I'm not a Mac person (yet, plan to add that to the repertoire this year) but I've been following a lot of the Mac questions on SF. The defaults command comes up a lot and from the context of the questions / answers I get what it does. Just curious, is there a GUI for editing the settings? Seems to me that this would be somewhat analagous to the registry editor in Windows (although I expect that the registry does much more).


Yes and no. Mac OS X doesn't have a unified registry like Windows; instead, it stores preferences in individual .plist files.

When you execute a defaults write command, it stores the change in ~/Library/Preferences. As an example, the command to change the Dock from the 3D glass look to a more basic 2D shade is:

defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES

What this does is it modifies ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.dock.plist and changes no-glass to true. The Mac OS X developer utilities contain a program called Property List Editor that will allow you to edit the file with a GUI: alt text

  • 6
    +1 we have a winner. The important concept to get here is that those "defaults" commands you keep seeing are just writing to .plist files. – username May 19 '09 at 17:25

The Secrets app will allow you to toggle some of the more well known default commands.


Thomas Tempelmann | Mac OS X Prefs Editor - A GUI for the 'defaults' command

Mac OS X 10.8 introduced a caching system for app preferences ("cfprefsd"). While this probably increases performances for apps, it makes it harder for developers to manipulate preference values quickly for testing, because making changes directly to the plist files in the ~/Library/Preferences folder does not work any more with editors such as "Property List Editor.app" and the similar one in Xcode. …

Prefs Editor:

… uses the CFPreferences functions to modify the values instead of editing the plist files directly. …

… immediately committed to the preferences as seen by other apps, just like when you use the "defaults" command. …


There are a few tools that allow you to change these 'default' type settings from a gui interface, here are two:

  • Maybe I read the question wrong. I thought you were looking for a GUI option for changing some hidden options for OS X which are most-likely launched from 'defaults' commands. The above apps allow you to on/off these settings... I believe most of those hidden options are there. – l0c0b0x May 19 '09 at 17:13

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