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Applications Default Settings



Unlike the Windows way of storing applications preferences within the Registry, neither macOS nor iOS use or have a registry. This tip covers the mechanism used to store user preferences and default settings of applications.


The mechanism Apple provides is known as defaults. Each application has its own namespace where it can add or remove settings. Additionally, there is a global namespace common to all applications. For example, to enable substring matching in Safari we would need to modify the FindOnPageMatchesWordStartsOnly property:

$ defaults write FindOnPageMatchesWordStartsOnly -bool FALSE

Usually, these default settings are stored in property list files. Users preferences are maintained in the ~/Library/Preferences folder, while /Library/Preferences contains system-wide settings.

These files are binary files! They would need to be converted to XML before proper examination. Using the defaults command-line tool is preferred to editing the plist files, for obvious reasons.