Pacifist: Get Inside PKG Installers

I want an easy way to get inside of package installers, those .PKG files, without actually installing them. Is that too much to ask? It’s not, because Pacifist does just that. In fact, it does a lot more, allowing users to look inside of all sorts of files and find info about installers, too. I tried it out and will let you know all about it.

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Take a Peek Inside

Pacifist opens package installers and a litany of archive files. I’ve already got a great app for peeking into archives with The Archive Browser, but it doesn’t do a lot for me with installers. Look inside a package installer or unmounted disk image by dragging it onto the Pacifist interface or selecting the big Open button. From there, I was able to view individual files and all of their info, including modified date and permissions. If I needed access to anything but didn’t want to actually install all of it, I extracted just the files that interested me.

Select the action you would like Pacifist to perform.

Select the action you would like Pacifist to perform.

This was particularly useful to me, because I had a couple of package installers from third-party developers that no longer worked with Mavericks. Fortunately, I wasn’t looking at anything too important, just some UI customization, but all of it had been lost to me when OS X had outpaced the package installers themselves. With Pacifist, I was able to go in and pull out the assets I wanted and install everything manually. Of course, if I had been working with anything more important than icons and menu bars, Pacifist would have been a huge boon to me. With Pacifist, installers lost to obsolescence may suddenly have use again.

If I didn’t already have a great app for viewing archives, Pacifist would be all set for me. I don’t always want to unzip everything in archive just to get at the one or two files I actually need. With the ability to browse files before unarchiving, I can make the decision of what I want to put on my Mac and what can stay zipped up. Same as with package installers, I can preview files before I extract them and get a look at important info.

Extract just the files you need.

Extract just the files you need.

Pacifist will search installer receipts to find out what installed an app and reinstall it if possible. This will be helpful if an app starts acting up and you’re not sure how it got there to begin with. Open Apple install discs or Mac OS X installers with Pacifist, too.

Try vs. Buy

The app is free to try, but if you really like Pacifist, it’s $20 to register. That seems a bit steep, but it sure does a lot, certainly more than a run of the mill unarchiving app. Pacifist is fully functional out of the box, though, so you should be able to give it a thorough run through before you have to make that decision. There is an annoying banner when you open the app up that reminds you to register and hangs around for a while, preventing you from getting on with what you’d like to do. If Pacifist is something you’re going to use a lot, it’s probably worth it to register just to get rid of the ad, which is likely the point.

Perform searches for installation receipts, too.

Perform searches for installation receipts, too.

Problems to Look Out For

I only had a couple of problems using Pacifist, but they were disheartening to see in an otherwise great app. The first really puzzled me, as it just popped out of nowhere. I downloaded and installed Pacifist, and then I opened it just to make sure everything worked okay. About a week later, I fired it up again, and I was warned that Pacifist had been modified and that I needed to reinstall the app. I certainly hadn’t done anything in that time to make Pacifist behave oddly, but a reinstall seemed to fix everything. Still, odd behavior like that is always worrying.

While a reinstall was an easy fix, my second issue has been more persistent. Often when I’m browsing for files to open in Pacifist, the Open dialog simply closes on me. If I’m quick enough, I can find my file and get it opened up, but if I’m not sure where to look or it takes me a few moments, I’m out of luck. I just can’t explain this issue, and it’s incredibly frustrating. There’s a workaround in that Pacifist allows drag and drop of files onto the app interface, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a $20 app and isn’t working the way it should.

Find all of the receipts associated with an application or installation.

Find all of the receipts associated with an application or installation.

Final Thoughts

Despite the couple of issues I’ve run into, I loved Pacifist. It makes getting inside of package installers a simple thing. The installer receipt search is a great feature, too. While the ability to look inside of archives is nice, if that’s important to you, you’ve probably already got an app that can do that. The real draw is the ability to browse and extract files from installers, and Pacifist is going to be a real win when you don’t want everything offered by an installer or when the installer is no longer compatible with your version of OS X.


Summary

Look inside PKG installers and extract files. It also works with other files and does an array of installation tasks.

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