Xcode project files can get messy as projects grow in size and complexity. The complexity is increased when there are multiple environments or configurations, each with unique settings. Xcconfig files are a way to manage this complexity. Let’s dive into understanding how to use Xcconfig files in Xcode projects.

What is an Xcconfig file?

An Xcconfig, or Xcode configuration file, is a plain text file used by Xcode to externalize configuration settings for build systems. These files use the .xcconfig file extension and can contain build settings, variable declarations, comments, etc.

They act as a centralized place for managing build settings across different build configurations and targets, leading to cleaner project files and more consistency across your project.

Creating an Xcconfig file

Creating an Xcconfig file in Xcode is simple. Navigate to File > New > File (or use the shortcut Command + N), then select Configuration Settings File under the Other category.

After creating the file, you can define your build settings using the format <KEY> = <VALUE>. For example:


This line sets the DEBUG flag to 1 for the preprocessor and includes any inherited preprocessor definitions with $(inherited).

Linking Xcconfig to your Project

To use an Xcconfig file, you need to link it to your project or target. Navigate to your project settings, select your target or project, and under the Info tab, you’ll see Configurations. Here you can assign your Xcconfig files to different build configurations.

Inheritance and Layering

One powerful feature of Xcconfig files is their ability to layer and inherit settings from other Xcconfig files.

To include one Xcconfig file in another, you can use the #include directive followed by the path to the file you want to include:

#include "Base.xcconfig"

The included file’s settings can then be overridden or extended in the current file. For example, if Base.xcconfig has the setting GCC_PREPROCESSOR_DEFINITIONS = DEBUG=0, you could override this setting in the current file:



Xcconfig files also support variable definitions. You can define a variable using the same <KEY> = <VALUE> syntax and then reference that variable elsewhere in the file using $(<KEY>) syntax.

For example:


Here, MY_CUSTOM_FLAG is defined and then used to set OTHER_CFLAGS.


The use of Xcconfig files offers several benefits:

  • Centralized Configuration: Xcconfig files provide a centralized place to manage project settings, reducing clutter in project files.
  • Version Control: Being plain text files, Xcconfig files work well with version control systems, making it easier to track changes over time.
  • Consistency: Xcconfig files promote consistency across your project by allowing you to define settings in one place and use them across multiple targets or build configurations.


Xcconfig files are a powerful tool for managing complex Xcode projects, providing a more flexible and manageable approach to configuring build settings. By centralizing configuration, they make it easier to maintain consistent settings across different targets and build configurations.