Get started with the Property List Editor

The Property List Editor enables you to create “plist” resources (files). In this document, you learn how to get started with the editor.

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Sometimes, it is convenient to provide “starter data” for your iOS app. If you wish, you can provide the data as a property list, known as a plist.

Xcode includes a plist editor. Mac OS X also includes a standalone app, called Property List Editor. See the following topics from the Property List Programming Guide:

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Creating a plist

We’ll use Xcode as the plist editor. In your left-side groups and files navigator, right-click the Resources group. Choose Add > New File.

In the New File dialog, on the left-side navigator, select “Mac OS X” > “Resource”.

In the template viewer, choose “Property List”. The new plist will appear in the editor:

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Notice that the current item is highlighted, with a light-blue background.

Notice also the icon on the right side of the highlighted item.

This icon indicates that the item is a container – a Dictionary, or an Array
This icon indicates that the item is a leaf node – a String, Number, Boolean, Date, or Data

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The icon, when clicked, enables you to add a new item:

  • The “add item in container” icon will add a new item inside the container; for a Dictionary, it adds a key-value pair; for an Array, it adds an array element
  • The “add item” icon will add a new leaf node item, at the same level as the current item

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The “Root” item

In a new plist, there is one “root” item. Its default type is Dictionary, although you can choose Array as an alternative.

Note: Choose either Dictionary, or Array, as your root item type.

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Contained items

Let’s build an array, with three elements. Each array element will be a dictionary, with two key-value pairs.

First, change the type to Array. Then, click the container icon, to add a new item inside the array container.

Change the type of that new item to Dictionary. Make sure that your plist looks like the following before we continue:

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Notice the disclosure triangle to the left of “Item 0″. When collapsed, the item/row’s add icon is the “add item” icon. Click to open the disclosure triangle, and notice that the item/row’s add icon changes to the “add item in container” icon. Your plist should now look like this:

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Now, click the highlighted item’s “add item in container” icon, to add a new item inside the dictionary container.

We will create a key-value pair for a String, and one more for a Number. Change the type as appropriate. Enter the values. For a Dictionary, you must also enter appropriate names for the keys. When you finish, it should look similar to the following:

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Using copy-paste

Now that you have created the first array element, you can use copy-paste to easily create the other array elements. Here’s how:

  1. Click to close the array element’s disclosure triangle (“Item 0″ above).
  2. If necessary, click to select/highlight the “Item 0″ item/row.
  3. Right-click the highlighted row, and choose “Copy”.
  4. Right-click either the highlighted row, or the “Root” item/row, and choose “Paste”.
  5. Repeat as necessary.
  6. Click to open each new element’s disclosure triangle, and edit the values.

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Your plist should now look similar to the following:

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Save your work. You can now use this plist in your app, by reading it into an NSArray instance.

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