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What are PATH and other environment variables, and how can I set or use them?

How to set an environment variable in Mac OS 10.6. I am finding it difficult or the options that I found in the google searches does not seem to work as expected

  • Another approach that works for GUI applications and remains permanent is described here. – Percival Ulysses Sep 19 '12 at 16:22

Aside from the standard *nix ways of exporting variables (see JRobert's answer) there is a Mac specific way, which might be helpful, especially if you want GUI programs to pick up the environment variables.

First install the Developer Tools (on your OS X DVDs). Then in Terminal:

open ~/.MacOSX/environment.plist

The file should just have an example key:value pair for PATH. Then just click on "Add Child" and make your changes. You might have to log out and back in again, I'm not certain if the file gets reloaded on the fly.

The benefit of the environment.plist is that it's available to the entire OS, rather than just command line programs.

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  • See this page for a demonstration. – fideli Aug 30 '10 at 14:25
  • @fideli, thanks for that link. The plist had already been created on my installation, I didn't think to check if it existed by default. – redacted Aug 30 '10 at 15:57

An example:

export PATH=/opt/local/bin:$PATH

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In your .bashrc:

export variable='value'

If you aren't using bash or this isn't what you meant, make your question more specific. What have you tried? What did you expect to see? What did you actually see? What are you trying to accomplish. Help us help you.

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