Download vs Install: Macintosh

Many people can be confused by these terms. They go to a web site, press a link to start a download, and see a progress bar. A message will tell them that it is finished. But then they wonder why the program isn’t working yet.

Strictly speaking, download means to copy a computer file from a remote computer to the one you are working at. The download ends when the entire file is now on your hard drive somewhere. But the program is not ready to work yet. There is more to be done, but it may not be much more on Max OS X.

First of all, to be clear, this article applies to OS X on a laptop, iMac, Mac Mini, or Mac Pro. An iPhone or iPad runs on iOS and you get your apps through the app store.  You can also get Mac OS X apps from the app store.  In this case, the download IS also the install.

For OS X the dominant form of download for a program is a dmg file.  When opened, it generates a disk image. It is represented by a white drive icon in the Finder.  Inside of the disk image will be either the app itself or an installation program.

Double-clicking the installer program – often represented by a box-like icon – will initiate the install. You follow the steps, including agreeing to the license.  So far, I have never seen one of these offer extra programs, as I warned about in the article Program Installs.

The real Mac magic happens when you get the app itself in the disk image.  In this case all that is needed is to copy the app to your application folder.  The app developer often simplifies this by providing an alias to Applications with the app in the disk image.  All that is needed is to drag the app and drop it on the shortcut.  It’s as simple as it gets.

Well, almost.  Mac installs rarely put an alias for the program on your desktop.  You have to open the Applications folder, make the alias, and drag it to your desktop. Or better yet, just drag it to your taskbar to put a startup icon there, keeping your desktop clear.

Good luck and enjoy your new programs.  The web has a lot to offer.

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