Where to put applications that don't have installer?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by barduck, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. barduck macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010
    Hi all,

    I am new to the Mac so I apologize if this question seems silly or out of context in the OS X world.

    I am trying to figure out how and where to put applications that don't come with an installer. For example, applications that come as a bunch of zipped files/folders or Java applications that come as a .jar file.

    I assume they go into the /Applications folder but then they just lay there without an icon or a simple way to run them. Should I put them somewhere else and create a symlink/alias/whatever in the the application folder? What's the proper Mac way to do this?

    Another example is "mono" application (KeePass). It comes as a bunch of files and I can run it just fine from the terminal with "mono KeyPass.exe" but where should I put this entire folder and how do I create a shortcut/alias for it to easily run it from the applications folder or spotlight?

  2. SandboxGeneral Moderator emeritus


    Sep 8, 2010
    Put them in the Applications folder and then run them from there. Once it shows up in the Dock, you can click and hold on the icon to choose to "Keep in Dock." You can also use Spotlight in the upper right corner to locate apps you want to run.
  3. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    What? Not sure what that means.

    Are you dealing exclusively with Windows compatible applications in this thread?
  4. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010
    I mean, that when I install an application with a dedicated installer, in the /Application folder I get an icon and the name of the application which I can invoke with one click. If I just dump a folder there, I need to go through extra steps to invoke the application (go inside the folder and run whatever executable that runs the app) and there is no Icon I can easily recognize from looking at the application folder.

    It has nothing to do with Windows applications. That was just at example to show that I need a specific command to run the application and I was asking how do I create a simple link/alias/shortcut that I can run this with easily instead of typing the entire command from the terminal each time.

  5. spinnerlys Guest


    Sep 7, 2008
    forlod bygningen
    May we know what specific applications you have problems with?

    As far as I know, some applications are inside a folder, they often don't need to be, especially with drag and drop installations. Other applications - Adobe's for example - need to be inside their folder, though they use an installer to create all that *****.

    In my time, I have come only upon a dozen applications, which can be installed via drag and drop and have a folder inside the Applications folder, if you drag it with.

    Right now, I use either Spotlight or Alfred to start my applications and I have only problems after I installed an application and it hasn't been indexed yet.

    Therefore it would be nice to know what specific application titles you have that strange problem with and if you can take a screenshot or three, that would be nice too.

  6. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010
    It is not a problem with specific applications, I am trying to understand what goes where. I know I can stick these wherever I want and invoke them from there but I want to do it the "right" way, if there is one.

    I already mentioned KeyPass, it is a .NET application that runs under mono on mac, everything it needs resides in its own portable folder but it requires to be invoked with a command (i.e. "mono KeyPass.exe"). I want to know where I should put this folder and how to create a shortcut I can use from the applications folder, dock or run with spotlight.

    Eclipse is another example. It doesn't install itself anywhere, just a folder I need to put somewhere and run the eclipse executable.

    Java apps are another example (like DirSync Pro), where should I put the .jar?

    And I am sure there are dozens of other examples of apps that don't have an installer....
  7. Cougarcat macrumors 604

    Sep 19, 2003
    It doesn't matter. Organize in whatever way works for you. I put everything in /Applications, unless it's a game, in which case it goes in /Games, or if it's a utility, in which case it goes in /apps/utilities.
  8. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    Ok. I don't understand why you are using Terminal to initiate an application. Where do you envision placing a link/alias/shortcut which launches applications?

    As a new Mac user, you are probably accustomed to using Windows terminology, and that's throwing me off a little. In the Mac world, a "shortcut" usually refers to a keyboard, um, well, shortcut. In the Windows world, it's an icon. The alias is the Mac counterpart to the Windows "shortcut". And of course, a link takes you to the Internet.

    You can open the folder your "executable" application is in and make an alias of it. You can then place that alias absolutely anywhere you want to. If you move the original, the alias will track it down and still work. If you delete it, the alias is worthless.

    Someone else suggested placing applications in the Dock. Now, some are given to calling that a "Shortcut" for lack of an officially sanctioned Apple term. If it's a folder, Apple calls that a Stack. (But then gives you a Display option called Folder. I know, makes no sense...) You'll see an icon of any app you have running on the right side of the Dock. Right click on it and choose Keep in Dock, and you'll get another one on the left side. That becomes an "executable" "shortcut". The running icon goes away when you Quit the app (not when you close the app's window - for most apps).
  9. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010
    As I said, I run it from the terminal because I need to invoke a specific command to run it. I can't just run "KeyPass.exe", I need to run "mono KeyPass.exe" and I don't know how to create an alias for that.
  10. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010
    ok, I still don't fully understand it. I will try to better explain myself using some simple examples.

    When I install an application that has a proper installer, lets take Skype for example, It puts everything it needs to run inside a special folder (Skype.app) in Applications. When I open the Applications folder, I only see a single item called "Skype" that has a nice Skype icon which when clicked on, runs the Skype application. Great.

    Now lets take an application that doesn't have an installer, Eclipse for example. When uncompressed, I get a folder called Eclipse that has everything it needs to run Eclipse. If I copy this folder under Applications, I just get a sub folder there that has a folder icon (instead of the eclipse icon) and when clicked, opens the Eclipse folder, then I need to click the Eclipse application inside that folder to run it (an extra step).

    So, my question is where do I put the eclipse folder and how do I make it behave more like Skype?

    Now to the KeePass example - again, I have a folder that I can copy under Applications but it needs a specific command to invoke ("mono KeePass.exe). How do I make KeePass behave like Skype? i.e. have a nice icon in the Applications folder which when clicked on, runs the "mono KeePass.exe" command?

    Hope I made my questions clearer.

  11. Cougarcat macrumors 604

    Sep 19, 2003
    You can make an alias (Command-L) and put it anywhere you want, such as the root Applications folder. Or you can just drag the app icon to the dock. Honestly though, the easiest way to load apps is just to use spotlight. Command+Space + first few letters of the app + return and it's launched.

    I'm unfamiliar with Keepass, but a quick google result found this:

  12. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    Within that folder, make an alias of the app-launching icon. Drag that alias out of the Eclipse folder and dump it in the Applications folder. You can change the name of the alias if you need to and it will still work. This should allow you avoid the extra step.
  13. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010

    For the life of me, I can't figure out how to do this.

    I want to open the executable with mono but when I choose "Open With" and then "Other" and browse to /usr//bin where the mono application is, all the files there are grayed out and can't be selected.

    Same thing if I create an alias for keepass and try to select mono using "Open With", nothing.

    Very frustrating. I find OSX very resistant to the user's wishes, whatever I do.
  14. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    The problem is not MacOS X. The problem is that you have no clue what any of that stuff means. "Opens with" refers to the application that opens a data/document file. If you want to browse an application bundle, then you must "Show Package Contents."
  15. angelwatt Moderator emeritus


    Aug 16, 2005
    If it's of help, keepass has a Mac version called KeepassX, which I use on Mac and Windows. Then you don't need to deal with mono for that.
  16. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010

    Thanks. I know about keepassX but it doesn't support the latest database format (kdbx) and keepass runs very well under mono. I only need to make that annoying alias to work.
  17. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010
    Oh, I beg to differ, I think I have some clue.

    And besides, if you bother to read the entire thread, you will notice I followed the instructions that were suggested here about how to open that executable with mono.

    If you have a solution for how to make an alias that opens it with mono, please share. Thanks.
  18. flat five, Nov 13, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2010

    flat five macrumors 603

    flat five

    Feb 6, 2007

    a few observations about this thread:

    1) a lot of apps come without installers -- your thread topic is misleading because that's not your problem here..

    2) you keep saying you want to make an alias but on mac at least, an alias is simply a 'fake' file that references another.. for instance, you can make a folder in your home folder named 'important shlt' or something.. now, you can make and alias of that folder and place it on your desktop..
    any files that you drop into the alias folder will actually go to the original 'important shlt' folder.. an alias can be viewed as a shortcut to a file.
    [if it helps, consider all the things in your dock as an alias of the actual file]

    3) you're getting the right answers to the wrong questions which is leading to some serious confusion

    4) you'll probably have to write a little script or something to get what you want.. (i'm pretty sure what you want is a neat little icon that you can click on which basically runs the .exe command in the terminal and launches the app..) -- fwiw, launching apps via terminal is nowhere close to standard m.o. on mac.. you're getting into some serious geek territory by wanting to run this stuff on osx..

    5) either get lucky and have someone that actually uses mono (well, i have it for rhino but it's invisible to me) or find a forum that's geekier.. i don't know any but seriously, you'll probably have a much better chance of finding someone that knows what you're trying to do at apple's developer forums..


    good luck
  19. munkery macrumors 68020


    Dec 18, 2006
    Keychain built in to OSX is pretty good. Any reason why Keepass over Keychain? Keepass has AES versus Keychain with 3DES but 3DES still considered secure. Keychain app known for good security.
  20. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010
    The topic was relevant to when I started the thread, then I got some answers and the question evolved to a question about a specific type of app.

    Well, actually, I didn't say I want to make at alias. I said I wanted to launch this custom command (in a way similar to Windows' shortcut links or Gnome's launcher). People here suggested that Alias is what I am looking for so I went down that path.

    My real problem is that I refuse to accept that I can't figure out how to do something that was very simple to do on every OS I worked on since at least Windows 95 (though I am pretty sure it was also possible in Win 3.1).

    It is ok to tell me that what I am trying to achieve is not possible on OSX. It is also fine to say that the proper solution would be to write a shell/python/apple/perl/whatever script if that is the only way to do it, no problem.

    But why would people tell me that I ask the wrong questions or want to do something illegal? What I want to do makes a lot of sense and is very trivial on both Windows as Linux. Is it that awfully wrong for me to expect the same functionality on a yet unfamiliar OS to me that is supposed to be state of the art?

    Again, this is not a problem specific to mono. Mono was just an example. The same issue can come up with any other framework or when there is a need to invoke anything that requires a custom command.

  21. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010
    Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, there are reasons that I insist on KeePass (already have a database I don't want to migrate, I share this database between my other non OSX machines and my phone, etc) but that is beside the point. I an not looking for KeePass replacements, I asked about the right ways to launch it more easily.
  22. rorschach macrumors 68020


    Jul 27, 2003
    I think I understand what you're trying to do. Try this:

    1.) Open "Automator" from the Applications folder.

    2.) Choose the "Application" template.

    3.) In the search field near the top left of the window, type in (without quotes), 'shell.' The list should get filtered down to one action, 'Run Shell Script.'

    4.) Double-click on that 'Run Shell Script.' A box will appear in the right side of the window.

    5.) In that box is a text box that should just have the text 'cat.' Delete that text and replace it with whatever command you want to run, ie 'mono KeyPass.exe' (no quotes) ... but make sure to type in the full path of KeyPass.exe, obviously. You can click the "Run" button at the top to make sure it works.

    6.) File menu > Save As and you get an icon to click to run that command every time.
  23. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010

    A bit clunky but gets the job done.

    Thank you very much.
  24. jthurman Guest

    I'll go ahead and add my two cents. I have been using Mac OS X since 10.1. Automator is more or less a front end to AppleScript. The method presented creates an AppleScript application that uses the "shell" command. A less clunky way is to use the Script Editor to do the same thing, but I believe it is a separate download. You can do a lot with AppleScript so it may be worth the research if you run into this kind of issue a lot.

    As far as the other examples, it depends on what all is in the folder. In the case of Eclipse, I would suggest creating an alias and moving the alias to the /Application folder. What I find with most applications without installers that are decompressed or disk imaged with a sub folder is that most do not need to remain in the sub folder to run. This is because the other files are just documentation, web links and/or templates. I just move the application to the /Applications folder and leave the other stuff in the sub folder within /Applications.

    The original idea was that the applications were suppose to be contained in a "package" folder that showed up as a single icon and therefore could be easily moved to the applications folder. More complex programs could use an installer to move support and library files to the correct locations. This concept got messed up with open source and 3rd party frameworks. In the mac world, the third party framework issue is considered problematic for new users because the application itself should be packaged with the appropriate script to launch the program without the use of the terminal. With KeePass.exe, you are launching a Windows application on Mac. While it is nice to know you can do that now, it is completely alien to most Mac users. That is most likely the reason for the odd answers to the issue.

    I hope this info helps. It's not a matter of Mac OS X being difficult but more of an issue of either easy access to alpha/beta software, developers out of compliance with Apple standards or tricking a Windows app to run in Mac. The answer to your question is suppose to be to run the installer or drag the application to the /Application folder. But that is not the case anymore.
  25. barduck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2010
    Thank you jthurman.

    Your comments make a lot of sense. After years of using and developing on Linux and Windows, I find many features in OSX very hard to accept. The concept of "adapt or struggle" that is so prominent in all Apple products is very alien to me since I always believed a good software should be able to be customized to the user's needs and not force the user to work for it.

    The concept of application bundles is not new and make a lot of sense in a perfect world. It actually works pretty well in newer, more closed and targeted OS's like iOS. I'd argue that it is very short sighted from Apple engineers to expect it to stick in a more general purpose OS like OSX, with a wider target audience ranging from newbies to power users and developers. I assume that the coming Mac app store will contribute to even more applications sticking to this concept.

    But as long as I have an option to make things behave like I need and use to without it disrupting my usual workflow, I can live with that, even if it takes an extra step setting it up.


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