On The Native Mac File System

By default the Macintosh uses the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) filesystem as the default when installed (and indeed, when it comes fresh from the factory).

Whilst this nice enough, as a developer and long time *NIX user I always prefer to use a case sensitive filesystem.

This is particularly important when you are naming things in a case-sensitive source code management system.

Give this a whirl: On a case insensitive file system (I am looking at you too Windows), change the case of a file in Subversion. Commit the change and see how much fun you will have with all of the other developers who do use a case-sensitive file system. 1

On my previous laptop (used primarily for development purposes) I made the mistake (although unknown at the time) of going for the ‘Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled)’ as the file system. I did this as I was upgrading the OS and wanted a bigger hard drive for all of my lovingly hand-crafted code.

This turned out to be a HUGE mistake. Had I known about the problems that this would cause, I wouldn’t have bothered.

Not initially of course, and not from an Apple perspective, the operating system, applications, utilities and all of the software bought from them worked perfectly.

It was only when it was a little bit down the line when I was installing other software. This software was not from some fly by night operation either – this was professionally produced software.

So, I tried to load up this application and I would get error after error about missing font files. Odd, I thought. So I had a quick look through the package contents and confirmed that the font files were indeed there.

Curiouser, and curiouser…

It was only after tearing out a little more of my hair that I realised that the files did indeed exist, it was just that the file names were not in the correct case. So I renamed as many as I could to the correct capitalisation and note that sometimes they would have to be all lowercase, sometimes upper/sentence or a weird combination of the two. This would also occur with the file extension. I did this for about fifty of them before I gave up.

The recommendation from the developers was

We do not recommend running this application on a case-sensitive file system.

Which is all very nice and well for some, but I cannot just re-format the operating system and lose all of the other data just to satisfy the lack of foresight of the developers.

In the end I just left it in the disk image file (.dmg) and loaded it from there.


I only list one example above – but there are eight different applications that I have used which suffer from this same fate. I no longer use the older laptop, so I no longer know whether the problem still exists.

I think that in this day and age, it is unacceptable to not care about whether you are looking for a file on the file-system call Serif.ttf, when it was actually named serif.TtF just because your operating system still compiles and loads the file.

I just hope that the developers in the new Mac App Store have thought about this.


  1. The fix for this is to delete the file completely, commit the change, then re-add the file with the correct case.

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