Squirt: Finding Hidden Preferences in OS X Applications

When Safari 4 Public Beta came out, there was a mad rush to find the applications hidden preferences. Some used it to bring back the aqua loading bar, others used it to bring back tabs on bottom, and others were just curious. I’m leaving S4PB the way it is because I want to give it a chance to win me over. Here are three ways that I know of to find these hidden preferences.

  1. Right click (control-click) on an application and select “Show Package Contents” from the popup. Open up the Info.plist and see if there is anything interesting to change. Also, it’s fun to poke around the Resources folder, there are all kinds of neato icons and other goodies.
  2. Find all the strings in the application binary. From the command line, run this “# strings /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/MacOS/Safari”. You have to target the binary file and “Safari.app” is just a package (a glorified folder). You’ll get back a bunch of junk, but if you look closely there are gems in there like “IncludeDebugMenu” which you can modify with the “defaults” utility. If you want to turn on the debug menu, you would do “# defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeDebugMenu -bool YES”, restart Safari and you’ll see the debug menu.
  3. Read the defaults. So run “# defaults read com.apple.Safari” and you’ll get back a bunch of preferences. You can change these by using write or delete. Check out “# man defaults” for all the info.

If you know of other ways, I’d love to hear about them.

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