Change Hidden Mac Preferences with Defaults Write [MacRx]



All Mac applications and system functions have preferences, but there are often more options available than are accessible via the User Interface.  Using the Terminal in Mac OS X in conjunction with the defaults write command, you can control behavior of the Finder, iTunes, etc. in ways that you otherwise can’t.

We noted the use of this command with the iTunes 10 button fix last week:
defaults write full-window 1

Following is a list of some other useful commands I’ve compiled which will work in Snow Leopard.

Using Terminal
The Terminal application is located inside Applications –> Utilities and provides a command line interface to the UNIX layer of Mac OS X.  This low-level capability allows you to write to .plist (preference) files to enter or change data directly.  There are many things you can do with this powerful tool, but for this purpose usage is simple.

At a Terminal prompt ($), enter defaults write followed by the name of preference you wish to change, and the new value, then hit Return:

You will need to quit and relaunch the application being adjusted for changes to take effect.

Finder and Dock Preferences

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles 1
Shows all files in Finder Windows (0 to reverse)

defaults write _FXShowPosixPathInTitle 1
Shows disk path bar in Finder Window Title Bar (0 to reverse)

defaults write showhidden 1
Make hidden application dock icons translucent (0 to reverse)

defaults write mineffect GENIE
Change the dock minimizing effect, enter GENIE, SUCK or SCALE as desired

These options all require a Finder or Dock relaunch; type killall Finder or  killall Dock at a command prompt, followed by Return:

You can also or logout/login to your user account to effect changes, or (for the Finder) option-click and hold on the Finder icon in the dock to get a menu to Relaunch.

iTunes Preferences

defaults write invertStoreLinks 1
Changes arrows next to artists and albums to search your library instead of iTunes Store (0 to revert)

defaults write DeviceBackupsDisabled 1
Turn off backups of iPhone/iPod Touch in iTunes during sync (0 to re-enable)

defaults write full-window 1
Revert iTunes 10 open/minimize/close buttons to horizontal orientation (0 to reverse)

Quit and Relaunch iTunes to apply these changes.

Miscellaneous Preferences

defaults write PreferPlainText 1
Forces messages in Mail to be displayed as plain text instead of formatted (0 to reverse)

defaults write SendPersonalInformationToMotherShip NO
Self explanatory (if this actually works…)

There are more such tricks, not all continue to work over time.  Many items on the list I’ve been compiling since Tiger no longer work in Snow Leopard.  If you’re familiar with any more hidden preferences which can be manipulated through defaults write, let us know in the comments.