Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I want to modify this file, following PathFinder's instructions


however, it's not XML whatsoever. Looks more like some binary format.

What am I missing?

Here are the instructions from the PathFinder manual

If you’re feeling more geeky, edit the preference file and add the following lines:

<key>Finder</key>  <string>/[path to]/Path</string>
share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Apple has switched to using binary formatted preferences, it's the same format, just represented in a "compressed" binary format, instead of "human readable".

To convert a binary .plist file to XML format for editing, type this in the Terminal: plutil -convert xml1 some_file.plist

To convert an XML .plist file to binary for use: plutil -convert binary1 some_other_file.plist

share|improve this answer
Perfect. Someone that seems scarier, but it is, in fact, safer all around. – Dan Rosenstark Nov 20 '09 at 14:13
It's usually easier to just use an actual Property List editor that can handle all three supported formats. – Hasaan Chop Nov 20 '09 at 18:52

While Benjamin's answer is indeed correct and does answer your question, I would suggest that the "safer" way to tweak preferences is to use the defaults command. Such as

$ sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/loginwindow Finder "/path/to/Path"

Then you don't need to worry whether the plist is binary or XML.

share|improve this answer
Wow +1... man I thought I could avoid learning all this stuff, but apparently not. – Dan Rosenstark Nov 21 '09 at 2:22

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.