TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Managed Preferences, Part 2

Volume Number: 24 (2008)
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: Operating Systems

Managed Preferences, Part 2

New options in Workgroup Manager in Leopard

By Philip Rinehart, Yale University

Managed Preferences

A couple of months ago, I talked a little about all of the new command line options for troubleshooting Managed Preferences. In short, many new options are available for the system administrator. Well, even more love was given to the Preference Manifest Editor. New to Tiger, any preference could be managed in theory, as long as the manifest existed in the application. In Leopard, Apple engineers added some new abilities, many of which are quite powerful.

Getting started

To get started is pretty simple. It is explained in the Leopard server guide. However, I had to play with it a little bit to really understand it fully. Another useful tip, Leopard Server is not needed to play with the manifests. How, you ask? It is actually pretty easy. First, download a copy of the Leopard Server tools from the Apple download website. Install them, and launch Workgroup Manager. Now, instead of actually authenticating against a server, click Cancel. Next, click View Directories from the Server menu.

Figure 1

A window similar to Figure 1 should appear. Note that the Local Directory is being viewed, here not an Open Directory server. Click the Lock to authenticate, and enter an administrator account on the machine. For my testing, I created a testmcx user. This user will also appear in the System Preferences Accounts panel; the account appears as a managed account. So far, not so different from Tiger, right? Select a user, and click on Preferences. Nothing is managed initially, as expected. Click on the Details button. Nothing appears in the window. Now, here's where it begins to get interesting. Click the Plus button. The dialog box asks for a location. Use the Command-G option to navigate to the /System/Library/CoreServices directory. Next choose the ManagedClient application. Whoah, look at all of the applications that can now be managed! Your WGM screen should be similar to Figure 2:

Figure 2

Pretty interesting, eh? Many of these preferences cannot be managed via the standard Preferences interface. The next question is how do you actually manage these preferences? Let's look at two of them.

Folder Redirection

As noted on, a very interesting option is the use of Folder Redirection. Let's get started. First select the Folder Redirection option, and click the Edit icon. At first the Dictionary will appear to be empty. There's a bit of a trick to actually get it to work. Choose Always, and click the disclosure triangle so that it points downward. Next, click New Key. Still doesn't look very interesting does it? How do you pick the right key? Here's where the magic is, click on the new item.

Figure 3

Voila! There are now multiple ways to redirect, login, logout as shown in Figure 3. Select any one of them, and it will create an array of keys that are pre-populated. Keep clicking New Key if the key is not a string, but instead an array or dictionary. Try it out; it's pretty self-explanatory once you understand the little trick to get it working. Another tip, in the window at the bottom of the Workgroup Manager screen, a full explanation of how the key is used is given. Pay attention to it, as it is written fairly clearly.

Figure 4

Figure 4 shows how a fully populated Redirection key will look. The default option is to delete the folder in the local home directory and put in a symbolic link to the redirected folder. One other note, how does the redirector know the user? For all of these managed preferences, the %@ is used as a replacement for the currently logging in user. From a scriptwriter's perspective, this substitution is slightly different as script writers have gotten used to using the $1 substitution. One other note: this key can be managed as Once, Often or Always. Not all keys can be managed this way. Let's look at one that can only be managed as Always.


Bluetooth commonly needs to managed in more secure environments. In particular, the ability to even turn on Bluetooth may need to be disallowed. In this case, try adding the key as Often or Once. Note that there are no options available. The Bluetooth managed preference key can only be managed Always. It makes sense if you think about it, as from a security standpoint a system administrator would always want it be off. If you use the Always key, an option to Disable Bluetooth appears. In my book, this ability is long overdue!

Other keys can be managed, including iWork and QuickTime registrations, as well as a more extensive number of keys for mobile computing. A couple of keys have solved nagging problems right away in my work, including the ability to control the Safari downloads location, turning off Autofill for Safari, and Open Safe Downloads, all things that can make more sense to manage from a server.

One last thing, since this article talks about how to use the local directory for management, these modifications could be used as part of an image distribution mechanism, and not require Leopard Server. However, management in this way really isn't scalable, but might work for a test deployment to explore the new options available for system administration.

Well, that's about it for this month. I encourage you to explore the new options available, and if options are missing that you would like to manage, make sure to submit a Feature Request. Only through feature request submissions will more options be added! Until next month, I'll see you on the lists!

Philip Rinehart is co-chair of the steering committee leading the Mac OS X Enterprise Project ( and is the Lead Mac Analyst at Yale University. He has been using Macintosh Computers since the days of the Macintosh SE, and Mac OS X since its Developer Preview Release. Before coming to Yale, he worked as a Unix system administrator for a dot-com company. He can be reached at:

The MacEnterprise project is a community of IT professionals sharing information and solutions to support Macs in an enterprise. We collaborate on the deployment, management, and integration of Mac OS X client and server computers into multi-platform computing environments.

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Typinator 6.7 - Speedy and reliable text...
Typinator turbo-charges your typing productivity. Type a little. Typinator does the rest. We've all faced projects that require repetitive typing tasks. With Typinator, you can store commonly used... Read more
Adobe Lightroom 6.2 - Import, develop, a...
Adobe Lightroom is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99/month bundled with Photoshop CC as part of the photography package. Lightroom 6 is also available for purchase as a... Read more
ForeverSave 2.1.4 - Universal auto-save...
ForeverSave auto-saves all documents you're working on while simultaneously doing backup versioning in the background. Lost data can be quickly restored at any time. Losing data, caused by... Read more
VueScan 9.5.27 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
AirPort Utility 6.3.6 - Set up and manag...
Note: Most recent release available only within OS X 10.11 El Capitan update. Use AirPort Utility to set up and manage your Wi-Fi network and AirPort base stations, including AirPort Express, AirPort... Read more
Quicksilver 1.3.1 - Application launcher...
Quicksilver is a light, fast and free Mac application that gives you the power to control your Mac with keystrokes alone. Quicksilver allows you to find what you need quickly and easily, then act... Read more
Tidy Up (Five Users) 4.1.5 - Find duplic...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more
Mellel 3.4.3 - The word processor of cho...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
Skype - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Bookends 12.6.0 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more

Swords & Crossbones: An Epic Pirate...
Swords & Crossbones: An Epic Pirate Story 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Camel Up (Games)
Camel Up 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Martian: Bring Him Home (Games)
The Martian: Bring Him Home 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Based on the best selling novel and critically acclaimed film, THE MARTIAN tells the story of Astronaut Mark... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 21-30, 2...
Leap Into Fall With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter (Social Networki...
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter 4.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 4.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off for a limited time. *** | Read more »
Mori (Games)
Mori 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Stop, rewind and unwind with Mori. Time is always running, take a moment to take control. Mori is an action puzzle game about infinitely... | Read more »
100 Years' War (Games)
100 Years' War 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Tower in the Sky (Games)
Tower in the Sky 0.0.60 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 0.0.60 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
hocus. (Games)
hocus. 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: New, polished, mind-bending, minimal puzzle game with dozens of levels and extra-ordinary design Features:- Beautifully crafted... | Read more »
Mos Speedrun 2 (Games)
Mos Speedrun 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mos is back, in her biggest and most exciting adventure ever! Wall-jump to victory through 30 mysterious, action packed levels... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros... Read more
27-inch 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1689, save $...
Adorama has the 27″ 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1689 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $110 off MSRP. Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks on sale for up to $12...
B&H Photo has 12″ Retina MacBooks in stock today and on sale for up to $120 off MSRP. B&H will include free shipping, and there is NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook: $1224 $... Read more
Tablets Shaping Up for Growth in 2016 – Strat...
Observing that Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft have refocused what tablet computers can do, market analysis firm Strategy Analytics believes there is immense opportunity for new and replacement sales... Read more
Apple Interbrand’s Number One Most Valuable G...
Apple and Google hold aced #1 and #2 spots respectively in Interbrand’s 2015 Best Global Brands Report, leading all tech brands that now comprise more than a third of the entire rankings value.... Read more
Apple offering refurbished 2015 13-inch Retin...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $270 (15%) off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 MacBook Airs available...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 11″ and 13″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and... Read more
Adobe Photoshop Elements 14 Gets Haze Removal...
The latest iteration of Adobe’s powerful consumer image editing appliction Photoshop Elements 14 analyzes your photo and removes background haze, so your shot looks sharp all the way to the horizon... Read more
Apple refurbished 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 15″ 2... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 1.4GHz iMac: $1029.99 $70 off - 21″ 2.7GHz iMac: $1229 $70 off - 21″ 2.9GHz iMac: $... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're Read more
Senior Payments Architect - *Apple* Pay - A...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior payments architect to join the Apple Pay Engineering team. You will Read more
SW QA Engineer - *Apple* TV - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple TV team is looking for experienced Quality Assurance Engineers with a passion for delivering first in class home entertainment solutions. **Key Read more
Finance Manager, *Apple* Online Store - App...
…successful global retailer. Innovate and think creatively as a finance partner for the Apple Online Store team. Look ahead and anticipate the needs of your business. Read more
*Apple* Retail for Business Support Supervis...
…is looking for a motivated, outgoing, and creative individual who wants to offer Apple Business Customers an unparalleled customer experience. The Apple Retail for Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.