I'm brand new to Mac OS X (coming from Windows), and I'm trying to understand.app files. In Windows, we had executables (.exe files). If you opened one, your program would run, and any other files it needed were located elsewhere. In Mac OS X, as I understand it, these.app 'files' are really more like folders that contain not only the.
Most files that you download from the Internet usually come in an archived format and have one of the formats used for archived and compressed files. Opening these ZIP, RAR, TAR, BIN, and EXE files on a Mac may seem impossible in the first try as your machine is just not compatible with these formats by default.
Trying to open these incompatible file formats will only throw errors on your screen letting you know the file you’re trying to open can’t be opened. Since these file formats are some of the popular ones and you likely come across them every now and then, you’ll want to do something to make your Mac compatible with these formats.
Luckily, there are multiple ways to add support for the aforementioned file formats to your Mac.
Mac Apps That Can Use Exe Files Free
Open ZIP, RAR, TAR, BIN, And EXE On Mac With The Unarchiver
If you’re looking for a single app or utility that can handle all of the file formats mentioned above, The Unarchiver is the one that can do it all. It’s an amazing piece of free software that adds support for basically all of the archive formats out there and lets you extract them on your Mac machine.
- Launch the App Store on your Mac, search for The Unarchiver, and install it on your machine.
- When it’s installed, you’ll need to set it as the default app for your unsupported file formats. To do this, first launch the app by clicking on Launchpad, searching for The Unarchiver, and clicking on the app.
- Most likely you’ll land in the Preferences pane for the app. If you don’t, click on the The Archiver menu at the top and select Preferences to get to the pane.
- Make sure you’re inside the Archive Formats tab as this is where you can choose what formats the app should open on your Mac. Select all the ones you want the app to open and you’ll be all set.
- If you don’t get the option to select file formats, you’ll need to set the app as the default app for each file format manually. To do this, select any file with one of the formats mentioned above, right-click on the file, and select Get Info.
- When the Get Info menu opens, find the option that says Open with. Use the dropdown menu to select The Unarchiver from the list and then click on the button that says Change All. It’ll associate the app with all the files having the format as your current one.
Next time you double-click on your file, The Unarchiver will automatically launch and open the file for you.
You’ll need to do the above steps for each file format you want to open with the app.
Open ZIP On Mac Without An App
Since ZIP is an extremely popular and widely used format, macOS had to make an exception and include it in their supported file formats. You can indeed open ZIP on Mac without the need to install any third-party apps.
Using Graphical User Interface:
- To open a ZIP on your Mac machine, locate the file using the Finder.
- Double-click on the ZIP file and it’ll be extracted in the same folder.
You’ll then be able to view the extracted contents of the archive.
Using Terminal To Open ZIP On Mac
The Terminal app also supports extracting ZIP archives without installing anything on your Mac.
- Launch Terminal using your preferred way on your machine.
- Type in the following command and hit Enter. It’ll set your desktop as the destination folder for the extracted files.
- Type in the following command replacing sample.zip with the actual name and path for your file. You can drag and drop your file onto the Terminal and the path will be added.
Your ZIP file contents should now be available on your desktop.
Open RAR On Mac Using Two Methods
If it’s just the RAR format you want to open on your Mac, you have two ways to do it.
Using Extractor To Open RAR On Mac
There’s a free app on the App Store that lets you extract RAR as well as a few other archive formats on your machine.
- Launch the App Store, search for Extractor, and download it to your Mac.
- Open the app and you’ll see an interface asking you to add an archive. Drag and drop your RAR archive onto the app and it’ll open it for you.
Using Terminal To Open RAR On Mac
You can open RAR files with Terminal as well but you’ll need to first install a utility.
- Launch Terminal on your Mac.
- Type in the following command and hit Enter. It’ll install Homebrew which is a software management system.
- When Homebrew is installed, run the following command to install a utility called Unrar.
brew install unrar
- Wait for the utility to install. When it’s done, use the following commands to open your RAR file on your Mac. Be sure to replace sample.rar with your own RAR file.
unrar x sample.rar
Open TAR On Mac Using Just The Terminal
Just like ZIP, Mac has built-in support for TAR as well and you can open TAR files on your Mac without installing any utilities.
- Open Terminal on your Mac.
- Type in the following command and press Enter. Replace sample.tar with your own TAR file.
tar -xzf sample.tar
It’ll decompress the contents of your TAR archive to your desktop.
Problem:You need to open an .exe file but you have a Mac®.
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Solution:You can easily open an .exe from your Mac by using Parallels Desktop® for Mac.
I frequently get questions like this from Mac users:
My friend asked me to download a file named Paint-tool-sai.exe, but I can’t open it on my Mac. How can I open this file?
From a person who only uses Mac computers and iPads, this is a very reasonable question.
The quick, short answer is, “By itself, the Mac can’t open this file.”
The longer, more positive answer requires a little background.
Both PC and Mac computers use three- or four-letter extensions on file names—the portion of the name after the period—to determine which application can open a file.
You may have noticed that files with extensions “.jpg” or “.jpeg” are opened by the Preview app on the Mac. Those files are images or photos.
Similarly, you may have noticed that files with extensions “.docx” or “.doc” are opened on the Mac by Microsoft Word or TextEdit. Those files are word processing documents.
What you may not have noticed is that Mac applications themselves have an “.app” extension. (See figure 1.)
Figure 1_Applications on the Mac have the file name extension “.app”
When you double click on a file with the “.app” extension on a Mac, the macOS® launches that application. In other words, opening a file with an “.app” extension is really launching that application; the macOS itself opens that file.
With this background, it is understandable that the Mac by itself can’t open an “.exe” file because the .exe extension means that the file is a Windows application. The Windows operating system is needed to open an “.exe” file.
Enter Parallels Desktop
When you have Parallels Desktop and a Windows virtual machine (VM) on your Mac, everything just works when you double click on an “.exe” file. It feels a little bit like magic.
Underneath, here is how the magic works: Parallels Desktop tells the Mac that it can open “.exe” files. So when you double click on that “.exe” file, the macOS® launches Parallels Desktop. This is just like when you double click on a “.jpg” file and the macOS launches Preview, or when you double click on a “.docx” file and the macOS launches Microsoft Word.
When Parallels Desktop is launched because you clicked on an “.exe” file, Parallels Desktop boots your Windows VM and tells Windows that you want this “.exe” file opened. Windows then launches the application for that “.exe” file.
While the quick, short answer to the question at the beginning of this blog post still is, “By itself, the Mac can’t open this file”…
The longer, more positive answer is, “This is a Windows file, so you need Windows to open it. The easiest way to get Windows on your Mac is to get Parallels Desktop and a Windows VM.”
Oh yeah, and if you have Boot Camp® on your Mac, you still won’t be able to double click on that “.exe” file and have it open. The short answer to “Why not?” is because the macOS and Boot Camp can’t talk to each other. The long answer will be the subject of a future blog post.
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