I'm switching from PC to a MacBook and wondered the best convention for installing new software.

For example, I've downloaded the Atom IDE, unzipped the 4 files and put into the /Users/userName/Applications Directory (which was empty, but seemed like a good place).

I then added the /Users/userName/Applications/Atom directory to the \etc\paths file, but when I type 'atom' from the bash prompt, it is not recognized.

How should I be installing software, is there a convention on where it goes?

Do I need to update the \etc\paths file or is there a location where exe's are picked up by the command line?

  • I don't know whether /etc/paths is used. Could depend on the Mac version. I would definitely manage the PATH in the startup files in my home directory. For starting atom from the command line, I personally would not use the PATH, but define a shell function, but this is a matter of taste. Mar 6 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


Generally application (.app) bundles are meant to be stored in /Applications of ~/Applications. I recommend using /Applications for the vast majority of installations, since the apps there will be accessible to other users' accounts`.

Application bundles aren't directly executable. Instead, their executable file is stored within the bundle (right click and select "Show package contents"), in {APPLICATION.app}/Contents/MacOS/

To open an Application bundle from the terminal, you can use the wicked open command with the -a flag, like: open -a /Applications/Application.app. This comes in handy occasionally, though I don't know why you'd want to open applications through terminal, rather than through the dock, dock stack, or spotlight.

  • Thanks, I tried the open on the Atom.app and it opened the Atom IDE, but how do I "install" Atom so it's available in Bash? Ie. "Atom abc.erb" and open up atom. I now type that and it doesn't recognize the keyword Atom. Sep 3, 2014 at 16:29
  • 1
    Ah, see this question: stackoverflow.com/questions/22390709/…
    – Alexander
    Sep 3, 2014 at 16:30
  • Doh! Figures that the very first app I install needs an extra step. :) Sep 3, 2014 at 16:47

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