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What is the proper way to modify environment variables like PATH in OS X? I've looked on google a little bit and found 3 different files to edit:

  • /etc/paths
  • ~/.profile
  • ~/.tcshrc

I don't even have some of these, and I'm pretty sure that .tcshrc is wrong, since osx uses bash now. Anybody have any idea where these variables, especially PATH, are defined?

Edit: I'm running OS X 10.5

Answered By: Matthew McCullough ( 229)

Bruno is right on track. I've done extensive research and if you want to set variables that are available in all GUI apps, your only option is /etc/launchd.conf

Please note that environment.plist does not work for applications launched via Spotlight. This is documented by Steve Sexton here.

1) Open a terminal prompt

2) Type sudo vi /etc/launchd.conf (note: this file might not yet exist)

3) Put contents like the following into the file

# Set environment variables here so they are available globally to all apps
# (and Terminal), including those launched via Spotlight.
#
# After editing this file run the following command from the terminal to update 
# environment variables globally without needing to reboot.
# NOTE: You will still need to restart the relevant application (including 
# Terminal) to pick up the changes!
# grep -E "^setenv" /etc/launchd.conf | xargs -t -L 1 launchctl
#
# See http://www.digitaledgesw.com/node/31
# and http://stackoverflow.com/questions/135688/setting-environment-variables-in-os-x/
#
# Note that you must hardcode the paths below, don't use enviroment variables.
# You also need to surround multiple values in quotes, see MAVEN_OPTS example below.
#
setenv JAVA_VERSION 1.6
setenv JAVA_HOME /System/Library/Frameworks/JavaVM.framework/Versions/1.6/Home
setenv GROOVY_HOME /Applications/Dev/groovy
setenv GRAILS_HOME /Applications/Dev/grails
setenv NEXUS_HOME /Applications/Dev/nexus/nexus-webapp
setenv JRUBY_HOME /Applications/Dev/jruby

setenv ANT_HOME /Applications/Dev/apache-ant
setenv ANT_OPTS -Xmx512M

setenv MAVEN_OPTS "-Xmx1024M -XX:MaxPermSize=512m"
setenv M2_HOME /Applications/Dev/apache-maven

setenv JMETER_HOME /Applications/Dev/jakarta-jmeter

4) Save your changes in VI and reboot your Mac. Or use the grep/xargs command show in the code comment above.

5) Prove that your variables are working by opening a Terminal window and typing export and you should see your new variables. These will also be available in IntelliJ and other GUI apps you launch via Spotlight.