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8. Exposing Package Contents is Confusing

In Mac OS 9 and earlier, applications were comprised of separate data and resource forks that the Finder treated as a single file. The problem with this approach was that when files were transferred through other operating systems, the forks could be separated, rendering the file inoperable. To get around this, Mac OS X uses packages that bundle everything an app needs into a single file that maintains its integrity, even when crossing platforms. To see a file’s package, Control-click the file and choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu that appears.

For the most part, packages are a clever way of reducing the complexity of managing lots of files and folders. However, the Finder is a bit schizophrenic when it comes to packages. If you’re just browsing a folder, you might see a single application file that you want to duplicate. But when you press Command-D to make a copy, the progress dialog box lists all the individual pieces of the package as they are duplicated. If you intended to copy just the GarageBand application, for example, you might understandably be confused when the Finder reports that it’s copying a bunch of TIFF files (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4 Oddly, the Finder exposes package contents when copying files.

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