The Apple way of deleting applications leaves residue—parts of the installation and other miscellaneous files will remain on your system.
TL;DR There’s a great free utility that does a better job deleting an Application and all of its traces from your Mac. It’s called App Cleaner from FreeMacSoft.net.
The Apple default for deleting Mac apps
On deleting Applications: Apple has a specific technote for deleting applications in their fantastic dedication to documentation. They suggest deleting it via Launch Pad (like on iOS) or just putting the Application in the trash.
This method does delete the Application. However, it leaves all the other pieces still installed. This can be a good thing – and it makes sense from a digital hoarder’s point of view. If you ever decide to re-install that Application it in the future, it will try to pick up where it left off.
Except it’s leaving traces of the application on your System. In many cases, this is mostly harmless. These pieces are smaller, usually under 100 Megabytes. But over time, even that adds up. If you’re deleting an Application, you’re likely done with it. And having those extra pieces of cruft is a waste of space on your SSD.
Want to see some of what’s taking up space? In the Finder, use the Go menu. Choose Library. Everything you’re looking at in this folder/director are hidden reference items (library items, get it?) for your personal User on your Mac.
This is where all your preferences, caches, autosave information, and many other hidden items are for each Application. There’s an additional separate library for your System – where elements like fonts and serial numbers are stored..
But, just deleting an Application leaves all this cruft.
Enter App Cleaner
That’s where App Cleaner from FreeMacsoft comes into play. It analyzes the Application and helps you delete all the extra pieces. It does this using the same rules Apple tells a developer to use when creating applications.
Drag the Applications you want to remove to the App Cleaner window. Alternatively, App Cleaner can list the installed Applications. After a short analysis, it shows you what’s available to delete. No harm yet. Then you can actually say delete it with the Remove button.
An example: I put in an Application (Tomates Lite), and App Cleaner shows all these extra pieces, ready for deletion.
A list of elements that are wasting space. Items from Application Support, Containers, the BOM – Bill of Materials (what was installed where), and even the preferences are now available to be deleted. If you want, you can uncheck any part of this.
When you choose “Remove,” you may get asked to put in your password – as some of these elements require higher permission to be moved.
An oft-repeated warning: Have a complete backup of your system. Please. Ideally, more than just a Time Machine. I’m not responsible if using this gives you problems. Despite the warning, I’ve been using App Cleaner for over a decade.
If you open the preferences inside App Cleaner, you’ll see that it’s already protecting default apps and other apps can be set be protected. It’s also possible to turn on a “Smart Delete” feature that automatically performs this scan if you do a manual delete. And that’s it.
App Cleaner is a better way to delete unused Apps on your Mac. Just drag an Application to its window. It’ll remove the Application and all the tiny parts left on your system.
This one is part of my must-install apps for every Mac I’ve ever used. As always, feel free to ask questions or reach out here. Hope you found this helpful.