Suspicious Package Power User Features

As many MacAdmins, I work a lot with installer packages. You can say I wrote the book about it. When you get an installer package from some vendor website, you will want to inspect it before you install it anywhere, let alone deploy it to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of Macs in your fleet.

You can use the pkgutil tool to do this in the command line, but there are package inspector tools with a graphical interface that are very useful and popular.

One of these tools is Suspicious Package from Mothers Ruin Software. It displays all of the content and resources of a pkg file in a very nice user interface. Many people love Suspicious Package from Mothers Ruin Software. I have always had reservations about Suspicious Package, though, because I thought there were a few missing features.

Update (August 2021): The app has gotten a new major update (4.0) which makes these “power user features” even more accessible!

The missing features were in connection with distinguishing “normal” or “component” packages (which have a single payload) from “distribution” or “meta” packages (which don’t have a payload of their own, but contain one or more component packages).

I have explained the differences in a bit more detail in my MacDevOps YVR presentation “The Encyclopedia of Packages” where I (once again, ignorantly) stated that you can’t really tell them apart in the UI of Suspicious Package.

After that presentation, Mat X, one of the organizers of the conference got me in touch with the developer of Suspicious Package, Randy Saldinger, who graciously and patiently demonstrated that I was wrong.

In my defense, you really cannot tell normal packages from distribution packages in the default configuration of Suspicious Package, but if I had bothered to read the manual and/or explore the Preferences window, I would have found this option:

This will show the Distribution xml file at the top of the list of the ‘All Scripts’ pane for distribution packages. When you see no Distribution file there, the package is a component package.

The second checkmark in that preference window is also very useful. With “Component package and bundle info” enabled you can see which component contains the selected file in the info pane:

You can also search in the “All Files” tab with command-F and use the component package ID as a search criteria.

All of this is already well enough to remove the reservations I have had on Suspicious Package. But Randy shared another preference with me which puts it over the top. It is not exposed in the UI (yet) but when you run:

% defaults write com.mothersruin.SuspiciousPackage ShowRawPackageInfo -bool YES

in Terminal and re-launch Suspicious Package, you will see the raw PackageInfo xml in the “All Scripts” tab. Together with showing the Distribution xml, this allows you to inspect all the raw metadata that can be inside a pkg file.

I have also learned that you can use the search functionality in the “Help” menu of Suspicious Package which will link directly to the online documentation. Not many apps leverage this functionality, so we often forget to check for it. Kudos to Suspicious Package for using this.

Many thanks to Randy for all his work and help and for providing an excellent tool! I am very much looking forward to the next version.