XRay 1.0.5, by Rainer Brockerhoff
Posted: 1-Mar-2003

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Rainer Brockerhoff Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Chett Harris Class: UTILITY
$10   Download

A new OS X feature from its UNIX roots is read, write and search permissions for owner, group and world. Unix users who are familiar with 'chmod' know how to set these permissions for a file or folder using the terminal window. This can also be done from OS X's 'get info' window if you are the folder's owner or an administrative user, but if you are like me and have had file permission problems you will discover you cannot easily change a folder's owner or group. Now I can; using XRay by Rainer Brockerhoff.

Running OS 10.1.5, I had an odd permissions problem, which was partially corrected by Apple's 'Repair Privileges' utility. 'Repair Privileges' sets the folders created by a default install back to their default permissions. Unfortunately, any folders created by you or other users on your Mac are not fixed. This is where XRay shines. Once installed it adds a contextual menu in the finder or, when running, a drag a drop window which allows you to see and edit three different features of a file or folder.

First, general folder information is available for review and editing. If the folder belongs to you, go ahead and edit here. If you are not the owner, but have an administrative password, you will be prompted for the password.

XRay's Folder Information

Next is XRay's permissions screen, which is where you can change a folder's permission (a la 'chmod') and even more useful, you can change a folder or file's owner or group! (again, you will be prompted for your admin password).

XRay's permission Information

Additionally, you can make the change to all nested folders using the 'show options' pull-down. The 'show options' also give you access to some more obscure settings I am not familiar with but Unix geeks may find obvious.

XRay's permission Information

Finally, you can edit a file or folder's type, creator and extension (the BNDL information from previous OS's). Some of this is also available via the Finders 'get info' window or in OS 10.2 via other finder utilities, but it makes a very useful package combined with the rest of XRay.

XRay's Type, Creator & Extension Information

All of this allowed me to restore all the permissions, ownership and groups for all users on my Mac (myself included) that Apple's 'Repair Privileges' utility would not fix. All user owned folders had been set to be owned by 'system' in group 'wheel' by the permission crash. By creating one new user on my machine, I could fix the permissions and ownership patterns of the existing users by 'XRay-ing' a known good folder and a corrupted user folder at the same time and fixing the corrupted one.

Unfortunately, there is no 'batch' mode for XRay that lets you set multiple folders to the same settings at the same time, so the corrections take a while. My solution was to set a top level user folder and all enclosed folders to žowner read/write/searchÓ only and then go back and set the top level alone to group/all read/search and set the 'public', 'drop box', and 'sites' folders to mimic a known good user. The documentation states that the author is working on a batch mode in the next release (current release is 1.0.5)

While doing this I had XRay slow way, way down (spinning beachball) several times, which seemed to be the result of having too many XRay windows open at the same time. This was cured by closing un-needed windows and once by logging out and back in again.

Other XRay features not touched upon in this review:

  • Emptying the trash with admin privileges (but the Finder doesn't notice)
  • Shows/alters labels (but the Finder doesn't notice)
  • Scroll wheel scrolls through the lower panes
  • The "Kind" field shows Carbon/Cocoa/Java for applications, tries to look into files if there's no type or extension
  • Makes 5 types of aliases/symbolic links
  • File browser
  • Saves or prints report about the item
  • Allows viewing/changing invisible files in the browser or "open" dialog
  • For applications, type/creator/extension panel shows registered types and extensions
  • Fast, searchable online documentation.

Unix has brought new problems to the Mac OS, needing new solutions. If you are not a Unix guru, have no idea how (or inclination) to use the terminal window, and need to fix Unix ownership or permission problems, XRay will make your day. It's inexpensive - $10 to $14 shareware fee (depending on what method used to pay), and there's really no reason not to own this utility. I recommend this utility for all Mac OS X administrative users, especially the non-Unix savvy.


  • A lot of functionality
  • Contextual menu allows you to XRay a file with a mouse-click
  • Low shareware fee


  • No batch mode
  • Still some bugs - idiosyncrasies

Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice