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

Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade guide - How...
Warhammer 40,000: Freebladejust launched in the App Store and it lets you live your childhood dream of blowing up and slashing a bunch of enemies as a massive, hulking Space Marine. It's not easy being a Space Marine though - and particularly if... | Read more »
Gopogo guide - How to bounce like the be...
Nitrome just launched a new game and, as to be expected, it's a lot of addictive fun. It's called Gopogo, and it challenges you to hoparound a bunch of platforms, avoiding enemies and picking up shiny stuff. It's not easy though - just like the... | Read more »
Sago Mini Superhero (Education)
Sago Mini Superhero 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: KAPOW! Jack the rabbit bursts into the sky as the Sago Mini Superhero! Fly with Jack as he lifts impossible weights,... | Read more »
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes guide - How...
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is all about collecting heroes, powering them up, and using them together to defeat your foes. It's pretty straightforward stuff for the most part, but increasing your characters' stats can be a bit confusing because it... | Read more »
The best cooking apps (just in time for...
It’s that time of year again, where you’ll be gathering around the dinner table with your family and a huge feast in front of you. [Read more] | Read more »
Square Rave guide - How to grab those te...
Square Rave is an awesome little music-oriented puzzle game that smacks of games like Lumines, but with its own unique sense of gameplay. To help wrap your head around the game, keep the following tips and tricks in mind. [Read more] | Read more »
Snowboard Party 2 (Games)
Snowboard Party 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Crowned the best snowboarding game available on the market, Snowboard Party is back to fulfill all your adrenaline needs in... | Read more »
One Button Travel (Games)
One Button Travel 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: “To cut a long story short, If you like interactive fiction, just go buy this one.” - “Oozes the polish that... | Read more »
Light Apprentice Volume 1 (Games)
Light Apprentice Volume 1 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Light Apprentice Volume 1 includes Chapters 1 to 4, all gathered in a new exclusive game. When life in the world of... | Read more »
The best games like Animal Crossing on m...
Animal Crossing amiibo Festival is out right now for the Wii U, reminding us of just how much fun that world can be. Or at least to go back and check in on our villages once in a while. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via

iMobie Releases its Ace iOS Cleaner PhoneClea...
iMobie Inc. has announced the new update of PhoneClean 4, its iOS cleaner designed to reclaim wasted space on iPhone/iPad for use and keep the device fast. Alongside, iMobie hosts a 3-day giveaway of... Read more
U.S. Cellular Offering iPad Pro
U.S. Cellular today announced that it is offering the new iPad Pro with Wi-Fi + Cellular, featuring a 12.9-inch Retina display with 5.6 million pixels — the most ever in an iOS device. U.S. Cellular... Read more
Newegg Canada Unveils Black Friday Deals for...
Newegg Canada is offering more than 1,000 deep discounts to Canadian customers this Black Friday, available now through Cyber Monday, with new deals posted throughout the week. “Black Friday is... Read more
Black Friday: Macs on sale for up to $500 off...
BLACK FRIDAY B&H Photo has all new Macs on sale for up to $500 off MSRP as part of their early Black Friday sale including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $... Read more
Black Friday: Up to $125 off iPad Air 2s at B...
BLACK FRIDAY Walmart has the 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available): - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $399, save $... Read more
Black Friday: iPad mini 4s on sale for $100 o...
BLACK FRIDAY Best Buy has iPad mini 4s on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store for Black Friday. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available): - 16GB iPad mini 4 WiFi: $299.... Read more
Black Friday: Apple Watch for up to $100 off...
BLACK FRIDAY Apple resellers are offering discounts and bundles with the purchase of an Apple Watch this Black Friday. Below is a roundup of the deals being offered by authorized Watch resellers:... Read more
Black Friday: Target offers 6th Generation iP...
BLACK FRIDAY Save $40 to $60 on a 6th generation iPod touch at Target with free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for online orders only, in-store prices may vary: -... Read more
Black Friday: Walmart and Target offer iPod n...
BLACK FRIDAY Walmart has the 16GB iPod nano (various colors) on sale for $119.20 on their online store for a limited time. That’s $30 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if... Read more
Black Friday deals on the Apple Watch and App...
Apple resellers are offering discounts and bundles with the purchase of an Apple Watch this Black Friday weekend. Below is a roundup of the deals being offered by authorized Watch resellers: Apple... Read more

Jobs Board

Storefront Operations Coordinator, *Apple* -...
# Storefront Operations Coordinator, Apple -Latin America Job Number: 43587750 Miami, Florida, United States Posted: Oct. 16, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** The Read more
*Apple* Enterprise / Government Professional...
# Apple Enterprise / Gove ment Professional Services Engineer Job Number: 42292976 Reston, Virginia, United States Posted: Aug. 18, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
iOS Wallet & *Apple* Pay Engineer - App...
# iOS Wallet & Apple Pay Engineer Job Number: 40586801 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Nov. 16, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** The iOS Read more
Software Engineer, *Apple* Watch - Clock Fa...
# Software Engineer, Apple Watch - Clock Face Team Job Number: 44368761 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Nov. 14, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
Administrative Assistant, *Apple* Online St...
# Administrative Assistant, Apple Online Store Job Number: 43992352 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Nov. 9, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.