Overview of Managed Preferences in Lion Server

By John Rizzo

Managed Preferences for Mac OS X (MCX) is a powerful feature that allows Lion Server to manage system, user, and applications preferences on Macs connected, or bound, to an Open Directory domain.

With MCX, a Mac client can automatically load predefined settings from the central server. You can also define which applications can run. If you don’t want users buying items from the App Store, you can prevent the App Store from launching. If you don’t want users to change preferences, you can prevent them from launching System Preferences.

You can make a lot of these same settings with Profile Manager, but only with Lion clients. With MCX, you can do this with any version of Mac OS X.

MCX can manage any preference by storing a manifest, one or more preference files, on the Mac. Managed preferences can be set for almost any system, user, or application preference that uses Apple’s standard preference list (.plist) files. Many system and user settings are preconfigured for easy management in Workgroup Manager under the Preferences icon.

Computer group accounts are very useful for applying managed preferences. Specific computer and computer group preferences streamline management of Energy Saver settings, mobile accounts, and hardware-specific preferences, for example.