Computing: Computer Administration

Changing application (and other file) icons on macOS.

In my tutorial Web/Database environment on macOS: Apache webserver basics, I describe how I created simple shell scripts to start and stop Apache and stored those in Applications in order to launch them by simply double-clicking on them. This is lots more convenient than always to have to open a terminal and typing the commands. However, it's possible to do even better: Wouldn't it not be appropriate to change the default shell-icon of the apachectl "applications" to a picture that explicitly shows that they concern Apache? And using somewhat different icons for each of the start, stop and restart scripts?

Changing an application (or other file or folder) icon on macOS may be realized by a simple drag and drop. A (probably) better practice is to use an application that converts a picture (like JPG or PNG file) into a "real" macOS icon before assigning it to the file. A very easy to use application to do so is Image2icon, available in the Mac App Store. The full version is commercial, but there is a limited functionality freeware version, that does exactly what we need it for, here.

So, the first step we have to do make is going to the Mac App Store and installing the Image2icon application.

Changing application icons on macOS: The 'Image2icon' application in Mac App Store

I had downloaded some Apache related pictures on my Windows 10 and, using Gimp, added a green, red, resp. blue circle in order to create individual icons for each of the 3 apachectl commands start, stop and restart. With Image2icon running, open the location with the pictures (in my case a USB flush drive) in Finder and simply drag and drop the picture onto the application GUI.

Changing application icons on macOS: Dragging a picture onto the 'Image2icon' GUI

In the GUI of Image2icon, you can choose the type of the icon that you want to convert the picture to; I chose Big Sur App. Now open Applications in Finder and drag and drop the application, for which you want to change the icon, onto the Image2icon GUI.

Changing application icons on macOS: Dragging the application to be changed onto the 'Image2icon' GUI

That's it! The original icon of the application is replaced by the new custom icon, resulting from the conversion of the picture, you chose to be used.

Changing application icons on macOS: The original icon having been replaced by the new custom icon

I did some further changes making the Apache items in Applications looking more fancy. First, I renamed the "applications" giving them shorter names, and second, I chose to hide the filename extension (this option becomes available in the window that opens, when you right-click the file, and choose Get Info from the context menu. The screenshot shows how my 3 apachectl scripts actually look like in Applications.

Changing application icons on macOS: Custom display of items in 'Applications'

macOS applications and the unidentified developer issue.

Bad surprise, however, when I wanted to launch my apachectl "applications": No more possible to do so! Because macOS refused, saying that the application cannot be opened because it is from an unidentified developer.

Changing application icons on macOS: Application blocked by macOS security

Why it worked before and no more now, no idea. Nothing concerning the file content has changed, why macOS thinks that it's another application? Anyway, the problem with applications from unidentified developers is something you might regularly encounter if you ofttimes install software that you get from another source than the App Store. To learn how to launch such applications, please have a look at my tutorial Opening an app from an unidentified developer.

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