Downloading files on Mac via .dmg is super easy, but anything else e.g. tar.gz files or zip files is completely baffling to me. Where do I unzip the files to make sure the applications will work and be added to my $PATH and $CLASSPATH? What is the correct process and best practice to follow for all of these formats?

A great example is me downloading this:


Where I don't know what to do next. Obviously I don't want to unzip into my Downloads folder? Do I unzip into my applications folder?

  • You can unzip to anywhere you want (and have write access to), applications don't need to sit in /Applications to be able to run. – nohillside Mar 8 '16 at 14:59
  • If you want to build some binaries for use in Terminal, without having to put in the full path, you can add a custom path to your “To add a directory to your PATH, put this in your .bash_profile (to be found in the root of your home directory): export PATH=$PATH:/your/path/here and put your built binary in there. – Redarm Mar 8 '16 at 19:02

There is no general answer to this, it depends entirely on what is in the download.

In the particular case of the Stanford NLP download that you mention the zip contains resources for a Java developer to use when building a natural language processing program. It does not appear to contain anything that you can run without doing some Java coding.

  • I know what the file formats are. My point is more that I have seen many downloads of technical software requiring tarball zipping and other aspects, and never sure how to configure these so the applications are just 'there' when I need them and integrated into my machine. – Dhruv Ghulati Mar 8 '16 at 18:29
  • Yes and I am saying there is no way to know other than looking at the contents and reading the documentation, each download is different. The Stanford one you referenced does not even contain a Mac application. – greg-449 Mar 8 '16 at 18:34

First and foremost, Bing and Google are your friends. Make it a point to spend time with each in your quest for knowledge.

Suffice to say, there is TONS of info related to what you asked, here's some info to get your started:

What's a .dmg?

A .dmg file is an Apple Disk Image. Basically, it is a file that looks and acts like a hard disk or a CD/DVD. The same way you can take a DVD of Adobe Photoshop and insert it into your Mac and it opens, a .dmg will do the same thing. Another way to look at it is being a "virtual" disk.

What's a "zip" file?

A zip file is a file that has been compressed (made smaller) to save space and make it easier for transport (like email). It can be one file, or many files in a zip archive, but the key here is that it is compressed.

What's a "tar" file?

A tar file or more commonly known as a Tarball is a collection of files into a single archive. An easier way to think about this is if you had a collection of music all sorted by album. If you get a big safe crate to store every one of your albums in, then the crate would be your Tarball.

Conveniently, you can combine the compression and tarring of files so that you end up with a compressed archive. These will be archives that look like .tgz In this case it was "tarred" and "zipped."

As for "what do you do next" that comes down to what do you want to accomplish?

For now, so you can get a better understanding of Unix and how it relates to OS X, there are books like Learning Unix for OS X and YouTube Videos

I hope this is answer was able to get you started off in the right direction.

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