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I am interested in writing an application which runs in a pre-login environment, i.e. right after a user enters their username and password, much like how OS X does the initial account setup:

How does this work? I've used iHook to run scripts, but I'd like to use replicate the same look and feel of Apple's initial account setup.

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I doubt it's possible. Apple can do that because it's integrated to the OS, which probably uses a private framework. If you want to replicate that, your best bet would be to create a login item, and then create the effect you want. –  theAmateurProgrammer Aug 31 '12 at 13:48
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I've been looking into this for awhile myself. Mike Bombich been able to do it for years with his Bootpicker app. And this developer is able to tap into running a GUI app as soon as the user clicks on a login icon: https://github.com/grahamgilbert/crypt (can't tell from his screenshot, but look up his OS X Management with Puppet presentation).

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