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I am new to Mac and was wondering where application/OS settings are saved.

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    You would be surprised how many apps on OS X are self-contained. Drag drop them out of your /Applications/ folder onto another machine, and you'll find most of them run fine -- try that on Windows :) – P i Feb 1 '15 at 19:10
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For typical macOS applications the place for this kind of information is one of

  • /System/Library (for OS specific stuff)
  • /Library (for system-wide preferences/settings valid for all users)
  • ~/Library (for user-specific preferences/settings)

and the folders beneath them (e.g. Application Support and Preferences).

They are saved as individual files, usually named so you can identify them and with a structure which is (at least most of the time) understandable by mere humans. Most of these files are Property List files ending in .plist which can be pretty-printed into a human-readable form by running plutil -p NAME-OF-FILE.plist in Terminal.

For applications and binaries coming from the Unix world you‘ll also find the typical dot files and directories in the home directory of all users using them, e.g. .bashrc or .ssh/. The names and purpose of these files is usually listed in the corresponding man page.

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