Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Apple > Operating Systems

Make Your Own Start-up Screens in Mac OS X

📄 Contents

  1. Change the plist, change the Message Shown
  2. What About the Remote User?
  3. Summary
  • Print
  • + Share This

Want a custom banner screen to show up during your startup process? Mac OS X offers a simple way: If you change a few lines of a text file, the OS will make simple message displays for you at startup. Larry Loeb takes you through the process step-by-step.

Like this article? We recommend

Summmary: OS X offers a simple way to have banner information displayed during startup compared to the process needed for previous systems. In this article, Larry takes you through the process step-by-step.

In "Classic" Macs running pre-Mac OS X systems, it was pretty easy to have a custom banner screen show up during the startup process. Of course, you usually had to create the screen that you wanted with Resource Editor, but that wasn't such a big deal. ResEdit was always an approachable system tool that gave you great feedback on what you were specifying.

Once the screen was created, it could be easily recognized by the Classic OS during startup and displayed. But OS X doesn't have that kind of special mechanism any more. Things that will be recognized by the system for display (or much else, for that matter) have to use a common interface specification—that of the XML language. XML uses text lists in a very specific order to pass data. In many ways, it's like the HTML code that produces Web pages.

So, instead of using a Resource Editor to create a startup screen for OS X, it's necessary to use a text editor. Fortunately, there is one already built into OS X. The Terminal application (which can be found in Volume/Applications/Utilities) can access the "pico" text editor used by many UNIX systems for just such a text-wrangling task.

Change the plist, change the Message Shown

The file we need to edit is called a property list, and has a suffix of '.plist'. This file determines the content of the login window that OS X displays as the system tries to login a user. The name of the file we need to edit is ''. It can be found by the path :Volume/Library/Preferences/

Start up the Terminal application and type the following commands (all on one line without any returns between the words):

sudo pico

You are then prompted for the administrator password, which is typed in and followed by a return (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1 Password request for pico.

Figure 2 shows what Terminal should then look like.

Figure 2

Figure 2 The pico editor in action.

Note the <dict> tag that is visible at the end of the plist. Just after that tag, we have to add new lines that will contain <key> and <string> entries. The new <key> tag must contain 'LoginwindowText' as its data, but the new <string> can contain whatever text you desire.

Figure 3 shows how the cursor is first moved downward in pico by using the arrow keys.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Moving pico's cursor with the arrow keys.

The cursor is then moved to the end of the <dict> section (just before the </dict> tag) with the arrow keys, and a return typed. Pico should then look like Figure 4.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Ready to add the custom text.

Now, type in the data that is boldface below. You can type return at the end of the lines, if you want. The XML parser ignores them, looking for the tag identifiers, but you can still make the file human-readable. Insert your own favorite saying for the data in the string tag (see Figure 5).

<string>Your banner text goes here</string>
Figure 5

Figure 5 Inserting the data.

You're almost done. You must write the file out by pressing the control (ctrl) key at the same time you press the O key. After that, you can exit pico by pressing the control key and the X key. You can now quit the Terminal application.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account