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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Quick Tip: Override Gatekeeper with one click

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

With OS X Mountain Lion, Apple introduced Gatekeeper, a feature that seeks to make Mac software more secure by warning you if software you use is by a developer who hasn’t registered with Apple. It’s sort of a middle ground between the tightly controlled environment of the App Store, in which every App is approved by an Apple reviewer, and the Wild West of classic Mac software development, in which your Mac has no idea where the code it’s running has been.

You can configure Gatekeeper from your Mac’s System Preferences app, in the General tab of the Security & Privacy preference pane. If you don’t want to ever be warned about anything, just set the Allow Apps Downloaded From preference to “Anywhere.” I like keeping that setting on, but sometimes I just want to launch an app I’ve downloaded, and Gatekeeper gets in the way.

When you download executable software to your Mac, it’s tagged automatically by a system called Quarantine, which sets a special flag on the file. The very first time you try to launch it, Quarantine goes to work—and if it fails Gatekeeper’s tests (it’s not from the Mac App Store or not signed by an Apple-recognized developer), Gatekeeper will warn you or outright refuse to launch it. It can be frustrating. (Even if you have Gatekeeper turned off, Quarantine will still warn you the first time you open an app you’ve downloaded from the Internet.)

You don’t need to turn off Gatekeeper to launch a new app, though. You just need to give your Mac the equivalent of a special sign, an indication that you know what you’re doing and you didn’t just click on this app accidentally.

To give yourself the ability to override Gatekeeper, control-click on the app you want to launch and choose Open from the resulting contextual menu. The Gatekeeper warning will still appear… but now you’ll be given the option to override the warning and continue launching the app. Once any app has been launched once, the Quarantine flag is no longer set and you’ll never be bothered again—a simple double-click will always launch the app.

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