How to install Mac apps in bulk with MDM for schools

How to install Mac apps in bulk with MDM for schools

Mosyle Team
written by Mosyle Team

Maybe you’re an IT administrator 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 the softwares to macOS devices a breeze.

In either cases – whether you’re just starting out or you’re a Mac-heavy user – this article will assist you in streamlining your process of installing applications to macOS devices in bulk. As a provider of a mobile device management (MDM) solution for macOS devices, we support several schools and meet the best practices for delivering applications quickly, and efficiently.

There are different methods to remotely install applications to your school's Mac fleet, depending if the application is App Store-hosted or not. If you were to install an application that is App Store-hosted, you are able to use the Apps and Books area in the Apple School Manager portal - or the VPP account if your school didn't migrate it to ASM.

In the case of installing non-App Store applications, you are able to use PKG files or run scripts and custom commands to install the software to the Macs with the support of your MDM solution. Check out our tips below on understanding what each of these methods offers, and what you can do to keep up with the demands of your school.

How to install apps on Macs using Apps and Books (VPP)

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

Heads up: if you didn't migrate to the Apps and Books within the Apple School Manager, check out the steps to migrate from the legacy VPP token

In the sequence, take a look at how you will be assigning the content licenses: device-based or user-based. The best way of assignment will depend on your school's scenario, as well as the deployment model.

One asset to consider is device-based install of apps, which was released with the OS X El Capitan (version 10.11). This method made it possible to remotely install applications assigned to the device serial number – and not to the Apple ID connected to the device.

For Macs laboratories, we highly recommend for you to distribute the app licenses using the device-based assignment, because one single device will be used by more than one user, either student or teacher.

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 distribute packages (PKG files) to install apps to Macs

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

Deploying PKGs works with MDM solutions as well. The basic workflow when using this method is creating the PKG file using one Mac computer, hosting this file in some cloud host service and installing it remotely using the mobile device management software solution.

If you’re using our MDM solution for schools, Mosyle Manager, we’ve designed the Install PKG tab, where you are able to get instructions to generate a valid PKG file and also create the management profile that will be sent to the Mac devices.

You will need to install the application in one Mac enrolled in the MDM solution to generate the PKG file. You are able to do it within Mosyle Manager, selecting the Mac in which the software is downloaded. Some software providers list .PKG files available to download on their websites.

After creating the PKGs, you need to host the file on a public link with SSL/HTTPS (which is recommended due to security) or internally/publicly. If you are using our MDM for Education, complete the process by entering the public URL where the PKG is hosted, and check if the PKG file also contains an OS update.

Now that you have added the PKG to Mosyle Manager, you are able to create the Install PKG management profile that will be sent and applied to the Mac devices.

How to run scripts and custom commands to install apps to your Mac fleet

Most of the schools run scripts and custom commands as the method to deliver large non-App Store applications -- such as Adobe's software 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 scripts and custom commands to Mac computers easily. Within the Management area, navigate to Custom Commands and create a new management profile. You need to copy and paste the code and set up the profile’s configuration.

And remember: be careful when entering and applying custom codes and commands. We highly recommend you run a small pilot with some Mac devices before proceeding with the app deployment.

Keep in mind the details for the management 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 macOS devices so users can access and use the applications.

Which method should my school use?

Obviously, each method of installing apps to Macs has its own benefits, but we usually recommend ASM's Apps and Books for schools. The best thing about it is that you have all the information about purchases and content licenses in the same platform as users data and device information. It’s the simpler and easier way to deliver applications using the device-based method.

If you need to install applications that are non-App Store hosted, be sure to follow the steps for pushing PKGs or running scripts. Our Customer Success Team provides our customers with personalized support, helping you to deploy your Macs in the easiest way with the methods that better fits your needs.

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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