Modify how OS X reports crashes

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If you’ve ever had an OS X application quit on you, you’ve probably seen the CrashReporter dialog box—even if you didn’t recognize it as such at the time. The CrashReporter dialog box gives you the option to close the dialog box, reopen the program in question, or report the problem to Apple. While this is handy, there are times when you might want either more or less information regarding a crashed application. Ted Landau showed you how to do this using Property List Editor, one of Apple's Developer Tools installed from your Tiger installation DVD. Here we’ll use Terminal to do the same thing more quickly and explain a couple of additional reporting options available.

Tell me more!

If you’re trying out a piece of beta software, or working with a particularly troublesome piece of code, you might want to see more information than CrashReporter typically displays. To do this, open Terminal (/Applications/Utilities) and type this command, then press Return:

defaults write DialogType developer

This command sets a hidden preference for OS X’s CrashReporter dialog. CrashReporter will now display the more detailed “developer” version of the dialog box when applications crash. This affects all programs launched after you run the command; you don’t need to restart or logout. Here’s an example of what you might see:

While this information may not be meaningful to most of us, it could help the developer figure out what’s causing the crash.

Tell me less!

There may be times when you don’t want any notification of an application crash—if you’ve left your Mac running, for instance, you might not want a crash dialog box to pop up and sit onscreen until you return to clear it. Or you might get tired of all the crash messages that come with beta software. To remove the CrashReporter dialog box entirely, use this command in the Terminal:

defaults write DialogType server

This changes the CrashReporter setting to “server” mode; you won’t see the dialog box at all. Instead, all crash data will be written into a CrashReporter log file, which you can then browse using the Console program (in Applications/Utilities).

Back to normal

If, after reflection, you’d like to get back to the simplistic CrashReporter dialog box, enter this command in the Terminal:

defaults write DialogType basic

With three different settings for the CrashReporter dialog box, hopefully there’s one here that meets your needs.

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