What Is the File Extension Plist?


The .plist file is well-known to advanced Macintosh users. Seen in the preferences folders of Macintosh OS 10.0 and higher, these files handle the user and software preferences of the computer and applications.


  • The .plist file extension stands for "property list." Property lists refer to options and preferences stored on the computer which define how applications, the device and operating system should work.


  • Apple .plist files are written in XML, or extensible markup language. XML is a text-based language that is open source and able to be read, written and translated by most any text file generator (TextEdit, Microsoft Word, etc.).


  • Property lists store essential data based on user and computer functions. The .plist file holds default operations and settings for applications. For instance, the .plist file for a word processing program may hold the default font and size for a new document.

Expert Insight

  • When applications malfunction, one of the first troubleshooting steps recommended is to delete the preferences on the computer. To do so, find the preferences located under the computer's library (Computer>Hard Drive>Library>Preferences) and the user's preferences (Computer>(User Name)>Library>Preferences). Upon restarting the computer, a new preference file will be written.


  • Plist files were exclusively used by Unix and Linux systems for many years. The advent of the Unix-based Macintosh's OSX series of operating systems has changed their primary association. While Unix computer system still utilizes property lists, Unix computers have changed their files and file extensions.

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