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

/Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow.plist

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 com.apple.loginwindow.plist and add the following lines:

<key>Finder</key>  <string>/[path to]/Path Finder.app</string>
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2 Answers 2

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

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Perfect. Someone that seems scarier, but it is, in fact, safer all around. –  Yar Nov 20 '09 at 14:13
1  
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 Finder.app"

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

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Wow +1... man I thought I could avoid learning all this stuff, but apparently not. –  Yar Nov 21 '09 at 2:22

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