macOS installation. The program consists of two components which are tightly integrated with each other:
- An entry point to the preferences database of macOS, with access to all settings which are effective for your user account,
- a browser and editor for macOS property list files (plists).
Property list files are the technical means used by macOS to store user preference settings in the background. This file type is also utilized by macOS for many other purposes, not only for building the preference database. You can use PrefEdit to display and edit all
files compliant with Apple’s plist standard.
PrefEdit is directed both to software developers and to end users who like to have full access to each and every aspect of preference settings for the system and applications. The program is capable of visualizing the complete search path and priority of user default settings, exactly imitating the view each macOS application has on the preferences database.
PrefEdit was the first preference editor ever published for Mac OS X (now: macOS). With its long experience and maturity, it has become one of the most advanced preference management applications for macOS available today.
Features in detail
PrefEdit has the following key features:
- Browse through the complete list of macOS preference areas, also called “domains”.
- You can search for any setting in the database, either by value or by internal name of the preference.
- PrefEdit can automatically determine the correct preference domain name for a given application.
- You can change any entry in the preferences database or in a property list file. Property names, entry types and values can be edited freely. Entries can be removed, added, or sorted. The program handles nested entries of any depths correctly.
- The application has full undo and redo capabilities with an unlimited number of steps.
- The program displays whether certain settings are controlled by the client management (MCX) system of macOS which was used via directory services in professional networks. (It has been superseded by Apple Profile Manager.) In addition, it becomes visible if preferences belong to an application which is protected by a sandbox.
- A preference domain inspector allows you to view the exact relationship between entries in the live preferences database and their corresponding storage implementation in preference files.
- The preference search path used by each compliant macOS application can be visualized, reflecting the view on the settings as each application sees them.
- Private user preference settings shared by applications of an application group can be listed and edited as well. Such collections are called “preference suites” and are typically used by sandbox-protected software.
- PrefEdit fully supports the “Versions” feature of the operating system. If you modify settings with PrefEdit, you will be able to restore them to previous states. Changes performed by other applications are reflected “live” in PrefEdit.
- Applications can be launched via PrefEdit, so the effects of changing a user default setting can be verified immediately.
- It is possible to search for any entry in a property list file, either by value or property key of the entry.
- PrefEdit can open and write XML-based, as well as binary property list files. Users can freely convert data between the two formats. It is additionally possible to read property list files in the OpenStep format, used by macOS’s predecessor NeXT OPENSTEP for Mach.
To use PrefEdit, you’ll need an Apple computer which has one of the following operating systems installed:
Note: Older versions of PrefEdit supporting Mac OS X 10.2 and later may still be available for download.
Updates of the application
PrefEdit is constantly evolving, adapting to new features in the latest versions of macOS. New versions are released as (usually free) updates from time to time. To check manually if a new version of PrefEdit is available for download, select the menu item PrefEdit > Check for updates. For automatic checks in regular intervals when you are launching the application, you can enable the following option:
- Select the menu item PrefEdit > Settings… (PrefEdit > Preferences… in old versions of macOS) or press ⌘ + ,.
- In the panel Settings (Preferences in old versions of macOS), set a check mark at Check for updates automatically.