DropDMG: The Simplest Way to Make Customized Disk Images

Although the Mac App Store may be the first choice for many (including myself) to find and purchase apps from, many developers (such as Dropbox) offer their apps as more traditional download, and almost always in a DMG file.

Designing and building these DMGs can be very difficult, which is where DropDMG comes in. The app offers a complete suite of tools and aims to not only provide an easy way of creating disk images, but also to create fully customised DMGs that app developers can use to distribute apps. Here’s how DropDMG can help you out if you need to make disk images anytime soon for your projects.

The Purpose

If you’ve ever downloaded Dropbox, Skype, or most other apps that came bundled in a DMG, you’ll no doubt see that they appear to be much more than simply a folder. Custom background colours, instructions for installation and shortcuts to your Applications folder all add up to a rather wonderful user experience. DropDMG, by C-Command Software, is a tool that has been created to provide you with a way of building these very DMGs.

Dropbox is an example of an app using a custom DMG

Dropbox is an example of an app using a custom DMG

Instant Disk Images

DropDMG is a great way to automatically generate DMG files just by dragging files over to it

DropDMG is a great way to automatically generate DMG files just by dragging files over to it

At its core, DropDMG is a disk image generator. If you don’t need any of the frills of a more interactive DMG then you can simply drag any files you’d like over to the main window and DropDMG will automatically create a DMG that will take up only the space required, placing the finished product in the same folder as your files. You can even specify a folder containing files which can be converted to a DMG.

If you’ve ever created a DMG with Disk Utility, you’ll know how much of a chore the entire process is. Many of us usually give up and not bother, simply archiving the files in a ZIP instead. For this feature alone, DropDMG is a great tool as it provides a truly one-click DMG generation and inclusion of files, not to mention the ability to accurately size the disk image.

Custom Designs

The biggest feature of DropDMG is its wide range of customisable options when it comes to designing the DMG. You can add text, graphics and even specify icon positions, with DropDMG including a built-in option to add a shortcut to the Applications folder.

DropDMG allows for  building custom layouts with icons and text

DropDMG allows for
building custom layouts with icons and text

There aren’t any arrow tools, unfortunately, meaning if you want to create a graphical representation of moving an icon to the Applications folder, you’ll need to design that outside of the app. Some basic arrow and drawing tools like those found in Skitch would be a great addition, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Developers, Developers, Developers

DropDMG supports different designs (called Configurations) that are saved within the app. This way, developers releasing new updates to their apps don’t have to rebuild their DMG layouts from scratch and can simply drag the app over and build the DMG in just a few seconds. Thanks to placeholder names, you can specify the app name and simply add the app, with DropDMG adding its name to anywhere you need it to go.

There are a lot of configuration options available, perfect for app developers

There are a lot of configuration options available, perfect for app developers

If you are using DropDMG to distribute software, you’re able to include a license agreement in multiple languages – a nice touch.

License agreements can be written and included, along with multilingual support

License agreements can be written and included, along with multilingual support

Hidden Extras

Rather surprisingly, DropDMG includes some features you wouldn’t expect. Built into the app is the ability to burn a bootable disc of an OS X installation right from the File menu. If you’ve got a downloaded copy of Lion or Mountain Lion from the Mac App Store, DropDMG will be able to burn a copy of this.

Finally, DropDMG includes a suite of command-line tools so you can run many of the features of DropDMG from Terminal, allowing for some great scripts and automation workflows to be written.

Conclusion

DropDMG is certainly a niche app as many casual Mac users will likely find no use for it. For app developers and system administrators, this app provides a whole suite of tools to create some great DMGs. This is reflected in the app’s interface as it’s assumed that if you’re using this type of app, you’re probably familiar with many of the functions regarding DMG creation (though the app includes an in-depth help guide).

Whilst not for everyone, this app serves a specific purpose and does it very successfully. Some additional annotation tools when designing the DMG would be good to see at some point in the future but as it stands, it’s a great functioning tool to take the hassle out of disk image creation.


Summary

A useful tool for streamlining the creation of disk images that includes some very advanced features for app developers.

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