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CleanApp: Much More Than An AppZapper Clone

Published February 19th, 2007

CleanApp thoroughly deletes programs from your Mac

CleanApp SoftwareOriginally downloaded 5/4/06. Yeah, sounds just like AppZapper… but maybe they’ve got an idea or two that improves the process somehow. Hard to imagine, but no one ever accused me of not having an open mind. :-)

Update 2/19/07. Don’t you just hate it when you finally buy a piece of software and then discover something better the next week or whatever? That’s kind of where I am with CleanApp and AppZapper. I really loved AppZapper from the start, and it still works great. But I have to confess I now have a new love when it comes to cleaning up behind old demo applications. CleanApp has it all over AppZapper in nearly every way, for the same price ($10).

Since I took meticulous notes on CleanApp, I’m just going to do a brain-dump of them here in case you want the details. Note that there are still a number of “Cons” for CleanApp, but they’re mostly ways that the developer could make a great tool even better, rather than show-stoppers. For those who want an executive summary, here’s an example that illustrates one way in which CleanApp gets it better than AppZapper. I was trying to delete the Zooom! preference pane demo from my system and used both CleanApp and AppZapper to find all the pieces that had to go. The attached screenshots show the result… CleanApp found some critical components that AppZapper simply missed. In addition to this, CleanApp offers three cool features that AppZapper doesn’t:

  • CleanApp assigns a hotkey so you can invoke it by pointing to an app in the Finder use the hotkey to ask CleanApp to go and find all of the app’s installed components.
  • It will install a background daemon process that will log all files added or modified by software installers. This way, when CleanApp uninstalls the app, it’ll get pieces that the installer put somewhere it’s not supposed to.
  • CleanApp also provides a Dashboard widget. With this, you just drag an app from the Finder to the widget, and CleanApp will go a-hunting.

There’s much more, but you’ll have to read the Pros to find ‘em. :-)

CleanApp Found 5 Pieces of Zooom! To Delete
AppZapper Found Only 3 Pieces of Zooom! To Delete



  • I like being able to search for applications in the default pane. AppZapper makes you drag files from the Finder, or rely on the Genie.
  • In the Applications pane, you can sort the apps listed by most recent use, making it one way to find unused applications.
  • CleanApp’s version of the Genie (the “Unused Files” function in the “More Features” pane) is far better for a variety of reasons. First, you can interactively toggle the relevance factor between “age” and “size”… also, this list includes not just applications but files associated with apps.
  • CleanApp has a “Cache” function that lets you see all the cache files and folders and sort them in various useful ways. You can then selectively delete the files.
  • CleanApp also lets you open files and folders rather than using drag/drop… You can also drag/drop, but I like having the option for use file/open instead (for both folders and files).
  • Using this technique on my “Old Demo Software” folder (1.6GB worth, with hundreds of old apps and their associated files), CleanApp came back in about 4 minutes with a list of all files that could be cleaned up for those apps. (AppZapper, on the other hand, tried to process the folder for about 15 minutes, consuming all of my free memory and causing continuous pageouts… eventually, things started to be unresponsive and I had to force-quit AppZapper.) Although it made some mistakes in compiling the list, it’s still remarkable how well it did in finding stuff in my user library that I don’t want anymore. (It’s interesting that I had used AppZapper on this list last year, and thought it had cleaned most of the “stuff” up… )
  • The software has a couple of very cool features that AppZapper simply can’t match:
    • Instead of deleting files once you’re ready to get rid of them, you can choose to create an archive of them. Even at this point, you can opt to leave the files in place or delete them after the archive is made.
    • This archive capability extends usefulness to production apps as well. If you make an archive of apps and their associated files that you really want to keep, you can then later open and extract the files. CleanApp will then move all files and folders back to their original locations. This would be particularly handy in setting up a new computer, or in moving files to a different user account.
    • All archives you make with CleanApp can be found in the Archives pane of the main window. There, you can choose to browse the contents of each archive, or you can burn the archives as backup to DVD using a built-in “burn” functionality. You can also move archives to .Mac in the Archives pane, or delete them.
    • The software can optionally install a daemon that keeps a log of all files that get installed whenever you run the Installer… this just ensures that CleanApp knows about any files that get put in unusual locations when it comes time to delete the app.
    • CleanApp can be invoked with a hotkey in the Finder… for example, as you browse a folder of apps, you can invoke CleanApp (even if it’s not running), and it will start searching for all the app’s associated files. (Note: I think you have to restart the computer to activate this feature, so I wasn’t able to test it…)
    • CleanApp will also identify unused parts of Universal Binaries, in case you’re trying to save disk space… Just select a binary to inspect, and CleanApp will let you know what can go.
  • I really like the fact that CleanApp provides a “back” navigation button, so that after you “clean” a particular app, you can get back to the list you started from. AppZapper pretty much makes you start over…
  • In my test today, CleanApp found more files associated with a Preference Pane I wanted to delete than did AppZapper. (see screenshot)
  • The pane for “System Accessories” could be improved. There’s no way to search the list or order it in any way. Even within categories (e.g., System Preferences), the items aren’t displayed in alphabetical order. Rather, they’re ordered alphabetically by file path.
  • In its list of associated files for my Old Demo Software folder, CleanApp showed a number of files and apps that I wouldn’t want to delete. Presumably, they show up because they’re associated with apps listed in that folder, but it means you do have to carefully go through and cull such a list… not everything is delete-worthy. For example, one item that showed up was in my /Applications/Utilities folder. It also lists /Applications/ and /Applications/Applescript … This just seems like a programming error in CleanApp… surely it doesn’t think I’d want to delete an app in my production folder just because an older version is in the “Old Demos” folder, does it? Likewise, there are Apple .plist files in the list, such as…
  • Oh, look at this… it also put /Library/ScriptingAdditions in the list as well as:
    • /Library/Scripts/ (this is the main library)
    • /Users/llscotts/ Library/Scripts/ (this is the user library)
    • /Library/Receipts (yes, the main system library…)
    • Need I go on? I hope this makes it to the developer so he/she can investigate…
  • CleanApp should let the user define a list of places on the file system where it should look for applications. For example, I have a second production applications folder on another partition, which is shared with a test instance of Leopard. I also keep a folder of active demo applications, which is not on the boot volume partition.
  • I’d like to be able to search through the list of items CleanApp shows you that are deletable when dragging a folder full of apps to its window. I’d also like to be able to sort the list by file type. With AppZapper, you can easily deselect all files of a certain kind (e.g., apps, preferences, caches, etc.), but CleanApp provides no such convenience. Also, AppZapper organizes all the files in its list by application, so you can see at a glance which files are associated with a certain app.
  • I like the fact that AppZapper shows a progress indicator when it’s doing something that will take awhile… CleanApp just relies on the beach ball. (Note, CleanApp did show a progress indicator when making and unpacking archives.)

Version as tested: 2.2.2.

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