Use Property List Editor to Edit plist Files in Mac OS X for Free
Property List files, or more commonly known as plist files, are basically Mac application specific preference files. They contain information and settings for various applications and are usually in the easily identifiable format of com.developer.Application.plist and located within the /Library/Preferences/ directories at the system and user level.
If you simply want to view a plist file, you can give it a glance with Quick Look, but what if you want to edit a plist file on the Mac? To properly edit and modify plist files in Mac OS X, you’ll want to get a dedicated app to do so, and fortunately Apple offers one such application which allows for easy safe editing and saving of plist files.
How to Edit Plist Files in Mac OS X the Right Way
The best app available to edit plist files in Mac OS X is actually Xcode. For any modern version of OS X, the Xcode suite includes native Plist editing abilities, whereas earlier versions of Xcode include a separate standalone app called Property List Editor – both are in Xcode, however.
You can launch a plist file directly into Xcode to edit the plist, make changes, and save it. Xcode works to edit any and all plist files, including system plist files, so it is by far the best choice out there.
For Mac users on earlier versions of OS X, you can also edit these plist files with Xcode directly and very easily with a dedicated separate program that is part of the Xcode suite, this is called, fittingly, the “Property List Editor” application. Property List Editor comes as part of Apple’s Developer Tools X Code package.
For those earlier versions of Xcode, Property List Editor.app is found at the following location:
/Developer/Applications/Utilities/Property List Editor.app/
Again, modern versions of OS X and Xcode simply need to launch Xcode and then the property list editor is built natively into the Xcode app:
In other words, regardless of what version of Mac OS X you are using, you’ll want to get Xcode to have access to a proper plist editor. The only difference is whether the Plist editing application is separate, or if it’s built into Xcode directly.
Remember, if you simply want to view the contents of a plist file, Quick Look in OS X works to view a plist, it just won’t be able to make changes as Quick Look is a viewer tool:
If for whatever reason you don’t want to download Apple’s XCode and Property List Editor app, you can use apps like TextWrangler or BBEdit to view the raw XML files that make up plist documents. Another option is to try Pref Setter, which is a free plist editor solution for generic preference and property lists, but do note that third party apps like that will not work to edit system level plist files.