defaults is a command line utility that manipulates plist files. Introduced in 1998 OPENSTEP, defaults is found in the system's descendants macOS and GNUstep.[1][2]

The name "defaults" derives from OpenStep's name for user preferences, Defaults, or NSUserDefaults in Foundation Kit. Each application had its own defaults plist ("domain"), under ~/Defaults for the user configuration and /Defaults for the system configuration. The lookup system also supports a NSGlobalDomain.plist, where defaults written there will be seen by all applications.[2][3] In macOS, the Defaults part of the path is replaced by the more intuitive Library/Preferences. defaults accesses the plists based on the domain given.[2]

defaults is also able to read and write any plist specified with a path,[1] although Apple plans to phase out this utility in a future version.[2][4]

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