How To Manage Plist Files With PlistBuddy
Would you like a very powerful tool to manage your plist files with bash scripts? Say hello to PlistBuddy.
PlistBuddy is a tool provided by Apple to perform operations on a plist file using bash commands. We can add, edit and delete any values in a plist. You can find it at:
In this article, we are going to see how
PlistBuddy works and finally an example with a Xcode project.
PlistBuddy provides several commands to perform operations on a plist file:
It prints a list of commands available, value types supported and some examples of common usages.
We can use it to exit from the Interactive Shell. The changes won’t be saved in the plist file.
It saves the current changes in the plist file.
It discards the current changes not saved and reloads the last saved version of the plist file.
It deletes the content of the file and creates a new root with the type specified in the parameter.
It prints the value of
entry. If we don’t specify the entry, it prints the entire file.
Set [entry] [value]
entry setting the value specified in the parameter.
Add [entry] [type] [value]
It adds a new entry with the specified type and value.
Copy [entrySrc] [entryDst]
It copies the entry
entryDst. We cannot override an existing
It deletes the entry from the plist file.
Merge [file] [entry]
It adds the content of a plist file to entry. If we omit the parameter
entry, the content will be added at the root of the file.
Import [entry] [file]
It sets or creates the entry assigning the content of
file. For example, we may copy the content of a txt file inside an entry of type
Note about Types
We’ve just seen that some commands have a parameter
PlistBuddy supports the following types:
Add to the dictionary
mydictan integer element
Add :mydict:test integer 1
Add at the index
0of the array
myarraya string with the value
Add :myarray:0 string Hello
Delete the entire array:
Import the content of a file and set it to the entry
Import :myfile test.txt
When we run the command
/usr/libexec/PlistBuddy, we can use the following options:
We can use it to run an inline command like:
The file will be automatically saved after the execution of the command.
We can use it to print the plist content in the form of a xml plist:
It prints the complete help info.
We can start learning
PlistBuddy using its interactive shell to test the commands.
We can open the interactive shell like this:
With the command above, we are asking
PlistBuddy to open the file
test.plist in the Desktop. If the file doesn’t exist,
PlistBuddy creates it printing the following output message:
In this example, we are using the path
~/Desktop/ only for the sake of explanation. We can use any paths where we have write permissions.
Once we open the interactive shell, we should have an output like this:
which is waiting a our input. At this point, we can write a command of
PlistBuddy and press enter to execute it.
We can exit from the interactive shell with the command
Usage with Xcode
Let’s consider a Xcode project with two targets:
Each target has its info plist file (
AppFull.plist). These two files have a lot common information like the supported orientation, the launch screen name and so on. The maintenance of these plist files may be painful. If we have to add a new common value, we should add it in both files.
PlistBuddy, we can improve this situation. We can move all the common values in a new plist file
Build Phases, we can add a new
Run Script Phase and move it below
In this way, the script will be executed before compiling the application.
Inside the new script phase, we can merge
Base.plist with the target info plist:
The example above is for the target
AppFree, we can use the same script and rename the plist file of
The maintenance of a project with several targets is sometimes painful. Thanks to
PlistBuddy, we can reduce the pain.
PlistBuddy is a very powerful tool. The only limit is our imagination.