What Is the File Extension Plist?

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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.

Etymology

  • 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.

Function

  • 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.).

Benefits

  • 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.

History

  • 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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