11 Hidden Mac Settings You Can Unlock With the Defaults Command

MakeUseOf | 12/6/2018 | Lori Kaufman
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Many macOS apps have a Preferences menu that allows you to change their settings. You can also change Mac options in the System Preferences panel.

But not all settings are available in the Preferences or Settings dialog boxes. That’s why you need to know about the defaults Terminal command. This allows you to change hidden settings for apps and the Mac system using the command line.

Today - Settings - Mac - Defaults - Command

Today, we’ll show you some handy hidden settings on your Mac you can change using the defaults command.

What Are Property Lists?

App - Settings - Preferences - Files - Property

App settings and user preferences are stored in files called property lists (PLIST files). But manually editing PLIST files is not recommended. The defaults command allows you to safely change the settings and preferences in PLIST files without digging into them by hand.

PLIST files are stored in two locations on your Mac. User PLIST files are stored in ~/Library/Preferences/. The tilde (~) character represents your home folder. System-wide settings are stored in /Library/Preferences/.

Names - PLIST - Files - Domains - Apps

Names of PLIST files are domains and generally belong to individual apps. For example, the domain for Clean My Mac 3 is com.macpaw.CleanMyMac3. So the property list file for Clean My Mac 3 is com.macpaw.CleanMyMac3.plist.

You can view the user preferences for an app using the defaults command. You may want to do this before making changes to preferences. That way you know what the original options were in case you want to go back to them.

User - Preferences - Terminal - /Applications/Utilities/ - Folder

To view all user preferences, open the Terminal (in the /Applications/Utilities/ folder), type the following command at the prompt, and press Enter.

The output list displays in the Terminal window. This will be quite long because it includes all settings for every app. You can also send the output to a text file if you want to save it. Simply add > [path and file name] to the end of...
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