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The App Remover Codicil

'If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.'
 - Real Hustle tagline

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Some people reading the Learning Curve piece 'Uncle John's Rules for Running Third Party Software' are probably thinking things aren't really as complicated as that article suggests - that there is an ample selection of 'App Zapper', 'App Destroyer', 'App Deleter' utilities available - some even free - that can do the job. That all they have to do is drop the apps they don't want to keep on one of those cute Toy Story animated windows and it's all gone.

They're fools.

There's a good reason the people at this site have never offered such a utility: it just doesn't work. It's a sham - it's fooling consumers into thinking things are easier than they really are. There's been a long line of 'app zappers' over the years and functionally they're identical. They're heuristic too - they do things like using the application's bundle identifier to search common storage locations for related files.

They're generally smart enough to not preempt the user, to merely offer a list of candidates for removal and not without user approval remove them. But they don't monitor running applications - they don't see a mite of what's really going on.

They can get at the basic stuff but no more. They're not a solution.

Uncle John's Rules hinted at well known software titles pulling dirty tricks such as hiding things in property list files that aren't theirs to play with. This is only scratching the surface.

The software review of AppZapper demonstrates this unequivocally - there's a very finite set of locations the application looks and a further finite set of ways to look. It's not going to find everything despite the hype.

The uninstaller Apple forgot.

AppZapper is for people who want to confidently try new apps while knowing they can uninstall them easily. Drag one or more unwanted apps onto AppZapper and watch as it finds all the extra files and lets you delete them with a single click.

Apple didn't forget anything. And you cannot confidently try new apps if all you have is a tool like that.

These 'app remover' utilities are essentially all the same. The algorithm is well known, eminently accessible. The work putting such a program together is more a question of the 'artwork' and 'Disney dazzle' than it is the actual service offered. As soon as people find something else (perhaps for free) they'll jump on it. After a while they'll notice they don't get rid of everything. Then along comes a new rainmaker making the same promises and people will try again.

One of the most recent is AppDelete. AppDelete costs. Rixstep tested AppDelete - by simply copying out an ACP app and seeing what happened. Nothing much happened.

AppDelete suggests files to delete. Epic fail.
CLIX has a dependency - a very important dependency - that AppDelete doesn't find. AppDelete doesn't even ask. Heck, even Microsoft's software removal facility comes off as more sophisticated - flawed but at least more ambitious. By keeping 'usage counts' for dependencies on disk, it can suggest when they be removed if the count should go back down to zero. Nothing that fancy on the Mac.

AppDelete will itself hide things on your hard drive - things it wouldn't itself make an effort to find if you wanted to uninstall.

Does this make AppDelete worthless? You decide. Certainly not more worthless than AppZapper. But are either of them worth it?

Remember Oompa Loompa? That's over four years ago. The app removers were of no help then and they're of no help now.

And what happens if it's the installer script that's the culprit? Are you going to try dropping Apple's Installer.app or the installer package on your app remover?

Mac aren't invulnerable. They're only as safe as their all too complacent users.

See Also
Learning Curve: Son of Input Manager
Developers Workshop: Trojans for Nothing
The Technological: iWork09 @ The Pirate Bay
Industry Watch: The Legend of Oompa Loompa
Industry Watch: These Are Not the Trojans You're Looking For
Radsoft: Uncle John's Rules for Downloading and Running Junkware
Learning Curve: Uncle John's Rules for Running Third Party Software

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