Installing Mac apps is pretty simple, but getting rid of them and all the files they create isn't always so easy. Fortunately there are plenty of uninstallers to help with the task, and our favourite is AppCleaner thanks to its simple operation, intelligent feature set, and $0 price tag.
- Drag-and-drop app deletion
- Very small footprint
- Also uninstalls widgets, plug-ins and other stragglers
- You can specify apps to be protected from deletion
- SmartDelete feature will notice apps in the trash and offer to delete their other leftover files
- Automatically updates itself
- My default, AppDelete automatically protects apps you have open and were installed alongside Mac OS X (but you can turn that off)
AppCleaner is a very simple app, and considering what it does it ought to be. All you have to do is pick an app you don't want anymore, drag it on to AppCleaner's window, and it'll find relevant files you also need to get rid of. With one more click, the app (and its files) are gone. Additionally, it'll find apps on your hard drive and let you delete those as well by just checking them off a list. Same goes for Dashboard widgets and a few other items, such as browser and audio plugins. All of this is really easy to do and it works very well. It works as well as the competition but is the only uninstaller on the Mac that doesn't cost anything. It also has a really neat feature called SmartDelete that watches your trash to see if you delete new apps. When you do, it'll ask you if you also want to delete files belonging to that app.
As nice as the SmartDelete feature is, it only works when AppCleaner is open and with apps you haven't thrown away just yet. For example, if you have an app in the trash and then open AppCleaner, it won't detect that there's already one in there. Also, while AppCleaner provides you with the means to filter apps and other items by name, that's it. You can't filter by size or date or anything else. While filtering options are definitely not necessary features, as you'll probably know what you want to delete most of the time, you might want to take a look at AppZapper instead.
As far as uninstalling apps goes, they all do a good job. Our pick pretty much came down to price, because if they're all serviceable options then the free one is sort of the obvious pick. Some of the competition has good, compelling features — which may be important to you — so read on for some other options if you want slightly more than AppCleaner can offer (and are willing to pay for it).
Some will consider AppZapper to be the better app, and it is if you're interested in better filtering and a prettier interface. AppCleaner is still a really nice-looking program, but AppZapper just did a little more in that department. AppZapper costs $US13, however, and that's a big price jump when you're not getting much more than you get with AppCleaner. Additionally, AppZapper doesn't include a SmartDelete feature so you're out of luck if you like that one.
AppDelete is very similar to AppCleaner. The interface is almost identical and so is the feature set. The three key differences are 1) you can search for orphaned app files from apps you previously deleted prior to using an uninstaller (which is pretty nice), 2) it can run as a hidden app so you can turn on trash monitoring (its version of SmartDelete) without feeling like you have yet another app open, and 3) you can delete apps via the Mac OS X Services menu. The other obvious difference is that AppCleaner costs $US8.
Lastly, there's CleanApp which has the highest price tag by just a little bit ($US15) but offers many more features. Aside from just being an uninstaller, it'll also clean out tons of other old crap on your hard drive. It featured drag-and-drop app deletion like the others, but there are several more categories available to detect and remove files that have just gone unused for a long time, are duplicates, are unnecessary, and more. If a thorough cleaning is in order and a simple uninstaller won't cut it, CleanApp is a good alternative.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories, each week with a different focus.