Are there books written for OS X (particularly the most current version) like the hundreds of thousands written for Unix? I'd like to know about the command-line utilities and the locations of system settings in text files. Unfortunately, the books you see coming out of O'Rielly have phrases like "For Dummies," "Pocket Guide," and "Learning" (shudder) in their titles.

Does such literature exist? I'm particularly interested in learning which plists control which system settings, but having usage examples of OS X-specific command line utilities and a list of differences between OS X and Unix (from a technical perspective) would be even better. Being able to manage my system configuration from the Terminal would be a lot more fun than from System Preferences... at least for me!

6 Answers 6


The Missing Manual series is pretty comprehensive for the whole OS, though they don't cover shell commands deeply.

The Mac OS X Command Line: Unix Under the Hood covers more of the specifics you are looking for.

Keep in mind that there technically is no difference "between OS X and Unix." Mac OS X IS a Unix

  • Great answer. What is 8None1?
    – Ruskes
    Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 23:38
  • Wow, I didn't know ML was officially UNIX :)
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 23:55
  • Anyway, that second book looks like it'll do the trick - I'll get a copy and return to accept your answer if it does help. Thanks a ton.
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 0:02
  • 2
    "8None1" was the first bit of technical voodoo I learned as a kid. It was the standard serial connection setting for a modem. Eight data bits, no parity, 1 stop bit.
    – 8None1
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 0:07
  • 2
    @TobiasPatton Except GNUstep. OS X "is a Unix" in the trademark Unix sense but GNU/Linux platforms are not.
    – Lri
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 11:17

I've not read it myself, but Amit Singh's Mac OS X Internals is very well reviewed on Amazon.com (22 five star reviews out of 24 total reviews). A quick text search of the book shows over 40 hits for "plist", so it's likely to address that concern.

  • A tad out of date, but I'm sure it's a great source of information - I'll likely check it out too if I can spare the cash.
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 0:25
  • 1
    Mac OS X Internals IS a fantastic book. My only advice is that is can get VERY deep. More along the lines if you were planning to build the Mac OS all over again. But really, best Mac porn ever.
    – 8None1
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 0:35
  • It really is THE book if you want to understand how OS X works.
    – Gilby
    Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 22:14
  • I doubt it will help him. It's a lot about under under the hood (operating system design, etc.) and not very practical unless you are going down to kernel level or fiddle with drivers. And it's way outdated too. Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 19:41

Other books:

Internet resources:

  • I picked up Mac OS X and iOS Internals, and while it is a good book, it didn't suit my particular needs. Thank you nonetheless, it's a good reference for the future.
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 0:05

Doing some extra searching on my own, I came across a nice web resource with links to books and guides at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This doesn't solve my question and I would greatly appreciate more answers, but I thought I'd share.


I found Learning Unix for OS X Mountain Lion to be very informative, especially coming from limited experience with Unix and Linux. It pretty much goes over controlling the standard processes of the operating system in the terminal.

  • I appreciate the suggestion - however, that book is actually elementary for me. I consider myself competent in Unix. It's a good starter book, definitely.
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 15:54

Check out Mac OS X and iOS Internals:


Here's a table of contents:


  • Thanks for the TOC. Someone else has already suggested the book, though.
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 19:28

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