plistlib — Generate and parse Apple .plist files

Source code: Lib/

This module provides an interface for reading and writing the “property list” files used by Apple, primarily on macOS and iOS. This module supports both binary and XML plist files.

The property list (.plist) file format is a simple serialization supporting basic object types, like dictionaries, lists, numbers and strings. Usually the top level object is a dictionary.

To write out and to parse a plist file, use the dump() and load() functions.

To work with plist data in bytes or string objects, use dumps() and loads().

Values can be strings, integers, floats, booleans, tuples, lists, dictionaries (but only with string keys), bytes, bytearray or datetime.datetime objects.

Changed in version 3.4: New API, old API deprecated. Support for binary format plists added.

Changed in version 3.8: Support added for reading and writing UID tokens in binary plists as used by NSKeyedArchiver and NSKeyedUnarchiver.

Changed in version 3.9: Old API removed.

See also

PList manual page

Apple’s documentation of the file format.

This module defines the following functions:

plistlib.load(fp, *, fmt=None, dict_type=dict, aware_datetime=False)

Read a plist file. fp should be a readable and binary file object. Return the unpacked root object (which usually is a dictionary).

The fmt is the format of the file and the following values are valid:

The dict_type is the type used for dictionaries that are read from the plist file.

When aware_datetime is true, fields with type datetime.datetime will be created as aware object, with tzinfo as datetime.UTC.

XML data for the FMT_XML format is parsed using the Expat parser from xml.parsers.expat – see its documentation for possible exceptions on ill-formed XML. Unknown elements will simply be ignored by the plist parser.

The parser for the binary format raises InvalidFileException when the file cannot be parsed.

Added in version 3.4.

Changed in version 3.13: The keyword-only parameter aware_datetime has been added.

plistlib.loads(data, *, fmt=None, dict_type=dict, aware_datetime=False)

Load a plist from a bytes or string object. See load() for an explanation of the keyword arguments.

Added in version 3.4.

Changed in version 3.13: data can be a string when fmt equals FMT_XML.

plistlib.dump(value, fp, *, fmt=FMT_XML, sort_keys=True, skipkeys=False, aware_datetime=False)

Write value to a plist file. Fp should be a writable, binary file object.

The fmt argument specifies the format of the plist file and can be one of the following values:

When sort_keys is true (the default) the keys for dictionaries will be written to the plist in sorted order, otherwise they will be written in the iteration order of the dictionary.

When skipkeys is false (the default) the function raises TypeError when a key of a dictionary is not a string, otherwise such keys are skipped.

When aware_datetime is true and any field with type datetime.datetime is set as a aware object, it will convert to UTC timezone before writing it.

A TypeError will be raised if the object is of an unsupported type or a container that contains objects of unsupported types.

An OverflowError will be raised for integer values that cannot be represented in (binary) plist files.

Added in version 3.4.

Changed in version 3.13: The keyword-only parameter aware_datetime has been added.

plistlib.dumps(value, *, fmt=FMT_XML, sort_keys=True, skipkeys=False, aware_datetime=False)

Return value as a plist-formatted bytes object. See the documentation for dump() for an explanation of the keyword arguments of this function.

Added in version 3.4.

The following classes are available:

class plistlib.UID(data)

Wraps an int. This is used when reading or writing NSKeyedArchiver encoded data, which contains UID (see PList manual).

It has one attribute, data, which can be used to retrieve the int value of the UID. data must be in the range 0 <= data < 2**64.

Added in version 3.8.

The following constants are available:


The XML format for plist files.

Added in version 3.4.


The binary format for plist files

Added in version 3.4.


Generating a plist:

import datetime
import plistlib

pl = dict(
    aString = "Doodah",
    aList = ["A", "B", 12, 32.1, [1, 2, 3]],
    aFloat = 0.1,
    anInt = 728,
    aDict = dict(
        anotherString = "<hello & hi there!>",
        aThirdString = "M\xe4ssig, Ma\xdf",
        aTrueValue = True,
        aFalseValue = False,
    someData = b"<binary gunk>",
    someMoreData = b"<lots of binary gunk>" * 10,
    aDate =

Parsing a plist:

import plistlib

plist = b"""<plist version="1.0">
pl = plistlib.loads(plist)