You can download and install third-party apps for your Mac using the App Store or directly over the internet. This is quite different from the iPhone, where the iOS App Store is the only place to you can get apps. In this post, we’ll show you how to install third-party apps on your Mac from either of these places.
Installing Mac Apps: The App Store vs. the Web
Convenience and security are the Mac App Store’s main benefits: Apple uses payment methods saved to your Apple ID to avoid typing credit card details every time; a single click updates all apps at once; each app is approved to ensure it is safe; and Apple can remove hazardous apps at any time.
But Apple’s strict rules can prove problematic for legitimate third-party apps that require access to sensitive parts of macOS, like iStats Menus or Bartender. Even popular Mac web browsers aren’t available to download through the App Store. So sometimes you’ve got to install apps directly from the web, which is a little bit trickier.
How to Install Third-Party Mac Apps From the App Store
The App Store is the easiest way to install apps on your Mac. To get started, launch the App Store and log in with your Apple ID.
Feel free to browse app categories listed in the sidebar or search to find particular apps. To download an app, click it to view all the details, then click Install and enter your password if prompted. If an app is paid, you’ll need to click the price instead.
After it’s installed, click Open to launch it. For apps that are unavailable internationally, read our instructions for how to change your App Store country.
How to Install Third-Party Mac Apps From the Web
Many popular apps and games are missing from the Mac App Store. So if the app you need isn’t there, you’ll need to download it from the developer’s website instead. To do this, just follow these steps:
- Visit the developer’s website and click the download link.
- Go to your Downloads folder and launch the app installer.
- Follow the instructions, which usually involve dragging the app into your Applications folder.
Some apps provide packaged installers (PKG), for which you may need to accept terms and conditions, choose between a few options, and provide your admin password.
Bypass Gatekeeper if Your Mac App Won’t Open
To protect Mac users from malware, Apple will block some third-party apps you download from the internet using a feature called Gatekeeper. This will stop you from being able to open new apps you download, but it’s usually easy to bypass.
Apple’s support document about opening Mac apps safely contains further information about what Gatekeeper is and how it works.
Without Gatekeeper, you could accidentally launch some malware on your Mac. But if you’re completely certain the app you downloaded is safe, you can bypass Gatekeeper by Control-clicking the app and selecting Open from the popup menu.
You will see a prompt saying, “This is an application downloaded from the Internet. Are you sure you want to open it?” Choose Open again. From now on, this app will open without a Gatekeeper prompt!
You can also follow more involved steps to disable Gatekeeper completely, but we don’t recommend that for most people.
The Best of Both Worlds
Apple doesn’t force Mac users to use the App Store like on iOS. That’s a good thing, even if most people prefer the convenience of the App Store. At the same time, Gatekeeper adds a valuable safety check to non-App-Store apps that can help protect you from malware, while allowing you to download whatever apps you want at the same time.