Rebuilding OS X desktop


OK, I'm not sure that's really what I mean, but...

A little background: most OS X applications are "packages"; that is, what seems to be the application icon is really a folder. Inside the folder is the real application and its various resources.

I just had another kernal panic with OS X. (This time was the mail app; IE wasn't running). When I rebooted, OS X had lost the "package" concept from every application. This means that my dock is full of folders. This means when I go to my "Applications" directory, it's full of folders. This means I can't run any applications, just open the folder and look at the mysterious contents.

Does anyone know how to recover from this?
OK, here's how to recover from that situation, should you ever find yourself in it.

Inside your home folder is a Library folder; inside it is a Preferences folder.

Most native OS X apps keep their preferences in "plist" (preferences list?) files, named "<app>.plist". These are simple XML text files.

Delete all plist files associated with the problematic no-longer-seen-as-bundles applications. Reboot. That will do it.

Of course, you'll have to re-establish preferences (like, say, your mail accounts) for the affected programs.