Running a Mac App Outside of Xcode

When you are developing a Mac app, you run it often from Xcode. But eventually you will run it outside of Xcode. You have two ways to run a Mac app outside of Xcode.

  • Locate the build folder
  • Archive and export the project

Locate the Build Folder

If you’re actively developing your app, locating the app from its build folder is the easiest way to run the app outside of Xcode. In Xcode choose Product > Show Build Folder in Finder to show the app’s build folder.

Go to the Finder. The app will be in a folder inside the Products folder. Usually the name of the folder is Debug or Release.

Archive and Export the Project

When you have your app at a point where you can use it regularly on your Mac or share with other people, you should archive and export the project to create an app file that is not buried deep inside Xcode’s Derived Data folder.

In Xcode choose Product > Archive to archive the project. Xcode’s Organizer window contains your app archives. Choose Window > Organizer in Xcode to open the Organizer.


Click the Archives item on the left side of the Organizer to show your app’s archives. If you have archived multiple projects, you may have to choose your app from the app menu that is above the Archives item.

Select the archive from the archive list and click the Distribute App button to export the archive. When you click the Distribute App button, a sheet opens asking you to choose a method of distribution. Xcode provides the following distribution methods:

  • App Store Connect
  • Developer ID
  • Development
  • Copy App

The first two methods require a paid Apple developer membership. I’m not sure about the Development method. If you don’t have a paid membership or are making an app for personal use, choose Copy App and click the Next button. Choose a location to save the app and click the Export button.

Now you have an app file that you can run on your Mac just like any other app. You can also use the file to copy the app to another Mac.

The Other Distribution Methods

The App Store Connect distribution method is for apps that are going to be in the Mac App Store.

The Developer ID distribution method is for apps that you are going to have people download from your own website. When you choose Developer ID, Apple notarizes the app so that people who download and install your app can trust it. The How to Notarize a Mac App article has more details on the Developer ID distribution method.

The Development distribution method is for creating an app file to share with people you know. When I tried the Development distribution method for a Mac app, I saw no difference between the Development and Copy App distribution methods.