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Chapter 5. Preferences Files > Preferences Files

5.1. Preferences Files

Applications use preferences files to store persistent data, which remains on the system at all times, whether an application is running or not. Unlike the mishmash of formats used in days gone by, current Apple-compliant preferences files contain application-specific data in simple text-based files called property lists (or plists for short). When a program updates or quits, it stores a fresh copy of its settings in the plist file. Upon relaunching the application, the program reads the most recent copy of the plist file and restores its previous application and user settings. This system allows applications to create and maintain preferences files in a well-structured and documented manner.

Application preferences are stored in one of the two Preferences folders: ~/Library/Preferences (user-specific preferences) and /Library/Preferences (shared systemwide preferences). Keeping preferences files in these locations does two things. It allows system preferences to be used globally, and it lets user-specific preferences follow the user when he or she changes computers on a local network.


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