IPA File Format
An IPA archive is the de facto way to package applications for iOS. The extension has no official definition, but is commonly called iPhone Application by the iOS community. The file is just a renamed ZIP archive. Although any computer with a ZIP archive reader can extract an IPA, PNG images (e.g. the app's icon files) are typically in a proprietary variant of the PNG format instead of the standardized PNG format, and the application binary is encrypted (DRM) which prevents examination of the binary.
- (various application files)
Examination of nearly any
iTunesArtwork file with a hex editor can be used to confirm this. If the file's first two bytes are
ff d8 (hex), the file is a JPEG. If the first 8 bytes are
89 50 4e 47 0d 0a 1a 0a (hex), the file is a PNG.
Apple uses the IPA format for packaging iOS aplications. iTunes can be used to install their contents on a device, provided the included files are signed. Developers can use the IPA format for Ad Hoc Distribution of their apps.
IPA files are typically created through Xcode, but may be created manually:
- Build application
- Locate the
- Create a folder named
- Place your
.appfolder in it
- Create a 512x512 JPEG version of your icon (see above section)
- Save it as
- Create your
iTunesMetadata.plistand save it
- "ZIP" the contents
- Apple Question & Answers QA1686 - App Icons on iPad and iPhone