What Is an IPA File?

How to open, edit, and convert IPA files

A file with the IPA file extension is an iOS App file. They function as containers (like ZIP) for holding the various pieces of data that make up an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch app; like for games, utilities, weather, social networking, news, and others.

The structure of an IPA file is the same for every app; an iTunesArtwork file is a PNG file (sometimes a JPEG) used as the icon for the app, the Payload folder contains all of the app's data, and information about the developer and application are stored in the file called iTunesMetadata.plist.

iTunes stores IPA files on the computer after you've downloaded apps through iTunes as well as after iTunes makes a backup of the iOS device.

How to Open an IPA File

IPA files are used by Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices. They're downloaded either through the App Store (which takes place on the device) or iTunes (via a computer).

When iTunes is used to download IPA files on a computer, the files are saved to this specific location so that the iOS device can access them the next time it syncs with iTunes:

  • Windows: C:\Users\<username>\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Mobile Applications\
  • Mac: ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Mobile Applications/

These locations are also used as a storage for IPA files that were downloaded from the iOS device. They're copied from the device to the iTunes folder above when the device syncs with iTunes.

While it's true that IPA files hold the contents of an iOS app, you can not use iTunes to open the app on your computer. They're just used by iTunes for backup purposes and so that the device can understand which apps you've already purchased/downloaded.

You can open an IPA file outside of iTunes using the free iFunbox program for Windows and Mac. Again, this doesn't let you use the app on your computer, but instead just lets you transfer the IPA file to your iPhone or another iOS device, without using iTunes. The program supports lots of other features too, like importing and exporting ringtones, music, videos, and photos.

iFunbox opens IPA files through the Managing App Data tab, with the Install App button.

iTunes probably still needs to be installed so that the proper drivers exist for iFunbox to connect to the device.

You can also open an IPA file with a free file zip/unzip program like 7-Zip, but doing so will just decompress the IPA file to show you its contents; you can't actually use or run the app by doing this.

You cannot open an IPA file on an Android device because that system is functionally different than iOS, and as such requires its own format for apps.

Screenshot of several IPA files used with iTunes in Windows 10

However, you can open and use an IPA file on your computer using iOS emulation software that can trick the app into thinking it's running on an iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone. iPadian is one example but it is not free.

How to Convert an IPA File

It's not possible to convert an IPA file to another format and have it still be usable in iTunes or on your iOS device.

For example, you cannot convert an IPA to APK for use on an Android device because not only are the file formats for these applications different, but Android and iOS devices run on two entirely different operating systems.

In the same way, even if an iPhone app has, say, a bunch of videos, music, or even document files, that you want to keep for yourself on your computer, you can not convert the IPA to MP3, PDF, AVI, or any other format like that. The IPA file is just an archive full of program files that the device uses as software.

You can, however, rename an IPA to ZIP for opening it as an archive. With the file unzip tools, doing this just lets you see the files inside, so most people probably won't find that useful.

Debian Software Packages (.DEB files) are archives that are normally used to store software installation files. Jailbroken or hacked iOS devices use the DEB format in the Cydia app store in the same way that Apple's App Store uses IPA files. K2DesignLab has some instructions on converting IPA to DEB if that's something you want to do.

Apple's Xcode software is one-way iOS apps are created. While IPA files are built out of Xcode projects, doing the reverse - converting an IPA to Xcode project, isn't possible. The source code can't be extracted from the IPA file, even if you convert it to a ZIP file and open its contents.

IPA also stands for International Phonetic Alphabet. If you're not interested in the IPA file format, but instead want to convert English to IPA symbols, you can use a website like Upodn.com.