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At 2009/02/22 18:48
JosephN wrote:

Just wanted to drop a quick note here about


This file defines the environment variables for normal applications (i.e. not anything executed in a shell or terminal window). You will likely have to create this file and directory yourself. First touch the file, then open it in the property list editor and add key value pairs.

The reason this is interesting is if you put PATH and MANPATH in this plist file then any shell you start will include these environment variables as read in from this file (unless you overwrite them locally by declaring a new PATH variable).

So really the path helper script and organization is a total waste. The PATH and MANPATH variables should be defined in the environment.plist file so your normal apps have access to the same environment as your shell apps do.

At 2009/02/22 19:17

Thanks. I'll look into this when I get a chance. I'm worried it might become deprecated.

At 2011/01/21 11:31
SteveL wrote:

If you set the PATH environment variable in ~/.MacOSX/environment.plist some applications, like X11, will fail to launch.

For more information check out the post by David Whetstone at http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2149229&tstart=0

At 2011/03/14 12:11

FYI, just one typo: /etrc/profile

Thanks for writing this post, it is helping me learn more about PATH.

I'm trying to find out if entering a comment: #whatever into /etc/paths is OK, or if it breaks that (or everything afterwards). When I do $ echo $PATH it shows my comment line.

At 2011/06/30 6:49
Johann Visagie wrote:

I don't know at what point this behaviour changed, but as of right now (OS X 10.6.8), path_helper(8) no longer prints the commands to set $MANPATH, unless $MANPATH is is already defined (even if zero-length).

This means that path_helper's behaviour now differs from that described in its own man page.

I would guess that this change was made to enable the use of man.conf(8) by default. However, it does mean that any changes made to /etc/manpaths or /etc/manpaths.d/* will not take effect unless one manually invokes path_helper from shell startup scripts.

At 2011/07/01 3:58
Johann Visagie wrote:

If I may update my comment of yesterday: It appears that path_helper(8)'s man page does in fact describe its behaviour correctly. It contains the following parenthesised sentence: "(The MANPATH environment variable will not be modified unless it is already set in the environment.)"

It's also very clear from the path_helper.c source file that it only adjusts MANPATH if it's already set:


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