September 30, 2009

How to Make an Application Inventory

Hand-Made Mac Tip No. 12
How to Make an Application Inventory

I've been dragging my feet about upgrading to Snow Leopard. Reason being, I wanted to make sure all my apps will be compatible. I need this machine for work for when I do consulting, so if I upgrade, I want to make sure everything works so there are no surprises down the road when I go to demonstrate something for a client.

There is a pretty extensive list in the form of a wiki here that shows which applications will work with Snow Leopard and which are buggy yet. I wanted to check my own applications list against this for compatibility. Problem was, I didn't really have a good inventory list of all my apps, let alone license keys, so I set out to create one in a spreadsheet format that I could stash away somewhere for safekeeping in the event of another upgrade, or God-forbid, catastrophic loss which might result in a clean install of every piece of software I own.

Here is a handy way to get started by getting all the application names into a spreadsheet using iWork Numbers (or Excel).

I could have sworn at some point in time — and this may be reaching as far back as the days of Mac OS 9 — that you used to be able to just highlight all of the application names using the list view in the Finder sorted by Name, then copy and paste them into either a text document or spreadsheet and they would just magically appear in alphabetical order. When I try this now, however, I get mixed results. It just doesn't work that way anymore. You may get a list of apps, but the names are duplicated several times over and it's just messy.

I also remember the days, again in OS 9, when you could simply print out a Finder window's contents. This came in extremely handy when I was a production manager preflighting jobs for print services in ad agencies. I had a handy system in which I would neatly organize and gather all of the print-ready data onto a CD and then print the window contents out, fold the paper a certain way and it was an instant CD cover for the jewel case that told you exactly what was on the CD that went out to the client. That feature disappeared for some reason as well in the new OS X system. I always wondered why they brought labels back, but not the Print Finder Window feature.

Well, there is a third party solution to the rescue. It's called, appropriately, PrintWindow 4.0. It does just what it says it does and even snazzier than the old grayscale teeny icons of OS9.

So what does this have to do with making an inventory list in a spreadsheet format you ask?

Well, it turns out, that if you print this list to a PDF, you can then view the PDF, press command A to highlight and select all of the text, then command P to paste the text into a spreadsheet. This will give you an alphabetical listing of all of the applications in the Applications folder.

It's easy-peasy. Just launch PrintWindow – either from the Dock, or you can do like me and put the icon in your toolbar of your Finder so it's handy. Next, select File, then Print Folder Listing. Navigate to your Applications folder and select it. Then follow the rest of the settings, it's pretty self explanatory. Just be sure to sort by name.

In the screen shot above you can see my Applications Finder window with the status at the bottom indicating that I have 181 applications in that folder. Next, you can see that when I copied and pasted the names from the PDF into the spreadsheet, the total number also matches by looking at the last line in that spreadsheet. This tells me I got them all copied.

From here, I can now go about tweaking my spreadsheet and adding in important information like serial numbers and versions. Later on, I can then sort the columns however I'd like or add check marks to remind me which applications are ready and which are not for Snow Leopard. This will help me to better decide when to upgrade and which applications I'll need to upgrade along with it. I might even add a column for the vendor link so that I can just run down the list later and click on the links to go to the download page for the updated software.

OCD is so much fun when you have the right tool for the job!

I hope you've enjoyed this Hand-Made Mac Tip!

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