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How to push applications to your school’s Macs with mobile device management


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Maybe you’re an IT professional who’s familiar with installing apps on iPads, but finds that delivering applications to Mac computers is a challenge – since the process has its own specificities. Or, maybe you’re a Mac administrator who already knows most of the tips and tricks to make pushing your applications to macOS devices a breeze.

In either case – whether you’re just starting out or you’re a Mac-heavy user – this article will assist you in streamlining your process of pushing applications to macOS devices. As a provider of a mobile device management (MDM) solution for macOS, we support several schools and know the best practices for delivering applications quickly, efficiently, and without error.

There are three methods to remotely install applications to your Mac fleet: through the Volume Purchase Program - VPP (for App Store-hosted applications), a PKG file or Custom Commands (both for non-App Store applications). Check out our information below to understand what each of these methods offers, and what you can do to keep up with the demands of your school.


How to install apps using VPP

Most best practices of installing applications using VPP on Mac computers are similar to those we use with iPads. First, remember to check the amount of VPP licenses. The number of licenses should be sufficient for the number of recipients (users or devices); otherwise, the install command will fail.

Next, take a look at how you’ll be assigning the VPP licenses. These can be assigned by the device or by the user (Apple ID). The best way of assignment will depend on your school's scenario, as well as the deployment model.

One asset to consider is the VPP device-based install of apps, which was released with iOS 9. This made it possible to remotely install applications to the device serial number – and not to the Apple ID connected to the device. For Macs Laboratories, we recommend using the device-based install of apps, because the same device will be used by more than one student.



Important note: In order to remotely install apps without any user interaction, please be sure your Macs are updated to OS X El Capitan (version 10.11) or later.

How to push a PKG file to Mac computers

Another method for installing applications to macOS devices is by pushing a PKG file. This type of file works like a package of compressed installer files used to install a software program. The PKG file is one of the most common extensions used for installing software on Mac OS X.

Deploying a PKG works with MDM solutions as well. Simply download the app on one enrolled Mac. Then, if you’re using our MDM program, Mosyle Manager, just log into the MDM after the download completes and create the PKG.

Within the Install App profile, select Enterprise App as the installation source. Next, click the button to + Add Application and choose the tab Add App. From here, click Generate PKG with Mosyle Manager. Choose the device that has the app installed. From the list of applications, select the application to install. The PKG will be downloaded onto the Mac.

Once you have obtained the PKG generated from Mosyle Manager, you’ll need to host the PKG file on a public link with SSL (HTTPS). We offer an add-on for .PKG hosting. Once hosted, copy/paste the link into the field within Mosyle Manager, and assign to the devices.

How to run Custom Commands to install apps to your Mac fleet

Most of schools use the Custom Commands method to deliver large non-App Store applications (such as Adobe's softwares and Microsoft Office) into Mac computers. By using this method, you should use a bash/terminal script to install the application to the desired Mac computers. This script is usually provided by the software developer within its documentation.

Mosyle Manager MDM provides you with a feature to run Custom Commands easily. Within the Management area, navigate to Custom Commands and select + Add new profile. Then, copy and paste the code and set up the profile’s configuration. And remember: be careful when entering and applying custom codes and commands.

Keep in mind the details for the profile only show information once the process is done. In the meantime, you could use a command such as “ls -lh” to list items inside the /tmp directory where the files are being downloaded to see how much data has downloaded to have an idea of the progress.



Important note: make sure to push any license information to the devices so users can access and use the applications.

Which method should my school use?

Obviously, each method of pushing apps to Macs has its own benefits, but we usually recommend VPP to all schools. The best thing about VPP is that you have all the information about licenses in a single platform. It’s the simpler and easier way to deliver applications. You can check out more information about VPP here in our article.

Do you have any best practices for installing applications in educational environments? Share them with us in the comments, or tweet us!

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