OS X developers will need to sandbox their apps from March

3 November, 2011 - Killian Bell
Mac App Store

When Apple launched OS X Lion earlier this year, one of its most significant changes under-the-hood was a new sandboxing system that is intending to increase your system’s security. While the feature is mostly good news for users, it’s not so great for developers, who must ensure that their applications support sandboxing if they wish to sell them in the Mac App Store from March 2012.

Apple sent out an email to registered developers on Wednesday to inform them of the requirement, and mentioned the benefits of a sandbox compatible application:

“Sandboxing your app is a great way to protect systems and users by limiting the resources apps can access and making it more difficult for malicious software to compromise users’ systems.”

However, this isn’t an optional feature; every developer must implement sandboxing if they want their applications to remain in the Mac App Store:

“As of March 1, 2012 all apps submitted to the Mac App Store must implement sandboxing.”

While this is mostly good news for users, thanks to its security benefits, there are some downsides. Some of its restrictions will mean that a number of popular applications cannot perform the tasks for which they were originally built, simply because system-wide file access and inter-app scripting and interactions will not be allowed. Some of the apps affected, according to a MacRumors report, include TextExpander, Transmit, and Fantastical.

In a Macworld report detailing the feature last October, Jason Snell said that apps will need to reduce their fuctionality in order to meet Apple’s requirements:

“Not only does this approach risk turning the Mac App Store into a wasteland of arcade games and one-trick-pony apps, it risks dumbing down the Mac app ecosystem as a whole. While developers can always opt out of the Mac App Store, they’re reluctant to do so.”

However, before you read about a torrent of complaints regarding Apple’s latest requirement, there are two points worth nothing: First, developers should already be prepared for sandboxing, since the feature was set to be introducing this November, but was delayed. Second, unlike the iOS operating system, Mac OS X applications don’t have to be distributed through the Mac App Store. That means that apps like those above, that may have to limit their functionality, can just pull their software from Apple’s store and sell it outside the ecosystem as they did before the Mac App Store was introduced early this year.

What do you think about Apple’s sandboxing requirement? Do the pros outweigh the cons, or is forcing developers to implement the feature just silly?

About the author

Killian Bell is a freelance journalist based in Worcestershire UK. In addition to writing about all things Apple, he's one of the co-founders of the football site TitleTalk. You can follow him on and Twitter.