Do you have tons of apps installed on your Mac, some of which you’ve totally forgotten about? You can take stock of them and keep a reference list of every program on your system in just a few moments.
Let’s take a look at several ways you can generate a list of installed applications on your Mac.
Why Would I Want a List of Installed Apps?
There are several reasons why it’s a good idea to create a list of your apps:
Here’s how to see the installed apps on your Mac.
1. List All Apps Using Finder and TextEdit
All apps that come bundled with a new Mac, plus apps you installed through both the App Store and most package managers, are in the Applications folder.
You can easily generate a list of all apps in the Applications folder using Finder and TextEdit. To begin, open Finder and hit Cmd + Shift + A to jump to the Applications folder.
If you’re not currently viewing the contents of the Applications folder as a list, press Cmd + 2 or go to View > as List.
Some apps are in subfolders in the Applications folder. To display apps in subfolders, expand the folders you’d like to include by clicking on the triangle icon to the left of the folder.
Once you’ve expanded all the folders you want, hit Cmd + A to select all the items in the Applications folder. Then press Cmd + C to copy the list.
Open a new document in TextEdit. Then go to Edit > Paste and Match Style, or hit Cmd + Option + Shift + V.
All the apps in Finder’s Applications folder, including apps in expanded folders, will paste as a list into the TextEdit file. Some of the files in the subfolders may not be apps. You can go through the list and delete any files that do not end in .app.
Hit Cmd + S to save this file as either a TXT or RTF file. You should copy this file to an external or network drive so it’s available even if you can’t access your current machine.
2. List All Apps Using the Terminal
On a Mac, you can also use the Terminal to list all your installed applications. Launch a Terminal window (from Applications > Utilities or using Spotlight search with Cmd + Space) and type the following command at the prompt:
ls -la /Applications/ > /Users/[USERNAME]/InstalledApps/InstalledAppsTerminal.txt
This generates a detailed directory listing of the Applications folder and writes it to a text file at the path specified. Make sure to replace [USERNAME] with yours, and feel free to change the path and file name if you like.
The -la attributes tells the system to show a detailed list of all files in the folder (-l), including hidden files (-a). This provides a more detailed list than the Finder and TextEdit method discussed in the previous section.
3. List All APP Files Everywhere Using Terminal
Sometimes apps install in locations other than the Applications folder, especially if you download apps from outside the App Store. In this case, you can generate a list of apps installed anywhere for any user and in any folder using a command in the Terminal.
Launch a Terminal window (Applications > Utilities or using Spotlight) and type the following command at the prompt:
sudo find / -iname '*.app' > /Users/[USERNAME]/InstalledApps/InstalledAppsOnSystemTerminal.txt
This finds any APP file on your system, ignoring case (-iname), and sends the results to the specified text file. Remember to replace [USERNAME] with yours and change the path and file name if you wish.
You can also limit the results to a specific folder by replacing the slash (/) after find with the path to the folder to search.
There’s a chance you’ll see some Operation not permitted messages. This is because the find command searches the entire system, and some areas of the system don’t allow access. You may also see the Not a directory message. Don’t worry about either of these—you’ll still get a list of the APP files on your system.
The list includes the full path to each file.
4. List All Mac App Store Apps Using Terminal
You might want to know which apps you’ve installed just from the Mac App Store. To generate this list, launch a Terminal window (Applications > Utilities or Spotlight search) and type the following command at the prompt:
find /Applications -path '*Contents/_MASReceipt/receipt' -maxdepth 4 -print |sed 's#.app/Contents/_MASReceipt/receipt#.app#g; s#/Applications/##'
This command looks in the Applications folder, then goes into the receipts folder for each app (which is in the package contents of every app) to see which have a receipt from the Mac App Store.
The results of the search are listed in the Terminal window. To save the list to a text file, select the list of APP files and copy it (Cmd + C). Then you can paste it into a document in TextEdit or another document app, and save the list.
Back Up Your Mac App Lists
With the methods we discussed, you could get up to four different lists of apps. So it’s probably a good idea to use multiple methods to generate more than one list of apps when you need to check the installed software on your Mac.
Remember to store your lists of apps on an external or network drive so you have it when setting up your new Mac or the reinstalled system on your current Mac. Text files are a good choice of format for your lists. Since TextEdit or any other text editor can read them, you won’t need to install special software.
If you need to flesh out your list of installed apps, check out our guide to the best Mac apps
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