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The Pane Applications

Introduction to application features

The pane Applications allows you to perform advanced operations on Mac OS X applications or similar software components, e.g. plug-ins or screen savers. The following features are available:

Let TinkerTool System search for components

For the features where you have to select the right application yourself, it is possible to let TinkerTool System search for software components automatically, offering the potential candidates for the operation in question. The found components will be listed in a table with their names, icons, paths, version numbers, and the dates of last usage. You can then choose one of the candidates, and it will appear in the selection field of the operation. TinkerTool System can search for the following categories of software:

To use the search, perform the following steps:

  1. Select one of the tab items of the pane Applications.
  2. Set or remove the check marks (Available for) where the search should be performed. You can select the private home folder of the current user account (User), the folders offering software for all users of the current computer (This Computer), or the item Mac OS X Network to search in the shared Applications and Library folders of a Mac OS X Server used as a central repository for that purpose. On the pane Code Thinning, the options and the search button (see next step) will only become visible after clicking the Search icon (the magnifying glass) below the table.
  3. Open the pop-up-button Search components and select one the software categories.
  4. TinkerTool System will begin the search and list the found components in a table. You can select one of them and press the OK button even when the search is still running.

Uninstallation Assistant

Applications that strictly comply with Apple’s software design guidelines for Mac OS X and don’t need to be deeply integrated into the operating system, are usually installed by a simple “drag and drop” operation. This means no actual installation is necessary, you just drag the application icon into one of your application folders and can launch it immediately.

For “Apps” bought from the Mac App Store, new, modified rules apply: Apps are installed automatically and —as of Mac OS X Lion or later— they should be removed with the Launchpad application only.

However, Mac OS X automatically creates additional files when you work with a new application, for example files to store the personal preference settings for each user, or cache folders for download files, when applications are accessing the Internet to search for automatic updates, etc. You can simply “uninstall” a drag-and-drop application by dragging its icon to the Trash. This won’t remove all the aforementioned other support files, however. This is were the uninstallation assistant of TinkerTool System can help.

Uninstallation assistant
Uninstallation assistant

This feature automatically assists you in identifying all other components that might have been created by the application you want to remove. You can let TinkerTool System automatically remove the other files and folders as well, cleaning the entire computer. There are in fact four different levels of clean-up you can choose from:

  1. You can restrict the search to components which have been created for your user account only.
  2. You can search for components that have been installed for “computer-wide” usage by all users of the local computer and the personal items of your user account.
  3. You can search for components which have been installed as personal items for all user accounts known to the local computer, including components which have been installed for computer-wide usage.
  4. You can additionally include items which have been installed for “network-wide” usage. This is useful if you are using a central software distribution server and the management features of Mac OS X Server which store information in the /Network/Applications and /Network/Library folders.

Attention If you are using the search levels (3) or (4), TinkerTool System will allow you to delete files and folders which are owned by other users. This is a dangerous option which should be used by experienced system administrators only. Please verify each object carefully before you are actually going to delete it.

There are applications which completely hide where and how they store the data or documents you create when using that application (“shoebox apps”). Other applications may give you a choice to define individual file names for documents, but also use their own private area to store the files. Please keep in mind that the user documents created by such applications will be removed as well when you perform an uninstallation.

Before any object is removed, TinkerTool System will list each affected item. You can then decide for each single object whether you actually want to remove it. Perform the following steps:

  1. Open the tab item Uninstallation Assistant in the pane Applications.
  2. Drag the icon of the program you like to remove from the Finder into the field Select application or software component to remove. You can also click the button […] to navigate to the object, or click on the white area to enter the UNIX path of the object. You can also let TinkerTool System search for candidates using the feature mentioned in the section above.
  3. If an application was selected, you have to choose between one of the four possible search levels discussed above, using the buttons at Deletion Level. This step is not necessary if you have selected a component which is not an application.
  4. Press the button Prepare removal….

Note that nothing is going to be removed yet. TinkerTool System will always analyze your selection first and display the items which would be affected. The program will begin to search for these objects after you have pressed the Prepare removal button. You can interrupt and cancel the search at any time by pressing the STOP button which will appear while the search is running. Note that a search run can take several minutes if your computer or your network hosts a high number of user accounts and you have selected one of the search levels affecting each user.

After the search has ended, all candidates for possible removal will be listed in a table. The table contains the following columns:

The total number of selected objects and the total storage size is displayed right under the table. The two buttons in the lower left corner allow you to select

TinkerTool System does not allow you to bypass the security features of Mac OS X. Although this feature allows you to delete objects owned by other users, you cannot use it to spy out the contents of private files. For this reason, it is not possible to display detail information of files which are neither owned by you or by the operating system, or to move items to the Trash for which you don’t have access.

The selected objects will be removed when you press the Remove button. All objects remain untouched when pressing the Cancel button.

TinkerTool System automatically creates a detailed report on the components you are removing. It will be displayed after and while the removal takes place. After the operation has been completed, you can either save the report to a text file or print it by pressing the respective buttons in the report sheet.

The list of objects suggested for removal is computed according to Apple’s software design guidelines for Mac OS X. Please note that a few applications may not be fully compliant with these guidelines. In this case, the list of removal candidates might not be complete.This means there could be objects which have been created by the application in question, but have been omitted in the list. It could also occur (although this is very unlikely) that objects are included in the list but have actually not been created by the selected application, so they should not be deleted. Please verify each object carefully before using the removal function.

If you are removing an application which is member of your list of login items, it will be removed from the list as well without reporting this in the table of deletion candidates. For technical reasons, this clean-up is limited to the current user, even if you had selected a search level including all users.

TinkerTool System contains several security features that prevent you from removing important parts of the system. You cannot remove components which are official part of Mac OS X. You also cannot remove applications which are currently running on the local computer.

Attention You should never use this function for software components which have not been installed by a drag-and-drop operation. Applications that came with their own installers or have been using the Mac OS X Installer, which includes Apps from the Mac App Store, usually had a technical reason to do so. In this case it is very likely that more than the usual components have been installed in the system, so they are not following the rules for self-contained applications. The Uninstallation Assistant cannot work as designed in that case. You should remove such applications following the instructions of their vendors.

If you are using Mac OS X Lion or later, Apps bought from the Mac App Store should be removed with the Launchpad application which is part of the operating system.

Code Thinning

All versions of Mac OS X support a file format which allows computer software to support more than one processor type. For example, there can be an application which contains code support for G3 and G4 PowerPC processors, an optimized 64-bit version for the G5 processor, as well as support for 32 bit and 64 bit Intel processors which are used in all new Macintosh systems. Software components supporting multiple processor architectures in one single file are called “fat”. Components which support both PowerPC and Intel chips are sometimes also said to be “Universal”. TinkerTool System allows you to selectively remove support for processor architectures you don’t really need in your environment, a procedure called thinning. So you could for example remove support for all PowerPC processor series in a given application because this is no longer needed in Mac OS X 10.6 and later.

Code thinning
Code thinning

Thinning a software component will reduce the amount of storage space needed to store it. However, you should consider that you will be losing some flexibility when you thin an application: You can no longer transfer this application to any other Macintosh system, only to Macintosh systems which are using the same processor architecture. It would also be a bad idea to thin components on a network file server which is accessed by client computers having different processor types.

You should also not overestimate the amount of storage space you will be saving. The machine code contained in a software product is usually only a minor part of it. The largest amount of storage space is typically consumed by the application’s resources, like image and sound files, reference manuals, or example documents. So if you are going to remove one CPU architecture in a two-architecture product, you can never expect to save 50%.

TinkerTool System can display which architectures are supported in a specified component. It can also pre-compute the storage space you will be saving before you perform the actual thinning operation. To test a specific component, perform the following steps:

  1. Select the tab item Code Thinning in the pane Applications.
  2. Drag the software component you like to have tested into the table. You can also press the button [+] to navigate to the object, or press the button with the magnifying class to let TinkerTool System search automatically for candidates, as outlined at the beginning of this chapter.

After adding an item to the table, TinkerTool System will automatically analyze whether it is possible and useful to thin the code parts. The results will be displayed after a few seconds:

Typical symbols used in the column Status are:

By adding items to the table, you are automatically preselecting them for a code thinning operation which can be performed later. You can remove selected items from the table any time by pressing the button [—]. To remove all items, press the button Remove all.

If you drag a folder into the table, TinkerTool System will automatically add all software components it finds in that folder and all its subfolders. This operation might take some minutes and cannot be interrupted for technical reasons.

The computation how much storage space will be gained by code thinning is done based on a currently selected list of architectures that should be removed when found. The list of architectures can be controlled with the elements found in the lower left corner of the window, in the box Select the architectures to keep.

The architecture of your current computer will automatically be pre-selected the first time the pane is opened. Note that the list of known processor architectures can include code support for processors which are no longer in use by Apple, or are currently not found in publicly available products by Apple.

Processor architectures
Processor architectures

After the table contains all objects for which you like to perform a code thinning operation, press the button Prepare Thinning… at the lower right corner of the window. You don’t need to remove items from the table for which TinkerTool System has rejected code thinning (the items with the red cross marker). TinkerTool System will do this automatically and informs you with an additional dialog what it has done, asking for confirmation.

When the final list of items is complete, a summary panel will inform you

The panel additionally offers two important options:

There are some applications which are using third-party self-monitoring or self-repair features in addition to the code-signing safety checks already provided by Mac OS X. Such applications may refuse to run if they detect they have been changed. For this reason, the backup option can be helpful. It is your own responsibility to create and remove backup copies.

Attention Warning: You should also avoid to apply the thinning procedure on applications which produce program code themselves. The applications could lose their ability to create code for Macintosh systems with different processor types. This includes developer tools, programs which patch other programs, and applications that create installers or self-extracting archives.

To start the actual code thinning operation, press the button Perform thinning in the summary sheet.

Prepare thinning
Prepare thinning

TinkerTool System will automatically create a log file which helps you to track which applications you have thinned at which date. The log is stored in the private home folder of your current user account. Each entry in the log contains the following items:

To review the log entries, press the button Open History in the pane. A table will appear which can be sorted by each of its columns. The log can also be shown, printed or saved as a plain text file. To open it, press the button Display as textual report in the log sheet.

Bound Documents

When Apple created the classic Macintosh system, they introduced a special marker for each document file, the so-called creator code, used to store which application has created that document. Evaluating this information when double-clicking a file, the system could “know” which application was the right one to choose when opening the file later. This technique was a good idea 25 years ago, where nearly all programs used proprietary document formats, so you could typically open a particular document with one specific application only. In later years however, when standardized file formats emerged and it become customary to share documents with other users on other computers, the strategy to always prefer such strongly bound applications became less and less user-friendly. For example, when sending a document by e-mail to another user, the receiving user might have been confronted with the possibly wrong error message that the file cannot be opened if she didn’t have the very same software on her computer that was used to create that document.

In the recent years, a new technology based on so-called Uniform Type Identifiers (UTIs) has become part of Mac OS X. This technology allows a much finer analysis which application should be preferred when opening a document. It automatically adapts to the software installed and is capable of choosing the “best” application in any case, respecting both file type and creator of each document.

Bound documents
Bound documents

Because creator codes have been superseded by UTIs, Mac OS X no longer respects creator codes when opening documents as of Snow Leopard and later system versions. However, you may still be forced to use old documents and applications which do not support the modern technologies yet. In this case, the feature Bound Documents can help. It simply imitates the behavior of the classic Mac OS, preferring the creator when choosing the application for each file. Perform the following steps to open documents this way:

  1. Open the tab item Bound Documents in the pane Applications.
  2. Drag one or more documents from the Finder into the field Drag document(s) to open here.

TinkerTool System will open all documents if possible, hereby respecting and preferring the creator information. The result of each selection and open operation will be listed in the field Launch report.