On the Move, Part I

I’m copying a bunch of applications over to a new machine. Replicating the settings for those applications is more application-specific than I was expecting. Here are the two I’ve tried so far.

I love MarsEdit primarily for its preview template. I could use my weblogging software’s posting mechanism instead of MarsEdit, but that software’s preview doesn’t actually make the previewed post look like it will look in my weblog. MarsEdit can do this.

But after I copied the preferences file (com.ranchero.MarsEdit.plist) from my user-level Library/Preferences directory on old machine to my new machine, MarsEdit still used its default preview template. I had to also copy over everything from my user-level Library/Application Support directory in order to get those settings.

Now, Apple’s guidelines say that the Application Support directory is for files like “document templates and sample files.” I am interpreting that to mean unchanging template files that ship with the software, such as e.g. Microsoft Word’s various letter document templates. I don’t think that means things the user can configure, which I think should go under Preferences.

However, other applications also dump files with user info in the Application Support directory. Firefox seems to put your entire profile there, for instance.

I’d rather not have to look in two places for files with user configuration info, but the guidelines don’t seem to provide crystal-clear guidance on the issue.

For DragThing, as for MarsEdit, the first thing I tried was just copying over the preferences file. This failed for DragThing as well, but not because there were missing Application Support files. Instead, in order to make the preferences file work in the second DragThing, I had to explicitly import the preferences file.

How did I know to do this? Because DragThing’s import window specifically says, “Select a folder, XML dock file, or “DragThing Preferences” file to import.”

Not sure what I think about this. On the one hand, the UI is clear and intuitive. On the other hand, why do I need to go through an import? Why doesn’t just copying the files work, like it used to work for almost every application?

Does it work anymore for any application? Stay tuned.


  1. Jonathan Johnson

    I just happened to move to a new machine as well. Transmit theoretically did work, but I didn’t know they had an update from v2 to v3. So, it actually didn’t work for me as my serial number wasn’t valid for v3 đŸ™‚ However, my bookmarks did make it.

    I actually didn’t try for a lot of other applications. iTunes worked by simply replacing the entire stock Music folder.

    I can somewhat agree with the two places not ideal to look, but I also think that having two places makes sense. Stuff in the preferences file shouldn’t make you lose data or hard work. It should be things that could be re-set with a trip through the preferences window. The Application Support folder contains things that would be harder to recouperate if deleted — templates, AddressBook data. What I don’t find intuitive is that Apple creates separate folders for its apps inside of the Library folder, such as Safari, Mail, and iTunes. IMHO, those should be in the Application Support folder.

  2. Brent Simmons

    It’s common for applications to separate preferences from user data. For instance, Apple Mail has a ~/Library/Mail/ folder, Safari has a ~/Library/Safari/ folder, etc.

    But, rather than create new top-level folders in ~/Library/, my apps, like many other apps, use the ~/Library/Application Support/ folder for data.