An unexpected search tool: AppZapper

I am aware that it’s not the only software in its category, but when people ask me for suggestions about utilities for uninstalling applications, my recommendation has always been AppZapper. Not only because there’s still an older version of it that works under Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, but also because, if you’re using Snow Leopard, AppZapper has a very interesting feature besides zapping your unwanted applications: a search tool menacingly called Hit List.

When opened, AppZapper’s primary interface is unassuming. Just drag the application you want to uninstall and it’ll be gone in a click.

But when you click on the switch on the upper right corner, you’ll be presented with the powerful, flexible Hit List feature.

I like the fact that it has Spotlight-like filters. You can begin to type the name of the application you’re searching for, or you can just ask AppZapper to show you, say, all applications that are bigger than 20 MB, not used in the Last Month, and have them sorted by Size. It’s really useful to have a glance at your usage patterns, in a way, because you might realise (as I did) that if you haven’t used certain programs for over 9 months, for instance, maybe they’re not that useful or essential to deserve space on your main hard drive. Yes, they might be old games you keep there for the occasional distraction (hey there Quake II), but also applications you downloaded on a whim, tried once or twice and forgot they were even there. That’s what happened to me, considering that when I bought my MacBook Pro I migrated a lot of old stuff from the 12-inch PowerBook G4.

Yes, I haven’t opened Automator in a year…

So yes, the primary function of this tool is to help you search and destroy a certain application and its whole ‘family’ of preference and library/support files, but I’m using it more and more often just to quickly find those files when I need to erase or modify them, without necessarily getting rid of a piece of software. I know where they’re located and could get to them via the Finder, but with AppZapper it’s a matter of a couple of clicks. Also, I can see at a glance whether there are related files (like caches) I may not be aware of. With AppZapper’s clean and efficient interface, it’s really a breeze.

For example, not too long ago, I was mildly annoyed by the fact that Tweetie kept showing outdated avatars of the people I followed. I used AppZapper to quickly reach Tweetie’s preference file, and thanks to its search tool I found out an interesting detail:

Things you discover during an investigation…

…which is the presence of two cache files (the ones with the clipboard icon), located in [my hard drive]/Users/[my Home folder]/Library/Caches. With a click on the small magnifying glass, I could instantly reach the two folders containing them, and delete the com.atebits.tweetie.profile-images folder, obviously after quitting Tweetie. I then reopened Tweetie and the avatar issue was solved (deleting the cache, the application was forced to re-download the most updated versions of the avatars).

It may be a silly example, but the point is that AppZapper is a fast search tool not only for a certain app’s location, but also for all its related files. How many times have you wanted to just get rid of a program’s preference file because the program was acting up, but you couldn’t find it in a timely fashion? If you’re like me, your Preferences folder inside your Home/Library folder contains thousands of files, and sometimes an application’s preference file name isn’t that easy to spot in a sea of files. Or maybe the file you need to manually edit or just examine isn’t even there but in one of the Application Support folders located in [hard drive]/Library/ or [hard drive]/Users/[username]/Library/. Or it’s a cache located in another place altogether. In these cases, I’ve found AppZapper to be the fastest search tool at hand. I’d love if Spotlight incorporated something like this, especially for reverse searches; that is: “Does the file com.mscape.iconographer.plist still have the application that originated it and other related files/caches, or not?”

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About Riccardo Mori

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!