Quark’s Preferences Folder: Where Should It Live?

In trolling Quark’s user forum, I found a post by Quark’s senior product manager Matthias Güenther that clearly explains where a Macintosh QuarkXPress user should keep their Preferences folder, and why. I’ve rewritten parts of it for clarity, but in essence, his story is below:

Debunking an urban myth about QuarkXPress Preferences

QuarkXPress stores a lot of its settings in preference files. To find those files, it first looks in its application folder for a folder named Preferences. If one exists, it uses these preferences or creates new ones inside that folder if necessary. If not, QuarkXPress looks for a Preferences folder that’s inside the User folder of the OS. If yes, it uses these, if not it creates them there. You’ll find that folder here: /Users/<user name> /Library/Preferences/Quark/QuarkXPress <version number>/

A common troubleshooting technique is to create a new folder in the QuarkXPress folder and name it Preferences.

When you create a Preferences folder in the folder containing the QuarkXPress application, it basically has the same effect as deleting the Preferences folder in the User folder — as QuarkXPress launches, it finds a Preferences folder in its application folder. Because this folder is empty, QuarkXPress creates new preference files there.

Therefore it seems as if creating a Preferences folder in the app folder solves program issues. And it does this first time, but only the first time; the next time there’s an issue with the prefs, you will need to delete the prefs (in the app folder).

So why two locations for preferences?

Many people ask us why Quark doesn’t create a Preferences folder in the app folder by default? Well, it is easy: Preferences should always be stored in the User folder because multiple users using the same machine would otherwise share the same preferences — and they may not want to.

For example, if you have two users who never log in at the same time, they will be confused because if one creates preferences, then when the other logs in, QuarkXPress will behave as the first user left it — not as the second user left it the last time they used QuarkXPress. Even worse, it could also cause some users to be unable to use QuarkXPress. This is because every user must have the operating system’s permission to change these preference files within the Applications folder, but every user may not have the appropriate operating system privileges to change files in the Applications folder. And if you can’t change the preferences files, QuarkXPress won’t launch for you.

Another problem arises if two users log on at the same time and the Preferences folder is in the Applications folder. As the first user launches QuarkXPress, QuarkXPress locks the prefs, and the second user cannot launch or use QuarkXPress.

Therefore it’s best if the Preferences folder is kept in the User folder, unless you use the machine just by yourself with one user. Then it doesn’t really matter.

This makes sense so far, right?

There is one exception where you should have your Preferences folder inside the QuarkXPress application folder: when you have several instances of the same version of QuarkXPress installed on the same machine. Not QuarkXPress 7 and 8 (different versions of QuarkXPress use different Preferences folders in the User folder), but several copies of QuarkXPress 8 with different sets of XTensions. Here leaving the Preferences folder in the User folder would mean that both copies of QuarkXPress 8 would access the same preferences and you would run into issues again.

The latter is also the reason why when running pre-release versions of QuarkXPress, you should create a Preferences folder inside the app folder (because you are working with alpha and beta versions and the prefs format may change between releases).

Is everything still clear?

Bottom line:

If you have problems launching QuarkXPress:

  1. Deleting the Preferences folder is a good thing to do. By default the Preferences folder is in /Users/<user name> /Library/Preferences/Quark/QuarkXPress <version number>/
  2. Therefore having a backup of your Preferences folder is a good idea. You may want to back it up on a regular basis.
  3. If that doesn’t help, then make sure you have read/write access to the Preferences folder, either by selecting it and choosing File> Get Info or by Repairing Permissions using the Mac OS X Disk Utility.

Where should preferences be stored?

  • If you have several users using the same machine, they SHOULD be stored in each User’s folder (which is what QuarkXPress does by default)
  • If you have several instances of the same version of QuarkXPress installed (two v8, NOT v7 and v8), then create a folder called Preferences in each folder where QuarkXPress resides. If you are the only user, fine; if there are more users, make sure they all have read/write access to that folder.