Installing Applications in Mac OS X

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Installing applications on Mac OS X is incredibly easy compared to most platforms. However, the approach taken can be confusing at first for many users.

There are generally three basic steps when installing a piece of software; Acquire, Un-package, Install.

In addition to the instructions presented here, software publishers often provide additional notes with their software that will tell you more about the installation of their products.



First the software must be acquired. It could be downloaded from a Web site or stored on a CD.

Websites such as MacUpdate and VersionTracker can be particularly useful for finding software to download.

The Get Mac Apps tool is a useful first step to perform an automated installation of essential applications, before proceeding with individual installations.


Before any software can be installed, it must first be un-packaged. If you are installing from a CD or some other kind of disk then you can generally just insert the disk into your machine and skip this step.

In order to make a downloaded program smaller, software publishers often compress their programs by packaging them in all manner of ways. Some of these are described below.

ZIP files

Zip files are handled natively by OS X and should appear as in the picture below. To un-package a zip file, simply double-click it and wait for OS X to open it.


Stuffit files

No longer in widespread use, programs may be compressed with StuffIt. These files have a .sit or .sitx extension. Un-packaging these files requires The Unarchiver or StuffIt Expander], which you will need to download if you are running Mac OS X 10.4 or later, otherwise it should already be installed in your applications folder.


Disk images

Disk images are probably the most commonly used method for packaging a program. A disk image can be thought of as the virtual equivalent of a CD. The actual data in the disk image is contained within a single file which will look something like this:


You then "insert," or "mount," the disk image into the machine by double-clicking the file. Having done this, the the disk image will appear as another device in the Finder, as shown in the picture below:


Some disk images are `web-ready', i.e. when downloaded by Safari, they are automatically mounted, and their contents are copied to the download folder (usually the user's Desktop). Then they are unmounted and moved to Trash. The end result is that you have the application on your Desktop, and nothing else. Cool.


The final step of the process is to actually install the software where you want it.

Software publishers will provide the installation of their software by one of two methods. They will either give you the application bundle to install, or provide an installer. Both offer very easy installation.

Application Bundles

Application bundles are generally used for smaller pieces of software, such as simple applications downloaded from the Internet. Here, the software publisher has provided you with the actual program — all you have to do is copy the program to your desired location (usually your Applications folder) and run it. Copying the program is performed simply by using drag and drop. An example of this is shown below:

Image:DragAndDropInstall_1.jpg Image:DragAndDropInstall_2.jpg Image:DragAndDropInstall_3.jpg


More complicated and involved applications such as Apple's iTunes will use an installer to simplify the installation process for you. An installer typically looks something like this:


Simply double-click the installer to launch the installation program and follow the instructions presented to you.

Post Installation

Tidying Up

After you have finished installing the program you should remove the files used for the installation.

If a disk image was used in the installlation process, you should unmount it. This can be done by using the eject icon next to to it in the Finder sidebar as if it were a CD. You can also drag the mounted disk icon to the the Trash, again as if it were a CD.

All other files (including the disk image) can be simply discarded. Either place them in the Trash or back them up somewhere in case you wish to re-install the application in the future.

The Dock

If you want your newly installed software to appear in the Dock, simply drag the application's icon into the left side of the Dock from wherever you have installed the Application. (If you followed the instructions above, it will be in the Applications folder) Another way to add an application to the Dock is, if the program is currently running, control-click its icon in the Dock and select "Keep In Dock" .

Mac App Store

The Mac App Store is an application included with OS X 10.6.6 and later. Many free and paid apps can be installed from the Mac App Store, where the publisher has chosen to use Apple's distribution platform.


Click Install and follow the prompt to sign in to the App Store with your Apple ID. If you are installing a paid app, the cost will be charged to your Apple ID account.

The application will then begin downloading and appear in your Launchpad and /Applications folder. Once downloaded you will be able to run the application.


Apps installed via the Mac App Store can be updated via the Updates section of the app. A badge will show on the App Store icon to show updates are available.


See Also