Unable to save TextEdit files

You don't have permission
I use TextEdit rather than Microsoft Word or another program to create drafts of text and email documents and have noticed that under Sierra 10.12 (and perhaps in Yosemite 10.11) that I would periodically be greeted with a popup window that informed me that I didn’t have permission to save the text file that I was working on. It seemed very peculiar that I would be blocked by a file permissions issue, since I was logged into my Mac using my administrator account.

The problem would take one of two forms: the error message would suddenly appear when I was trying to save a brand new text file, or when I was trying to edit an existing file that I had saved earlier. Moreover, I noticed that the popup message would tend to appear after I had been using TextEdit for an extended period (say, for 4-6 hours or more).

Trying to save the TextEdit file to a different folder would fail repeatedly. What was mysterious was that I could copy-and-paste (or import) the same text file or information into Microsoft Word and Word would allow me to save it as a .docx file into the same location that TextEdit had rejected only minutes before.

A standard procedure that I had been using whenever this type of problem occurred in the past was to reboot my Mac. However, I sought to come up with an alternative technique that I could use whenever I was multitasking between many programs (such as having multiple browser windows open simultaneously) and found it inconvenient to reboot.

I stumbled upon the solution when I stopped to consider how I resolved similar issues from the distant past. A plist (property list) file contains setup and configuration information about a particular application, and I speculated whether my user account’s copy of the plist file associated with TextEdit was corrupted.

Closing the problematic application, deleting the corrupt plist file, and relaunching the application is a common method used to fix startup problems such as the one I was experiencing. The trick here is in knowing where to find TextEdit’s plist file.

Mac OS X is automatically configured with three folders that are named Library. The one I was interested in was linked to my user account (I didn’t want to mess with the other two). By default, the Library folder is hidden to prevent users from deleting critical files that are needed to run applications and the operating system. Revealing my user account’s Library folder – which is what I wanted to see – requires these steps:

Using Finder's Go Library Function

• Open a Finder window (or click anywhere on the Mac desktop).
• Select Go from the Finder menu, then hold down the Shift key, which will temporarily reveal an item called Library from the drop down menu.
• Still holding down the Shift key, move your mouse cursor to Library, then select it. A new Finder window will appear on your screen.
• Navigate down the Library folder until you see a folder named Preferences, then click it to make Preferences your focus.

Finder search for Preferences folder

In the Finder window, click “Preferences” that appears on the Search menu bar (next to This Mac), then enter textEdit in the oblong-shaped search window located in the upper right corner of the screen. Doing so should reveal the location of a file called com.apple.TextEdit.plist. Make sure that you’ve closed the TextEdit application, then trash this plist file. Emptying the trash is an option, but is not required. Relaunching TextEdit recreates the plist file and you should be good-to-go.

Instead of using the Search function, you can also navigate the Finder to locate and trash the problematic plist file. Just follow this hierarchical path:


If you find this tip useful, feel free to share and leave a comment.



Filed under Apple Software, Troubleshooting

17 responses to “Unable to save TextEdit files

  1. Carolyn Mitchell

    Addendum – can’t find it but have now been able to save from TextEdit. Thanks for your help.

  2. not-the-admin

    Hi Carolyn, over time, this plist file will be recreated in your personal Library folder. So, when you run into this same problem in the future, look for it there.

  3. Very Helpful. Problem solved.

  4. Olga

    Thank you very much, this resolved the issue for me!

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