// 13.Jan.2010

AppZapper: Cute, But Pointless UI

Photo Credit: Trash Your Gifts by Euphoriefetzen

Everyone's favourite uninstaller for OS X, AppZapper, recently generated a bit of a buzz as it metamorphosed into version 2 and acquired a slick new interface. AppZapper also seems to have grown beyond being a simple uninstaller, several pundits are now describing it as an "application manager."

As an application manager one can view one's applications in a pretty interface, sort them with various filters and even store their license codes within AppZapper. I have to say that license code management seems to me to be an odd addition to an uninstaller. There's no synergy between the tasks of uninstalling applications that are no longer required and retrieving licensing details for those that are.

But that's not my biggest issue with AppZapper. To me, whilst the application itself is extremely useful, the interface is completely redundant and, pretty as it is, it shouldn't be there at all.

OS X already has a wonderful, intuitive interface for deleting files and uninstalling applications. It sits in the dock, is non-intrusive and doesn't require the launch of a distinct application to use it. The Trash icon is all the interface one needs for uninstalling applications.

Now there are those who argue that Apple made a mistake with their implementation of uninstall via Trash. The issue is that, while such an operation always works (for well behaved applications), there are often support files left behind (preferences and similar) and these, it is argued, should be removed along with the application. The counter-argument is that Apple did in fact get it right, that the retention of these (usually small) files causes no harm and that, should one ever decide to reinstall a given application, the previously configured preferences will be automagically reinstated from those very same files.

Personally, I'm in the first camp. As a self-proclaimed power user I install a lot of applications on my Mac. I try them and if they have some utility to my workflow and processes then they'll stay. Unfortunately, the vast majority don't. So I end up uninstalling a lot of applications and I really don't want their combined detritus cluttering up my disks — no matter how small their demands are.

Which brings us back to AppZapper… as far as I'm concerned the utility of AppZapper is fine. It performs a task that I've decided I need. However, the implementation is all wrong. It's completely counter-intuitive to me to have to launch one application to delete another. As I've written above, the interface for uninstalling already exists with the Trash icon — a separate interface is simply redundant.

I used AppZapper, in its version 1 incarnation, for some time and was always irritated by its methodology. In the end I went hunting for an alternative — and finally settled on a wonderful little program called AppTrap.

AppTrap performs essentially the same task as AppZapper — it hunts down and deletes an application's support files when that application is uninstalled — but it does it in a different and, in my humble opinion, much more elegant manner.

AppTrap is installed as a Preference Pane and works in the background, silently and unobtrusively. It monitors the Trash can and when one drags an application to Trash, or command-backspaces it, AppTrap intercepts the operation and pops up a dialogue similar to this:

As you can see, one has the option to leave the support file(s) untouched or to move them to Trash along with their parent application.

This is a much better implementation than that of AppZapper. It runs within the flow of the delete operation and it is omnipresent, not requiring the launch of a separate application. I much prefer this to AppZapper's gorgeous yet unnecessary interface.

There's one more thing worth noting about AppTrap: it also works when an application is being upgraded. When the older version of that application is being replaced AppTrap pops up this same dialogue — giving one the option of retaining the support files, or starting with a clean sheet. Wonderful.

If Apple were ever to add uninstall functionality to OS X I'd imagine that they'd go with an AppTrap-like methodology rather than an AppZapper one.

Finally, AppTrap is free and open-source. Give it a try, I'm sure you won't regret it.

Last Revision: January 13th, 2010 at 16:26
Short URL: http://wp.me/phEOu-LN (Tweet This!)

2 Comments for “AppZapper: Cute, But Pointless UI”

  1. I use and absolutely love AppTrap. I think it was a post of yours a while back that introduced me to it in the first place.

  2. Me too Kevin. I swear by it.

    You might well have first heard of AppTrap here, I wrote about it early in 2009 when I first discovered it.

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