How to List All Applications on a Mac
Need to know what applications are on any Mac? Mac OS offers a variety of ways to list apps that are installed on a Mac, and we’ll cover three different approaches to this: a basic listing of installed Mac apps which is sufficient for most user needs, an intermediate and more thorough listing of apps and software found in Mac OS, and finally, an advanced approach that is completely all-inclusive, making it possible to discovery every single app found anywhere in the file system.
Each of these methods for listing Mac apps will work with any version of MacOS and Mac OS X.
Basic: Visit the /Applications/ Folder in Mac OS X to See Installed Mac Apps
The simplest approach to see what apps are on a Mac is to visit the /Applications folder, this will show all apps that users have installed through the App Store, that came bundled with the Mac, and that have been installed through most package managers, and by user drag & drop. For the vast majority of purposes and for most user levels, this is adequate to list what apps are on a Mac:
- From the Mac Finder, hit Command+Shift+A to jump to the /Applications folder
- Pull down the View menu and choose “List” to scroll through an easy to read list of all apps in the Applications folder
Visiting Launchpad can also serve to list apps for novice users, though the /Applications/ folder in list view is easier to scan for many users.
Recall that you can easily save lists of folders, including what’s within the Applications folder, into a text file by using this trick, this may be helpful for troubleshooting purposes.
The Applications folder can be helpful when determining which apps are OK to force quit, and it can also be used to uninstall apps either by manually removing them, or by using a tool like AppCleaner to delete the app and all associated components that reside elsewhere in the filesystem.
Intermediate: List Every Application on the Mac from System Information
Going beyond what applications are stored within the /Applications/ folder, Mac users can also use the System Information app to list every app residing in Mac OS X. This is intermediate to advanced, because this list does not just show end-user apps. Instead, this will include many system apps that come bundled with a Mac that have no obvious enduser purpose, performing a wide variety of system activities and functions. Absolutely do not delete or modify any of these applications unless you know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it – you could easily break MacOS or lose data.
- Option+click on the Apple menu and choose ‘System Information’ (called ‘System Profiler’ in earlier releases of Mac OS)
- From the side menu, look under ‘Software’ and choose “Applications”
You’ll find columns for application name, version, and where the app was obtained from, and a modification date. Clicking on an individual listing will show if the app is signed, its location in the file system of Mac OS X, and the Get Info string data.
Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, do not attempt to modify any application based on this list. Many apps that are required by Mac OS X or other applications will be listed here that are not intended to be interacted with by end users.
Advanced: Find Every Application (.app) Anywhere on the Mac via Command Line
For advanced users and forensic purposes, you can also use the find tool to search for every single .app file (application package) residing anywhere for any user and in any folder on a Mac by turning to the command line. The syntax to perform this is as follows, sudo is used to search all system and user directories:
sudo find / -iname *.app
The output can be a bit of a firehose as there are tons of .app files contained throughout MacOS X from the root directory out, so you may want to redirect the results into a text file or limit the search to a specific directory for more manageable results.
sudo find / -iname *.app > ~/Desktop/EveryMacDotApp.txt
You can narrow down the search by pointing find at a specific directory or user account if need be.
If any of these lists are too detailed or inclusive, you can also turn to the command line to list all apps downloaded from the Mac App Store, which offers a much more limited result when compared to the methods outlined above.
There are other ways to list apps and software found throughout Mac OS X, but the methods above should be sufficient for most user needs. If you have a particularly handy approach that you want to share, do let us know in the comments. Oh, and if you’re an iOS user, don’t feel left out, you can use a a simple Spotlight trick to see every app on an iPhone or iPad.