Mac::PropertyList - work with Mac plists at a low level


        use Mac::PropertyList qw(:all);

        my $data  = parse_plist( $text );
        my $perl  = $data->as_perl;

                # == OR ==
        my $data  = parse_plist_file( $filename );

                # == OR ==
        open my( $fh ), $filename or die "...";
        my $data  = parse_plist_fh( $fh );

        my $text  = plist_as_string( $data );

        my $plist = create_from_hash(  \%hash  );
        my $plist = create_from_array( \@array );

        my $plist = Mac::PropertyList::dict->new( \%hash );

        my $perl  = $plist->as_perl;


This module is a low-level interface to the Mac OS X Property List (plist) format in either XML or binary. You probably shouldn't use this in applications–build interfaces on top of this so you don't have to put all the heinous multi-level object stuff where people have to look at it.

You can parse a plist file and get back a data structure. You can take that data structure and get back the plist as XML. If you want to change the structure inbetween that's your business. :)

You don't need to be on Mac OS X to use this. It simply parses and manipulates a text format that Mac OS X uses.

If you need to work with the old ASCII or newer JSON formet, you can use the plutil tool that comes with MacOS X:

        % plutil -convert xml1 -o ExampleBinary.xml.plist ExampleBinary.plist

Or, you can extend this module to handle those formats (and send a pull request).

The Property List format

The MacOS X Property List format is simple XML. You can read the DTD to get the details.

One big problem exists—its dict type uses a flat structure to list keys and values so that values are only associated with their keys by their position in the file rather than by the structure of the DTD. This problem is the major design hinderance in this module. A smart XML format would have made things much easier.

If the parse_plist encounters an empty key tag in a dict structure (i.e. <key></key> ) the function croaks.

The Mac::PropertyList classes

A plist can have one or more of any of the plist objects, and we have to remember the type of thing so we can go back to the XML format. Perl treats numbers and strings the same, but the plist format doesn't.

Therefore, everything Mac::PropertyList creates is an object of some sort. Container objects like Mac::PropertyList::array and Mac::PropertyList::dict hold other objects.

There are several types of objects:


Note that the Xcode property list editor abstracts the true and false objects as just Boolean. They are separate tags in the plist format though.

new( VALUE )

Create the object.


Access the value of the object. At the moment you cannot change the value


Access the type of the object (string, data, etc)


Create a string version of the object, recursively if necessary.


Turn the plist data structure, which is decorated with extra information, into a lean Perl data structure without the value type information or blessed objects.


These functions are available for individual or group import. Nothing will be imported unless you ask for it.

        use Mac::PropertyList qw( parse_plist );

        use Mac::PropertyList qw( :all );

Things that parse

parse_plist( TEXT )

Parse the XML plist in TEXT and return the Mac::PropertyList object.

parse_plist_fh( FILEHANDLE )

Parse the XML plist from FILEHANDLE and return the Mac::PropertyList data structure. Returns false if the arguments is not a reference.

You can do this in a couple of ways. You can open the file with a lexical filehandle (since Perl 5.6).

        open my( $fh ), $file or die "...";
        parse_plist_fh( $fh );

Or, you can use a bareword filehandle and pass a reference to its typeglob. I don't recommmend this unless you are using an older Perl.

        open FILE, $file or die "...";
        parse_plist_fh( \*FILE );
parse_plist_file( FILE_PATH )

Parse the XML plist in FILE_PATH and return the Mac::PropertyList data structure. Returns false if the file does not exist.

Alternately, you can pass a filehandle reference, but that just calls parse_plist_fh for you.

create_from_hash( HASH_REF )

Create a plist dictionary from the hash reference.

The values of the hash can only be simple scalars–not references. Reference values are silently ignored.

Returns a string representing the hash in the plist format.

create_from_array( ARRAY_REF )

Create a plist array from the array reference.

The values of the array can only be simple scalars–not references. Reference values are silently ignored.

Returns a string representing the array in the plist format.

create_from_string( STRING )

Returns a string representing the string in the plist format.


Dispatches to either create_from_array, create_from_hash, or create_from_string based on the argument. If none of those fit, this croaks.


Reads a certain sort of property list data


Read the next data item


Read a dictionary


Read an array

Things that write


Returns a string that represents the start of the PList XML.


Returns a string that represents the end of the PList XML.


Return the plist data structure as XML in the Mac Property List format.


Return the plist data structure as an unblessed Perl data structure. There won't be any Mac::PropertyList objects in the results. This is really just as_perl.


This project is in Github:


Thanks to Chris Nandor for general Mac kung fu and Chad Walker for help figuring out the recursion for nested structures.

Mike Ciul provided some classes for the different input modes, and these allow us to optimize the parsing code for each of those.

Ricardo Signes added the as_basic_types() methods so you can dump all the plist junk and just play with the data.


* change the value of an object

* validate the values of objects (date, integer)

* methods to add to containers (dict, array)

* do this from a filehandle or a scalar reference instead of a scalar + generate closures to handle the work.


brian d foy, <>

Tom Wyant added support for UID types.


Copyright © 2004-2021, brian d foy <>. All rights reserved.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the Artistic License 2.0.