TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Ship It! Distributing Your Software

Volume Number: 20 (2004)
Issue Number: 1
Column Tag: Programming

Mac OS X Programming Secrets

by Scott Knaster

Ship It! Distributing Your Software

Here's a twist: let's assume your world-changing Mac OS X application is finished, documented, freshly painted, and ready to go out into the world. What are you going to do now? Why, you need to distribute your software, of course. We're going to take a couple of columns to look at how you get your software out into the world and installed on happy Macs everywhere.

There are two ways you can distribute your software: as a disk image, or wrapped in an installer. Mac OS X comes with Apple-supplied tools you can use to create both kinds of distributions, whether your software is going to get to users on a CD or via the Internet. In this month's column, we're going to cover the first kind of distribution: disk images.

In Your Image

If your software has just an application bundle to install, maybe along with some documentation or a couple of other ancillary files, you should consider providing drag-and-drop installation with a disk image. A disk image is simply a file that contains an encoded representation of a disk volume. Mac OS X can turn a disk image into something that looks exactly like a mounted volume. When you distribute a disk image online with your application on it, your users can download the disk image, have OS X mount it like a disk, then just drag your application from the volume and drop it on their own disks. You can also use a disk image to create CDs to distribute. When users get the CDs, they can drag and drop to install in the same way.

Writing and testing your software is hard - making a disk image that includes your software is very easy. When you're ready to start messing around with disk images, launch Disk Utility, which you'll find in the /Applications/Utilities/ folder. (If you're using Mac OS 10.2, use Disk Copy instead - the disk image creation features are in there. They're very similar to those in Disk Utility, but not identical. As a MacTech reader, we trust you can adapt.)

Note that even though Apple replaced the features of Disk Copy with Disk Utility in 10.3, not all of Disk Copy's features made it in. In particular, Disk Copy provided more options for your disk image format, and Disk Copy let you create an image from a folder by dragging the folder in (Disk Utility lets you do this via a menu item). Maybe these features will be revived in future versions of Disk Utility.

To make your new disk image, click New Image in the toolbar. You'll see a sheet like the one in Figure 1. Give your disk image a pleasant name. For the Size popup, choose a size that's big enough to hold the software you're going to put on it. It's OK if the virtual disk is way too big - if you're going to distribute it via the Internet, you can compress it later, so unused space won't be wasted. Leave the Encryption and Format settings as they are, and click Create. Disk Utility will show you a little progress dance, and then voila! You've created your first disk image (see Figure 2). After the image is created, OS X mounts it as a volume.


Figure 1. Disk Utility offers various settings when you create your disk image. Usually, you'll just have to worry about the size, making sure it's big enough for your files.


Figure 2. After you create your disk image, it appears in the left pane of Disk Utility and its image is mounted.

Build Your Case

Once you've created the disk image, switch to the Finder. You'll discover the Finder already knows about the volume supplied by your fresh new disk image. If you're running 10.3 and you have the Sidebar set to show removable media, your volume appears in the list. Now you need to add your files to it. Grab the files you want to distribute and drag them to the new disk.

After you've dragged and dropped the files, you can channel your inner designer and make the Finder window look just the way you want. Move the icons around to form a lovely pattern. Choose View --> Show View Options and add a background image or color, pick a different size for the icons, and make the labels look perfect.


Figure 3. In the Finder, drag the files you want to the disk image, then go wild dressing up the contents however you like.

Here are a couple of tips about prettying up the way your Finder window looks. The General panel of Finder preferences has a setting called Open new windows in column view. If the user has this checked, your disk image's window will indeed open in column view, which conceals all your painstaking icon placement and other visual tweaks. Sigh. Second, if you want to use a background picture (JPG, PNG, and so on) for your Finder window, make sure you copy the picture's file to your disk first, then use the Select button in the View Options window to point at the new copy. If you don't copy it to your disk first, it won't be there for users to see when they download your disk image or open your CD.

Once you have the files and the view settings you want, eject the disk image in the Finder and go back to Disk Utility. If you're going to distribute your software by CD, you can go ahead and order the pizza, because you're almost done. All that's left now is to burn the CD. You can do that from Disk Utility. Just select the disk image in the left pane and click Burn on the toolbar. Disk Utility will ask you to insert a blank CD, then give you the dialog you see in Figure 4. Just click Burn and wait for your CD to be made.


Figure 4. "Ready to burn," indeed! You'll get this

dialog when you have selected a disk image (.dmg) 

and inserted a blank CD.

Download Lowdown

If you want to get your disk image ready for online distribution instead of via CD, the first thing to do is get that extra space out of the disk image. To do this, while still in Disk Utility, select the disk image in the left pane (if it's not there, you can drag it in from the Finder, or choose Images --> Open), and then choose Images --> Convert. Pick Compressed as the image format, and let 'er rip. Soon you'll have your compressed image. (For fun, you can go into the Finder and Get Info on both the original and compressed images. You'll see that the original is 40 Mb, or whatever other value you specified when you created it, and the compressed version not only gets rid of the unused space, it compresses the files, so the image uses less space than the original files.)

You might notice that Disk Utility keeps track of all the disk images it has ever seen on its little shelf over in the left pane. The way to get rid of those isn't obvious: just drag them off and drop them anywhere but the pane, and they'll go poof.

Once you have the compressed image, you're done. You can post it online for downloading. Let's take a look at the experience users have when downloading a disk image with a web browser. If you download a disk image with a non-Apple browser, such as Internet Explorer or Camino, here's the typical experience:

    1. User clicks a link to download the disk image file. The file goes into the Downloads folder.

    2. In the Finder, in the Downloads folder, the user double-clicks the disk image. The Finder decompresses the disk image and mounts it. Usually, the disk automatically opens.

    3. The user drags the downloaded application to the hard disk, usually to the Applications folder.

    4. The user ejects the mounted disk image.

    5. The confused, exhausted user drags the disk image file to the trash.

When Safari appeared in January 2003, Apple made it smarter than the average bear for downloading disk images. Safari knows how to decompress and mount disk images all by itself, without having to ask the Finder for help. So when you download a disk image with Safari, there's one less step: you don't have to switch to the Finder and double-click the disk image file. That's progress.

Becoming an Enabler

When Mac OS 10.2.3 arrived, Apple made the download experience even better, as long as you were using Safari. Mac OS 10.2.3 introduced the groovy concept of Internet-enabled disk images, which make the download experience even better. When users download an Internet-enabled disk image, Safari decompresses the file and mounts the virtual disk, as usual. But then, it continues by copying the disk's contents to the Downloads folder, ejecting the mounted disk image, and moving the disk image file to the trash. That's pretty cool for users. All they have to do at that point is visit the files in the Downloads folder and copy them to their final destination. And Internet-enabled disk images are compatible with all browsers and Mac OS X versions. Users who are not running Safari with Mac OS X 10.2.3 or later will still get the old, standard behavior.

How do you make an Internet-enabled disk image? I was hoping you would ask that question. It's free and oh-so-easy. You merely have to issue a single instruction using hdiutil, a command line utility that comes with Mac OS X. To Internet-enable your favorite disk image, just go to the Terminal and type

   hdiutil internet-enable -yes SuperWare.dmg

Of course, make sure you have the right path to your disk image file. As always, you can drag the file into the Terminal window from the Finder if you want to be sure. If you do it right, hdiutil will confirm back to you thusly:

   hdiutil: internet-enable: enable succeeded

That's all there is to it. Sure, it would be nice if Disk Utility had a command for Internet-enabling, and it surely will in the future, but for now, this is how we do it. If you find distasteful even this extremely brief journey into Unix, you can use the donationware program IDIot, which makes it super-simple to Internet-enable a disk image. IDIot is available at http://www.ifthensoft.com/idiot.hqx . And if you want to read all about Internet-enabled disk images from the folks who invented them, see http://developer.apple.com/ue/files/iedi.html.

Master and Commander

As we have seen, Disk Utility makes it pretty darn easy to create disk images, and with just a little tweak under the hdiutil hood, we can improve the user experience by making disk images Internet-enabled. If you're the command-line type, or you need to write shell scripts to manipulate your disk images, you should consider hdiutil for more than just the bit part described above.

You can perform the same basic functions with hdiutil as you can with Disk Utility, plus lots more geeky stuff. For example, earlier we used Disk Utility to create a disk image, copy files to the image, then compress it for optimum online distribution. Let's do the same steps with hdiutil. First, we create the disk image itself and ask the operating system to mount it:

[neb:~] scott% hdiutil create -size 40m -fs HFS+ -volname "SuperWare" SuperWare.dmg

Initializing...
Creating...
...............................................................................
Formatting...
Finishing...
created: /Users/scott/SuperWare.dmg

[neb:~] scott% hdiutil mount SuperWare.dmg
Initializing...
Attaching...
Finishing...
Finishing...
/dev/disk2              Apple_partition_scheme         
/dev/disk2s1            Apple_partition_map            
/dev/disk2s2            Apple_HFS                       /Volumes/SuperWare

Note the aid and coddling that Disk Utility gave us when we used it previously. Disk Utility thoughtfully assumed we needed an HFS+ disk, wanted the volume name to be the same as the filename of the image, and would like to mount the new volume. When we use hdiutil, we have to explicitly choose the file system and volume name we want, and we need a second command to mount the volume. Of course, this little bit of extra work also indicates that hdiutil provides us with extra flexibility. For example, you can choose a different file system, or a volume name that's not the same as the file name when you use hdiutil. As an extreme example of the flexibility of hdiutil, it lets you specify the size of the disk image in various units, including megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes, and exobytes. An exobyte is a gigabyte of gigabytes. That's thinking ahead!

At this point, we're ready to copy the desired files to the disk image. Of course, we can use the command line or the Finder for this, or both. You'll probably want to use the Finder for delicate icon positioning and tweaking Finder view settings. Once the disk image has everything you want, unmount it:

[neb:~] scott% hdiutil unmount /Volumes/SuperWare 
hdiutil: unmount: LetIOKitSettleDown: (timed out)
"disk2s2" unmounted successfully.

After unmounting, we can use hdiutil to burn a CD, like so:

[neb:~] scott% hdiutil burn SuperWare.dmg

Preparing data for burn
Opening session
Opening track
Writing track
.............................................................
Closing track
Closing session
Finishing burn
Verifying burn...
Verifying
.............................................................
Burn completed successfully
.............................................................

hdiutil: burn: completed

Burning a CD with hdiutil is like a game: you see how many dots you can get before more text appears. No fancy-pants Aqua progress bars here! If you're not going to burn a CD, but you instead want to prepare the disk image for downloading, you need to compress it, as we did with Disk Utility. With hdiutil, that works as follows:

[neb:~] scott% hdiutil convert -format UDCO -o SuperWare_online.dmg SuperWare.dmg

Preparing imaging engine...
Reading DDM...
   (CRC32 $767AD93D: DDM)
Reading Apple_partition_map (0)...
   (CRC32 $DD66DE0F: Apple_partition_map (0))
Reading Apple_HFS (1)...
.............................................................
   (CRC32 $9F4C65C5: Apple_HFS (1))
Reading Apple_Free (2)...
.............................................................
   (CRC32 $00000000: Apple_Free (2))
Terminating imaging engine...
Adding resources...
.............................................................
Elapsed Time:  1.074s
 (1 task, weight 100)
File size: 31489 bytes, Checksum: CRC32 $A3B0383C
Sectors processed: 81920, 1345 compressed
Speed: 626.0Kbytes/sec
Savings: 97.6%
created: SuperWare_online.dmg

In amongst all that geeky progress reporting, we've created our compressed image in the file SuperWare_online.dmg. The -format UDCO option is the way you create a compressed image. And by the way, if you would rather not see Terminal spew all that stuff at you, most hdiutil commands include a -quiet option to suppress output. To find out about all the features of hdiutil - and there are an enormous number of them - check out man hdiutil. Most hdiutil commands have their own individual help commands, which you can get by typing hdiutil, the command name, and the -help option, like this:

[neb:~] scott% hdiutil unmount -help
hdiutil unmount: unmount a mounted partition
Usage:  hdiutil unmount <mountpoint>
        Options:
            -force              force unmount

        Common options:
            -verbose
            -debug
            -quiet

Another powerful option for creating disk images is DropDMG, a $10 utility written by Michael Tsai. This program provides a nice Aqua UI with more disk image creation features than Disk Utility, has a thorough AppleScript dictionary, and is also available from the command line. You can get DropDMG at http://www.c-command.com/dropdmg/index.shtml.

You might also be interested in BootCD, a free utility for making disk images that create bootable CDs. BootCD is available at http://www.charlessoft.com/.

Coming Soon

As we mentioned at the start, disk images are only one way of passing out software. Disk images are great for distributions that are simple enough to allow drag-and-drop installation. However, drag installing leaves behind older copies of the application, which can confuse the Finder. And if you have more complex requirements, such as needing to put files in various places on the disk, run code while you're installing, or install on OS 9 as well as OS X, you'll need an installer.

You can use the PackageMaker and Installer tools provided by Apple, or get a more powerful third-party tool, such as Installer VISE, VISE X, or FileStorm from MindVision, or StuffIt InstallerMaker from Aladdin. Many commercial developers prefer those third-party programs for complex installations, but Apple's built-in tools are easy to use, improving, and free - if you have OS X, you already own them. In next month's column, we'll take a look at how to use these tools to create your own installers. Until then, get your software coded, tested, debugged, and documented, so you'll be all ready to distribute it.


Scott Knaster has been writing about Macs for as long as there have been Macs. Scott wrote developer books for General Magic, worked on SDK stuff for Danger, and contributed to the first user manual for the Philips Velo. Scott's hobby is gaining and losing weight.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

BBEdit 11.0.3 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
Microsoft Office Preview 15.8 - Popular...
Welcome to the new and modern Microsoft Office for Mac. You will receive regular updates automatically until the official release in the second half of 2015. With the redesigned Ribbon and your... Read more
Yosemite Cache Cleaner 9.0.5 - Clear cac...
Yosemite Cache Cleaner is an award-winning general purpose tool for OS X. YCC makes system maintenance simple with an easy point-and-click interface to many OS X functions. Novice and expert users... Read more
ExpanDrive 4.3.2 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0.8 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
Artlantis Studio 5.1.2.7 - 3D rendering...
Artlantis Studio is a unique and ideal tool for performing very high resolution rendering easily and in real time. The new FastRadiosity engine now lets you compute images in radiosity-even in... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.0.5 - Search and ins...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click installs and version updates to your Mac. With a free MacUpdate account and MacUpdate Desktop 6, Mac users can now install almost any Mac app on macupdate.... Read more
BitTorrent Sync 2.0.82 - Sync files secu...
BitTorrent Sync allows you to sync unlimited files between your own devices, or share a folder with friends and family to automatically sync anything. File transfers are encrypted. Your information... Read more
Google Drive 1.20 - File backup and shar...
Google Drive is a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé, or... Read more
Simon 4.0.3 - Monitor changes and crashe...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more

New Publisher Allstar Games Heads West w...
Allstar Games has announced its first mobile title designed for western audiences, Allstar Heroes. The game will be a massive online battle arena (MOBA) that offers dozens of heroes for you to collect and pit against your opponents. As each hero has... | Read more »
RAD Boarding Review
RAD Boarding Review By Jennifer Allen on March 5th, 2015 Our Rating: :: NEARLY RADUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad RAD Boarding isn’t quite one of the greats, but it has potential.   | Read more »
Presenting the International Mobile Gami...
11th Annual International Mobile Gaming Awards ceremony, hosted by actress Allison Haislip, gathered mobile game developers and publishers from around the world. They chose 13 winners out of the 93 nominations. British studio USTWO won the the Grand... | Read more »
AG Drive Review
AG Drive Review By Tre Lawrence on March 5th, 2015 Our Rating: :: FUTURISTIC STREET RACING.Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Futuristic racing… interstellar style.   | Read more »
GDC 2015 – Nightmare Guardians is an Int...
GDC 2015 – Nightmare Guardians is an Interesting Hybrid of MOBA and Lane Defense Posted by Rob Rich on March 5th, 2015 [ permalink ] I have to say that lane defense (i.e. | Read more »
Overkill 3 Review
Overkill 3 Review By Tre Lawrence on March 5th, 2015 Our Rating: :: WHO'S NEXT?Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Cover system gameplay in the third-person.   Developer: Craneballs Price: Free Version Reviewed: 1.1.6... | Read more »
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment A...
Warner Bros. has some exciting games coming down the pipe! | Read more »
GDC 2015 – Star Trek Timelines will Prob...
GDC 2015 – Star Trek Timelines will Probably Make Your Inner Trekkie Squeal With Glee Posted by Rob Rich on March 4th, 2015 [ permalink ] Any popular fictional universe has its fair share of fan fiction – where belo | Read more »
Protect Yourself from an Onslaught of Ca...
Surprise Attack Games has announced a Cat-astrophic new physics puzzler called Fort Meow! In the game, a young girl named Nia finds her grandfather’s journal which triggers an all mighty feline attack! Why do the cats want the journal? Who knows,... | Read more »
GDC 2015 – Jelly Reef will be Game Oven’...
GDC 2015 – Jelly Reef will be Game Oven’s Last Hurrah, and it Seems like a Good Note to Go Out on Posted by Rob Rich on March 4th, 2015 [ permalink ] It’s sad knowing that Game Oven ( | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Roundup of MacBook Air sale prices, models up...
B&H Photo has MacBook Airs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 128GB MacBook Air: $799 100 off MSRP - 11″ 256GB MacBook Air: $999 $100... Read more
New Firstrade Mobile App Enables On-The-Go Tr...
Firstrade Securities Inc. has announced its new mobile app, which gives investors immediate access to the company’s trading platform on all mobile devices. The app was developed in-house and was... Read more
Sonnet Introduces USB 3.0 + eSATA Thunderbolt...
Sonnet has announced the launch of its new USB 3.0 + eSATA Thunderbolt Adapter for easy connectivity to USB 3.0 devices and eSATA storage, and USB 3.0 + Gigabit Ethernet Thunderbolt Adapter for easy... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished 27-inch 5K iMacs f...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMacs for $2119 including free shipping. Their price is $380 off the cost of new models, and it’s the lowest price available... Read more
Free Clean Reader Mobile App Hides Swear Word...
The new Clean Reader app, now available in the Apple App Store and Google Play, delivers the opportunity of reading any book without being exposed to profanity. By selecting how clean they want their... Read more
Kinsa Launches “Groups” App to Monitor Illnes...
Kinsa, makers of the first FDA approved app-enabled smartphone thermometer thst won the 2013 Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Grand Prize and recently appeared in Apple’s “Parenthood” TV... Read more
iPad: A More Positive Outlook – The ‘Book Mys...
It’s good to hear someone saying positive things about the iPad. I’ve been trying to bend my mind around how Apple’s tablet could have gone from zero to bestselling personal computing device on the... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for up to $279 off MSRP
Amazon has Mac Pros in stock and on sale for up to $279 off MSRP. Shipping is free: - 4-Core Mac Pro: $2725.87, $273 off MSRP (9%) - 6-Core Mac Pro: $3719.99, $279 off MSRP (7%) Read more
Sale! 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros for up to $...
B&H Photo has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $205 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1219.99 save $80 - 13″ 2.... Read more
Another Tranche Of IBM MobileFirst For iOS Ap...
IBM has announced the next expansion phase for  its IBM MobileFirst for iOS portfolio, with a troika of new apps to address key priorities for the Banking and Financial Services, Airline and Retail... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…Summary** As a Specialist, you help create the energy and excitement around Apple products, providing the right solutions and getting products into customers' hands. You Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple Store is a retail environment like no other - uniquely focused on delivering amazing customer experiences. As an Expert, you introduce people Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.