Is DMG confusing?

So just out of plain old insane curiosity, I’ve been wondering if dmg’s confuse folks. If everyone could weigh in on it that’d be great.

Here’s what I’d really like to know

* Is it hard to describe to new users?
* Is it hard to teach new users to use them?
* Are they easy or hard to use?
* Are they harder to use than say.. a zip file?
* What about internet enabled dmgs? If you know what those are, what do you think?


  1. Yes, dmg files are confusing!

    Do you have any new duck tape?
    The brick keeps falling off my forehead.

  2. You do what everyone else does (ship on a DMG). Why would that be confusing?

    Someone who finds DMG’s confusing will never be able to install anything. 🙂

  3. They may be confusing, but in my experience they’re actually quite easy to explain, after which people get it. In my experience if you just describe them as a “virtual disk” people understand mounting it, copying from it to their HD and then ejecting it when they’re done.

  4. Disk Images are easy to use and hard to use. Let me explain what I mean.

    With dmgs you just click on them in the browser (if it’s Safari) and it downloads mounts, and opens for the user. This is easy. If you have a program like Adium which gives the user a nudge towards the applications folder, thus making it simple to install without having to worry about opening another finder window, that’s awesome (and really every app that uses dmgs should do this).

    What’s confusing is the way the OS conceptualizes a dmg as a virtual disk image. I think newbies to the Mac OS—especially people who aren’t technically inclined—are weirded out by being asked to “eject” a “disc” that doesn’t really exist. “What disk am I supposed to eject? I didn’t put any disks in.” is a question a friend asked who was new to the mac. Trying to explain that programs for the mac are wrapped up in virtual disk images seemed a little weird when I talked to him about it. He has a point, I think.

    Another (much more minor) issue is that it’s annoying that in addition to ejecting the disk image you still have to delete the .dmg file itself. It seems like it’d be simpler and easier on less-savvy users to only have one thing to get rid of. Fortunately I believe it’s possible to have DMGs that auto-mount and then immediately trash the .dmg file itself. I’m not recommending what I’ve seen some programs do, where the contents of the image are automatically copied to the desktop and then the image is auto-unmounted. That’s mostly because I think Adium’s little “drag the duck to this folder” thing is too cool. That said, auto-trashing the .dmg file would be nice imho.

  5. This is the guy who wrote the long-ass post, again. One thing I didn’t make clear is that while dmg files as a distribution method is a little confusing, I don’t necessarily think Adium shouldn’t do it. It seems like more of an OS problem than anything and since it’s pretty much the standard way to distribute stuff for OS X online, I don’t see a reason not to.

  6. I like DMGs. I hate “Internet-enabled” DMGs.

  7. I think DMGs are are a part of life on the Mac, and like evrything else you get used to it. Also, when the folder pops up and shows where you can drag the application then that is kinda of neat too.

    BTW are the “internet-enabled” DMGs the ones that auto extract the application from the DMG, and then trash the DMG? If that is the case, then I am not too bothered by them.

  8. Contrary to wevah, I recommend an Internet-enabled dmg, so users aren’t left with a an image file on the Desktop, as I see all too often … much like installers people keep on their PCs. I can think of two ideal scenarios:

    1. Internet-enabled dmg that deletes the image when done and leaves the user with a folder containing (a) Adium, (b) alias to Applications folder, and (c) instructions to drag (a) to (b) and then trash the folder.
    2. Internet-enabled dmg that deletes the image when done and leaves the user with an installer package for Adium. While I appreciate the simplicity of the direct-copy application, the package will allow permissions to be repaired if they ever come “out of pair.”
    3. Regular dmg containing similarly as (1) above that reminds users to eject the dmg and trash its file.

    And, of course, the chosen distribution only needs to take place once since future versions will be sucked in with Sparkle.

  9. You could of course just set the “internet-enabled” bit on a .dmg if it contains only one file (just the App, no documentation etc.). Then Safari takes care of downloading, expanding and deleting the .dmg, the user ends up with the application on the desktop. Personally I don’t like them very much, but I wouldn’t mind if you did that in order to make life easier for other users 🙂

  10. Like “posted by Anonymous : 12:02 PM” said:

    It’s an Apple bug, not an Adium thing. You have done all you can by showing how the installation process should be to the user.

  11. dmg images are very simple, easy to use and trivial to explain to new users, much more convenient than zip files.

    internet enabled dmgs are, however, the devil.
    I’d take a file compressed with sit, then zip, then sitx, then zip, then tar, then gzip, then bzip2 (all at once, after each other) over that.

  12. I vote for dmg… don’t see how they can be confusing…

    easy to describe: “it’s a virtual hard disk, or a virtual CD”
    easy to teach: “it’s like, you know, a virtual disk”
    easy to use: “it’s like accessing a virtual disk. Like, you know
    how you eject CDs when you are done? Well, it’s the same concept here.”

    If you can insert, use and eject a CD in your laptop, you shouldn’t have problems with a dmg.

  13. DMGs are the easiest install method for Mac. Period. As long as the Finder window is intuitive enough, i.e. instruction on where to drag the icon, then we have a winner. (who can argue with Drag and Drop instal?) IMHO, Adium already does this quite nicely. The Adium team even has an Application Folder shortcut in the image so that the user doesn’t have to navigate to the App directory manually. I hate install scripts, I hate zip files even more(users tend to run the app from where ever the unzip process dumps the file), and most importantly, Apple’s interface design guideline encourage DMG packages for apps.

    OSX HIDguidelines:
    Drag-and-Drop Installation
    Bundles make it possible to provide drag-and-drop installation for applications (for more information
    on application bundles, see Bundle Programming Guide). Using bundles is the preferred way to install
    an application for the following reasons:
    ■ It is easy for users to install and uninstall the application.
    ■ It takes less time to install (only the time needed to copy the bundle).
    ■ You don’t have to spend time developing an installer.
    Providing drag-and-drop installation does not preclude you from placing files in specific places on
    the system. When your application is first run, it can copy any needed support files to appropriate
    places on the system. However, you should avoid using this technique to install additional executable
    code and should instead use it to install preference files, document templates, or other resources that
    can be regenerated as needed and are not required for the application to run.

  14. DMG are the best

    Please mage Adium’s dmg PRETTY !!!

    Like Awaken 3b4 dmg, or like Democracy’s dmg 🙂



  15. What problem would switching from .dmg to .zip solve? The people who don’t get dragging from the .dmg finder window to their Applications folder are not going to get dragging from the extracted .zip folder to their Applications folder. They’ll still run everything from files on the desktop.

  16. Disk images with clear and obvious functionality (e.g., double-click, then cutesy graphics to show you where to drag the app bundle) are good.

    When I first switched to OSX it was a little confusing, but I worked it out.

  17. Apple SHOULD do something to the dmg’s windows. The Finder should realize there is and application in that DMG that needs to be dragged to the application folder. There should be a button or something that send the application the the app folder and then opens it.

  18. DMG:
    1. double-click
    2. open disk image
    3. drag and drop app
    4. close window
    5. eject disk image
    6. delete dmg file

    1. double-click
    2. delete zip file

    i don’t know why people like DMGs at all

  19. are double-clicking and drag’n’drop complicated concepts? I rest my case.

  20. Stick with DMG, you do it just fine.

    In fact, when I got my first mac six months ago, I was confused by the Firefox DMG I downloaded. When I gave up and downloaded Adium and it actually gave me instructions, suddenly I understood what I was doing wrong. 🙂

  21. I do not find DMG’s hard to use..

  22. Those who don’t think DMG:s aren’t confusing haven’t been around new users, or even long time users that isn’t power users.

    To me DMG:s are the best an simplest thing, I really like them. But I’ve seen too many cases of users running applications directly from the DMG.

    They usually have no idea of the disk image concept and they’ve dragged the icon to the Dock from the automounted DMG. And every time the want to start the application they click on the icon in the Dock and the image is mounted.

    I’ve actually seen this with Adium.

  23. I haven’t found DMGs hard to learn to use at all. I started using a Mac two years ago after years on Windows. (The last Mac I owned before that predated DMGs as we know them.) DMGs were explained to me once and I got it, and I don’t consider myself particularly “techie.” Since I am on dial-up and it takes a long time for many DMGs to download, I appreciate being able to download the DMG to my computer, where I can save it if I have a problem and need to reinstall(instead of waiting an hour or more for a new download). Even with Sparkle, I have been continuing to download the DMGs.

  24. * Is it hard to describe to new users?

    I don’t think so.

    * Is it hard to teach new users to use them?


    * Are they easy or hard to use?


    * Are they harder to use than say.. a zip file?

    Easier than a zip file. With a DMG file, you have a virtual disk to eject in addition to the dmg file. with a zip file, you wind up with the zip file and the folder it was uncompressed to.

    * What about internet enabled dmgs? If you know what those are, what do you think?

    Just say no.

  25. Thumbs up on DMGs. Definitely easier/nicer than ZIPs, and consistent with the way that most software for the Mac is distributed.

    I hadn’t heard of ‘internet enabled’ DMGs before reading these comments (and I don’t use safari much, so it may not matter to me) but they sound like a bad idea to me. I like being able to keep the DMG around for a while, in case it contains docs or whatever that I didn’t extract in the first place. A little magic is helpful; too much magic is just confusing.

  26. I’ve started keeping the dmg of the previous version around for all apps as backup in case an update doesn’t work on my machine or screws up something, so I guess I don’t like Internet DMGs as I have seen them described.

  27. Disk images remind me of boxes. You wouldn’t expect or want to come home from the Carphone Warehouse with a loose handset, battery, instructions, charger and whatever else. It’s nice to get everything you need in a box which you can then shove on top of the wardrobe nice a neatly in case you need it in the future.

    Yeah the whole virtual disk whatever is a new concept for people new to macs, but hey, getting used to practically everything about macs is a learning curve.

    To help the confused and those new to macs perhaps a help.url could be included in the disk image – linking to a page on the wiki with multi-language explanations of disk images and how to use them.

    I think using an internet enabled disk image or a zip file would not be a good thing since then you either loose the ability to include the simple graphical instructions, or if you do include some instructions it would just be like having a box which disintegrated upon entering your property, dropping it’s contents onto your garden path.

    …or would it be possible (and practical) to include installation instructions in Adium? so that when it launches it checks to see if it is located outside of the applications folder and if so displays instructions which then can be localised.

  28. Anything other than dmg on the mac would be weird.

  29. Personally, I prefer BAGOOMBA files. They have the extension .BAGOOMBA and automatically install when you click on them.

    Sometimes they come with viruses but viruses are easily understood by new users, since they understand how viruses in the real world first.

    That is another good thing with BAGOOMBA files. The word “BAGOOMBA” is Native American for “Clippy.” All Americans know Clippy, the mascot for MicroSoft Word and, later, AOL Time Warner Bros. They instinctively know that “Clippy” means “install application and you’re done!” BAGOOMBA files automatically install themselves and Americans associate that with the popular MicroSoft mascot.

    In short, pretty soon everyone will be using BAGOOMBA files, and if AdiumXtras doesn’t start using them soon, they will be behind the curve of such Mac programming legends like Vozny Herzogenia and John Hodgman.

    Don’t forget: BAGOOMBA in ’08. (That is the slogan to have BAGOOMBA files on every computer by the year 2014.)

  30. I prefer disk images because they act just like CDs. The paradigm is the same no matter how your application was delivered. You drag it from the disk to the hard drive, regardless of whether that disk is physical (i.e. CD) or virtual (i.e. DMG).

  31. > DMG:
    > 1. double-click
    > 2. open disk image
    > 3. drag and drop app
    > 4. close window
    > 5. eject disk image
    > 6. delete dmg file

    That’s wrong. The second point is done automatically, at least for me. Fourth one is done automatically if you eject the image. If using Safari even point one and two are done automatically.

    > ZIP:
    > 1. double-click

    You forgot:

    2. Open extracted folder
    3. Drag and drop App
    4. close window
    5. delete folder

    > 2. delete zip file

    Well, I started to use Macs in April. Therefore, I’m rather new to all this. I came from Windows. There you have two possibilities for installing Apps.

    First is the installer. I hate installers. They are a pain in the ass. Start an application that installs the application. You don’t know what it does and often you are forced to restart Windows afterwards. By using installers I feel placed under disability. Even by using installers on a Mac (although they are far more user-friendly).

    Second are zip files. You have to install the app completely by yourself. Another pain in the ass (at least under Windows) since you have to do all the work.

    The Mac with its /Application folder is great which makes installing both zip and dmg files much more simple.

    However, I still like the concept of dmg files much more than using zip files. Once you’ve understood the concept it is soo clear and easy to use. As someone wrote above I like the idea of a box or virtual disk which contains my new app.

    Of course, it may be confusing for new users. But I think they rather have not understood the concept of /Applications than the concept of dmg files. Users who don’t understand dmg files will not understand zip files as well. They might only understand an “Install Adium” app. Did I mention I hate installers?

    I don’t see where zip files are easier or better than dmg ones.

    > I like being able to keep the DMG around for a while, in case it
    > contains docs or whatever that I didn’t extract in the first
    > place. A little magic is helpful; too much magic is just confusing.

    Full acknowledgement! Dmg files are fun to use.

    It’s like unpacking the package of a newly bought item. Open it and see what is included. Then install it by yourself and try it the first time.

    Please don’t take this fun from me! 😉

  32. dmg rocks… much better then the alcohol and other image files in pc.
    with dmg it get mounted automatically by most download app and u can always mount it by simply doulbe clicking on it.
    i switched to mac a few months ago and have been installing stuff from dmg without any programs since day 2.

  33. I prefer .zip files, because I’m using column view in the finder. so the background is not visible and there is no gain in using a dmg.
    And zip files need fewer steps to install. as said before (unmounting image, delete dmg etc)

    But for new users a selfmounting image is maybe easier to use, unless they use column view too.

  34. and of course you don’t have to put the app into a folder before zipping it…

  35. DMGs are consistent with the OSX operating system. When I was a newbie, I did not know, but now, I prefer them to Zips because I know that DMGs contain apps and can be deleted after use. I don’t know what’s in a zip file.

  36. You should put a read me with system requirements somewhere.

  37. Please use zip or use internet-enabled DMG. Application download in OS X should work exactly as it works with pictures or any other files. Uou download app, it appears in your download folder and you can do whatever you want with it.

    DMGs are horrible. You have to unmount and remove them manually and they remind me ugly windows-style startup banners.

  38. Apple recommends internet-enabled DMGs hence Adium should use internet-enable disk image (or .zip since they provide identical user experience when there’s only 1 file as there should be). You want fancy installation graphics, wizards, instructions, readmes and other shit use Windows.

  39. What’s the problem with disk images? You just double-click them once downloaded right?

  40. DMGs are recommended by Apple, and are the de facto standard for binary distribution on OSX. It’s not the Adium team’s responsibility to improve/replace the DMG concept, that’s up to Apple. What you can do is keep the instructions clear and keep the Applications alias on the disk, it makes things easier.
    Basically, if a Mac user wants to download software, they’re going to have to learn how to use DMGs at some point. Do what you can to make it a smooth experience, but please keep to the standard.

    And please don’t make it auto-delete the DMG file after installation (at least without asking the user first)- I don’t know about other people, but I take my ‘used’ DMG files and add them to an archive. It would be annoying to find that the DMG deleted itself without even asking.

    I’ve never come across any “Internet-enabled DMGs” so I don’t have a position on those.

  41. I agree. _internet-enabled_ DMGs (auto-unmounting and auto-trashing ones) are recommended by Apple. So please use internet-enabled DMG.

  42. I’m a student tech support worker at a liberal arts college in Minnesota. Many times I have seen instances where DMG’s have obviously confused faculty or they have been used incorrectly. I have been on systems where the icon to something, like Firefox, is in the Dock, but when it is launched, a DMG is mounted and the application is ran from it. Obviously, the user download a DMG, mounted it, and either ran the application from it and then saved it in the Dock, or simply put it in the Dock (either way, the probably thought they installed it.) So obviously DMGs that contain nothing more than the application are confusing and problematic.

    Since OS X allows such nonsensities (Perhaps I should file a bug report with them…), I think developers should take precautions to prevent this from happening.

    One way is to make a package and use the OS X Installer. (Third-party installers are shitty. Go to Windows if you want to use that garbage.) Not to mention that an installer is rather unnecessary for something like Adium.

    One can always put instructions in the background of the DMG, saying to copy it to the Applications folder, or do like Firefox, and make symbols in the background. That’s better, but people tend to ignore them. (I’ve seen it.)

    In my opinion, it’s best to make an alias to /Applications in the disk image, and but a huge arrow from the application to the /Applications alias. This, I think, usually gets noticed. I’ve seen this used before, and I really like it. No installer fuss, still requires user interaction to get installed, and is easily noticeable by both old dogs and newbies.

    An internet-enabled DMG at least gets the application onto the hard drive, but not into the Applications folder. I don’t think it’s perfect, but it’s rather good. If the Applications alias isn’t used, I fully support using a internet-enabled DMG.

    (And Apple still should make Apps un-runnable from a disk image (or display a warning). And if/until they do, developers should do the same. There’s my two cents. 🙂

  43. My opinion on the topic: zip vs dmg

  44. Stick with the dmg is my opinion.

    I think they are easier than a zip for a new users because the default zip handling just chunks files out in a directory. The dmg pops up a window with an obvious icon. To a new user, which scenario has the more obvious next step? I think the latter.

    I pitch dmg distribution as a feature to people thinking about the switch. “Want to try some new software without installing it? (After they complain about stuff refusing to install or breaking some piece of Windows when uninstalling) Just mount the dmg, run the program from inside it and see what you think. Ypu can do that as long as you want. When you have decided you like it, just copy it to the Applications folder and its installed. Don’t like it, unmount the image toss the dmg in the trash.” That bit has been the sinker on one of two people who were on the edge.

    Personally, I like them for convenience. When I quickly unzip something new, half the time it doesn’t show up right next to the zip file in the big mess of my desktop. the dmg, its available but contained and I have control. I think they also encourage developers to better package their applications. The nice apps come as a single .app and may have some docs in the dmg (readme, changelog, license). The annoying apps come as a folder with a bunch of stuff in it that you are expected to shove in your Applications folder and then drill down into to open *cough* XChat Aqua *cough*. The latter tend to come in zips, as part of some overall lazy packaging. Starting with Tiger, a dmg can now using bzip2 instead of gzip compression. So, if your app is Tiger-only anyway, push the button and now your distribution is smaller than zip could hope to do. Sure, StuffitX can compete well with bzip2, but then everyone has to go download this icky StuffIt think from this annoying page that’s trying to hawk some overpriced rubbish.

  45. I’ve read several posts in newsgroups of people that didnt get DMGs.

    A question was “Why do i allways get this window (the DMG) when i click the icon in my dock?”

    They did not understand that you have to drag the application out of the dmg.

    Simple solution: internet-enable the dmg!
    Most of the time, i download the .dmg, “extract” the app and then delete the dmg.
    marking the dmg as internet-enabled solves this

  46. not confusing i think but slower and heavier. zip is way better.

  47. I prefer DMGs; seems “cleaner”, and the built-in alias to the apps directory is not only convenient, but is much easier for non-tech-literate users.

    Please don’t shift to .zips….


  48. i love dmgs and i haven’t found anything confusing about them.
    except that all of a sudden i can’t open any of them. including adium. which is a huge bummer because i was looking forward to trying everything out.
    i get an error.. “AdiumX_0.89.1.dmg” failed to mount due to error 95 (no mountable file systems) in the middle of the disk copy’s progress.
    it has been happening with any dmg for the past month or so, completely randomly.
    i’m repairing disk permissoins right now becuase i read somewhere on apple to try that, but i think i’ve already done this.
    any thoughts?

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