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I downloaded VLC 2.0 for Mac. It was a 42 mb download! The corresponding Windows installer is only 21 mb, despite the extra code for the installer itself. But even worse, when I open the VLC dmg, the actual application itself while being copied to the Applications folder was 160 mb! I've noticed this with a whole lot of mac apps.

Why are mac apps so much larger than their Windows counterparts? And why is there such heavy compression? Does that mean the way they're stored in Applications is inefficient and they could be packed much smaller, or would there be a processing penalty for that?

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One probable reason - Mac apps are generally self-contained, as mentioned in this page:

Mac OS X Snow Leopard doesn’t have an Add or Remove Programs utility for uninstalling software, nor does it need one, because virtually all Macintosh applications are self-contained in a single folder or series of nested folders.

Windows applications can share a lot of common libraries, which saves disk space. However, if there are library/DLL conflicts, Windows apps might not work properly.

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Ah yes, good point, didn't think of that. But I doubt 3rd party libraries could be accounting for all that much space. I don't know of too many non-built-in libraries that mac apps rely on that could be shared between apps. The most common ones, such as Growl or the update mechanism (I forgot the name), are in fact shared. –  Neil Mar 1 '12 at 3:03

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