Extract and Explore an iOS App in Mac OS X
You can find some interesting things in iOS apps that you’ve downloaded from the App Store, all you need to do is extract the file from its container and then you’re free to browse around like any other application package.
This works with any iPhone or iPad app, and you’ll obviously need a Mac with OS X and iTunes. Here is how to do the rest and explore what’s inside of an iOS application package.
How to Extract and Explore Contents of iOS apps within Mac OS X
We’ll use iBooks.app as an example:
- Launch iTunes and click on “Apps”
- Select the app you want to extract and right-click on it, select “Show in Finder”
- You’ll see an .ipa file in the Finder, make a copy of that file to the desktop by holding down Option and dragging it there
- Rename the .ipa file extension to .zip (in this case, iBooks.ipa to iBooks.zip), ignore the warning and click to confirm the .zip extension
- Now double-click on the .zip file to extract it’s contents, it will open like any standard archive
- Open the newly extracted directory and open “Payload” within that
- Right-click on the app name (iBooks.app) and select “Show Package Contents”
- Explore the contents of the iOS app, it’ll look like the screenshot at the very top of this post showing AngryBirds Lite
You can find a lot of interesting stuff in these iOS apps and the process is the same regardless of an app being for iPhone or iPad, so have fun. Just be sure to make a backup so you don’t mess up the app, although you can always re-download it if you do.
This gives you an inside look into what’s part of an iOS app or game, including artwork, plist files, bundles, various data files and code signatures, package info files, binaries, and much more. You won’t find code in here though if you’re particularly adept in assembly and reverse engineering you may be able to wrangle additional tidbits out of the .ipa and .app files.
Note that in the newest version of iTunes, the “Apps” section is a subsection accessible via the menu of iTunes. You can still access the application .app and .ipa files directly from the Finder of OS X too, however.
Speaking of extractions, you can also extract from a .pkg package file too, if you’re interested.