Weekly Utilities Updates and Review: PrefEdit

A weekly list of the Mac troubleshooting utilities that have been updated, along with a review for one of them.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
3 min read

Every week I like to outline the utilities that have been updated and released for OS X, and provide a small review of one for everyone. While utilities can be any tool that helps you perform a routine task, I try to focus on those that can help in troubleshooting Mac hardware and software problems. This week, we've got "PrefEdit" from the makers of Tinkertool and Hardware Monitor, which is a utility for managing preference files.

Weekly Review: PrefEdit

Quick access to system and application preferences is sometimes exceptionally useful, especially if you are troubleshooting settings, or enabling hidden features. This can be done by opening the file in a text editor, or by using the "defaults" command in the Terminal, but having a central location to do this can be quite useful as well. The developers of Tinkertool have a utility called "PrefEdit" that does just this, allowing for listing, editing, and removal of preference files.

The PrefEdit main window. If you click the minus button at the bottom you can conveniently delete the selected preference files.

PrefEdit will scan your system for preference "domains" and present them in a simple list, allowing you to quickly edit them with a built-in editor that is very reminiscent of Apple's Plist Editor utility that is distributed with the Developer tools.

Double-clicking an entry brings up the editor, which behaves a lot like Apple's Property List Editor.

Beyond this, there is not much to the program; the additional features and information provided in the program seem minimally useful. Overall, the application provides quick access to preferences with an easy way to edit or remove them, basically providing a small convenience over the functionality already available in OS X.

The "information" window has relatively little useful information, but does outline small details about the selected plist file.

If you regularly edit preference files and like to have an easy way to quickly launch the respective program for those files in order to test settings, or delete a plist file that may be corrupt, then PrefEdit may be exactly what you are looking for. If not, then it may not be as useful as I expect it could be. A few additional features I think PrefEdit could benefit from are:

  1. Log or track changes

    I would like to see the program catalog changes to preference files during application uses, to see how the files are being accessed.

  2. Backup and restore settings collections

    There are times when various programs will work together, or when an individual program will use a number of plist files. This program could interface with Time Machine to provide quick access to plist backups.

  3. Fix preferences

    If a preference file is damaged, it can lead to odd behavior, and being able to assess the health of plist files and fix errors would be a great addition.

  4. Clean up preferences

    After using various programs, deleting them, upgrading the OS, and overall general use, the system may have a large number of abandoned plist files in it that are just being kept around. While they will not hurt anything, having a way to scan for and remove unused plist files would be nice.

PrefEdit appears as though it can easily incorporate these and other useful features, and I would love to see it include them as development progresses. For now, if you are interested in checking it out you can try it for free (download here), albeit with limited functionality, to see if the features are useful to you. If they are, a license will cost you 7.00 euros ($10.47 US), which is reasonable for what the program offers, but may still not be worth it for people who only periodically manage plists.

Other Utilities Updates this Week

Keep in mind that while utilities can help in a vast majority of cases, as with any software, they can be buggy. Since these utilities were recently updated, these are actively being developed and are currently assumed to work. However, developers cannot take into account all system configurations, so be sure to back up your system before running any utilities for the first time. Additionally, double-check with the developer's Web site to be sure they are compatible with your system version. Incompatibilities with system software are the main reason why utilities and programs function improperly.

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