I want to reset OS X Applications settings, like TextWrangler or some other applications. I kill the TextWrangler Process in Activity Monitor, delete ~/Library/Preferences/com.barebones.textwrangler.plist, but nothing happened, settings doesn't reset. I need to reboot, then reopen the applications, and the settings are reset. Running OS X 10.10.2 (14C109)

How can I manually reset settings without reboot?

  • 2
    There is no general answer to this, can you be more specific about which application you are looking at and which setting doesn't seem to reset unless you do a reboot? – nohillside Mar 6 '15 at 9:14
  • In all third party applications,reset all settings.Like TextWrangler I wanna check Text option in Preferences.I think settings is locate in RAM,I wanna kill it. – cuthead Mar 6 '15 at 10:33
  • I think killing an application and a reboot is slightly too big a hammer. Try to just terminate the application and then your session to begin with :). – dan Mar 6 '15 at 13:41

Macos X has changed over time in how it handles preferences.

It used to be in most cases that you could just quit the App and delete its preference file.

But now in many cases that will not work. Deleting the file will have no effect because the preference are read once from file and then stored in memory. Changes you then make are also only in the memory. At some point those settings are synchronised with the file. (written to file). If you delete the file before this is done a new file is created with the stored setting and you will find nothing has changed.

I am not really sure why apple changed this to this behaviour but I suspect it is related to the same reasons Apple now hides the users Library folder in part to stop people from deleting files that should not be deleted.

The tool to use if you want to do it so that the system pays attention to what you are trying to do is the unix command /usr/bin/defaults.

Make sure the App is not running.

Then in the Terminal.app found in the '/Applications/Utilities/' folder

Type the command and arguments:

/usr/bin/defaults delete ~/Library/Preferences/com.barebones.textwrangler

This will wipe the plist file. But may not trash it.

Now when you open Textwrangler the Prefs will be back to the default.

This will work with many Apps. But I cannot guarantee this for all.

As with any unix command you can screw things up easily if you do not know what you are doing.

So read up on it. defaults man page

Apple guide

Google search

  • Yes,that's what I look for,the unix command clean the SSD and RAM preferences as my wish.Thank you so much markhunte. – cuthead Mar 6 '15 at 12:49
  • Could you add on which version this change from .plist files to a Library cache occured? – dan Mar 6 '15 at 13:38
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    @danielAzuelos I do not remember which exactly, possibly 10.9 but not sure. – markhunte Mar 6 '15 at 13:57
  • I had the same feeling but wasn't sure either. I think this is related to the key change where it became impossible to leave an app. without saving :(. – dan Mar 6 '15 at 14:09
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    It was OS X 10.9 that the changes occurred and also changes made by defaults are not necessarily made available to the system immediately with OS X 10.9 and later. – user3439894 Mar 6 '15 at 15:48

Traditionally, most Mac applications are reset by quitting the application then deleting the relevant preference file found in /Users/[your account]/Library/Preferences. The application will open with its default settings the next time it is run. There are a few exceptions to this, notably those with registration details that are stored in a hidden file which may take a bit longer to hunt down, but generally killing the preference file will restore an application's default settings. I'm assuming this is what you're asking based on your original question...

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