Background pattern

I try out a huge number of applications. In the past few months, I’m guessing that I’ve tried out and reviewed far in excess of 100. Most of the time, installing those applications is simple, especially with a Mac. I simply download a compressed disc image, which then mounts to the desktop. Inside the mounted image is a package file. All I need to do to install it is drag it to my applications folder. That’s it!

Getting rid of a Mac application is practically as simple. Drag that same application out of your applications folder and move it to the trash folder. Or, you can simply delete it right where it sits.

Easy, no?

Not so fast.

The problem with the Mac way of deleting applications (there’s nothing wrong, in my mind, about how applications are installed), is that deleting them via the trash doesn’t actually get rid of everything. Sure, it likely gets rid of every part of the application, but there’s always more than just the binary. For instance, every time you change the way an application looks or behaves, or what buttons appear on the toolbar, you’re making a change to that application’s preferences file.

And a lot of applications let you make changes to templates. For instance, with a couple of the word processors I use, you can change the default settings to the default template, and from then on, whenever you start up the program, those changes are displayed automatically. Those templates are often stored in a separate place on your hard drive (not within the actual application, although it may feel that way while working in the program).

When you simply drag the application into the trash, neither of those things (the preferences file or the templates) get deleted. That’s not a huge deal, but when you try out application after application after application, all that starts to build up. It may not slow down the computer or take up all that much space, but it’s still there, and it’s not always obvious exactly where it sits on your hard drive.

Enter an ingenious little application called AppTrap.

AppTrap is one of those one-trick applications that do only one thing… in the case of AppTrap, it monitors your trash can for applications about to be deleted. When it sees an application in the trash, it quickly scans the hard drive to see if any items related to that application are going to be left behind. It then asks you via the standard Mac dialog box if you want to send those items to the trash as well.

That’s it! There’s nothing to configure, nothing to start up each time you start up the computer… you simply install AppTrap, get it running in the AppTrap preferences panel, and that’s it. AppTrap feels like a part of the operating system. When you attempt to delete an application, you’ll simply (from now on), receive a dialog box asking if you want to also delete the preferences and settings related to that application. Simply click Yes or No, and that’s all AppTrap does.

In my opinion, this is something that probably should have been built into the operating system from the beginning. I can see instances where you might want to hang onto those settings (if you planned to delete the program then immediately reinstall it, for instance), but in most cases, when you delete a program, you want to get rid of everything associated with it. So in my mind, AppTrap is brilliant, both in its execution and in its simplicity. I like that it doesn’t assume I want to get rid of all the associated files, but I love that it asks me in a very unobtrusive way. It doesn’t go through a big production of starting up AppTrap… it’s just there, doing its job.

AppTrap is one of those applications to install, forget about, and let it do its job. In my mind, that’s a good thing, and AppTrap is a very good application. You can download it here, and use it, completely free of charge.