Now that macOS 10.12 Sierra has been announced, you’re probably wondering whether your Adobe software will work in the new Mac operating system. Apple says Sierra is “coming this Fall” (of 2016). At this time, early prerelease versions of Sierra are not far enough along to make definitive statements about compatibility. I’ll update this article as I learn more.
Adobe Creative Suite 2 (CS2) compatibility
This question comes up during every recent OS X upgrade: Some users moving up from older Macs running 10.6.8 or earlier to new Macs with the latest OS version may still be using the Creative Suite 2 (CS2) version of Adobe software, such as Adobe Photoshop CS2. As with the last several major Mac OS X upgrades, macOS 10.12 Sierra requires that software be written for the Intel processors that have been running Macs for over 10 years. CS2 applications were written for the PowerPC processors that ran older Macs. The last version of Mac OS X to run PowerPC software was OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard.
There is no way to run Adobe CS2 software on macOS 10.12 Sierra. The only option is to use a newer version of the software.
One upcoming change affecting Adobe software is that Safari 10 will disable the Adobe Flash plug-in by default. You can still enable it if you want.
Sierra will be able to use the newly announced Apple File System (APFS), which is being designed around security, reliability, and the ability to work across macOS, iOS, tvOS and watchOS. APFS will replace HFS+. From an Adobe user point of view, an interesting thing about APFS is that it is case-sensitive only. Currently, Adobe Creative Cloud applications cannot be installed on case-sensitive file systems on the Mac. It’s not yet clear how much of an issue this will be, because APFS cannot be used on the startup disk in the currently available build of Sierra. Apple says APFS will not become the default for Apple products until some time in 2017. Presumably, by the time APFS becomes the standard, Adobe will have ensured compatibility…at least for the latest versions of its installers. Whether older versions of Adobe software can be installed on an APFS volume will be a question until it can be tested.
Early compatibility discussions
There is a discussion thread at MacRumors.com (macOS Sierra 10.12: Compatible Apps) where users with access to a Sierra build are reporting which applications are working, and some Adobe software is included in their discussion. Several Adobe applications seem to be working so far, with a few glitches.
But remember that your own upgrade decision shouldn’t be based only on user anecdotes, because they may not have tested specific application features that you use. It’s better to wait until verified reports and Adobe tech notes start to appear about issues with the actual retail release. That’s what I did to get the information for my earlier Adobe compatibility articles about OS X 10.11 El Capitan, OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and earlier versions going back to OS X 10.7 Lion. Bookmark this article and check back later, because I will update this article in the same way as details emerge.
How to test macOS 10.12 Sierra yourself
[Update] On July 7, 2016, Apple made macOS 10.12 Sierra available as a public beta. Now any Mac user with compatible hardware can test Sierra with their workflows, and report bugs back to Apple. Macworld has the details on how to obtain the beta yourself: How to sign up for the iOS 10 and macOS Sierra betas
As with any new operating system, it’s best to install Sierra on a separate test volume (such as a spare external drive), and test your mission-critical applications and workflows on that before you upgrade the system you use for daily work. Don’t rush to upgrade to a new operating system until you are confident that there are no remaining issues with every application, utility, and device you depend on, such as displays, printers, cameras, mass storage, network storage, and color calibration devices. OS X 10.11 El Capitan was released in September 2015, but I chose to migrate my production Macs to El Capitan only after its fifth update (OS X 10.11.5) was released in May 2016.
The availability of Sierra as a public beta doesn’t mean we will have definitive answers on Adobe software compatibility soon. The beta is still an early version that may change and improve before its final release, as Apple receives bug reports from people like us. And Adobe may release updates that improve compatibility with Sierra by the time it becomes a final release. I’ll update this article only with official tech notes and verified reports, not rumors and isolated anecdotes.
How to manage Adobe license limits when you test a new OS version
When you test your Adobe Creative Cloud/Creative Suite workflow compatibility with a new OS version installed on a separate test volume or drive, you have to keep Adobe licensing in mind. For a single-user license you get two activations. If you’ve currently activated the software on one computer, no problem…you still hav one unused activation to use on your test system. If you’re already using both of your activations because, for example, you use Adobe software on both a desktop and a laptop computer, you can still test on a third volume but you may need to do a few more steps.
For Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) software, it’s not a big deal. After you install macOS 10.12 Sierra on your test volume, you can install the Adobe Creative Cloud desktop application on it and then use that to install and run Photoshop CC and other Adobe CC desktop software. While this would be a third activation, Adobe will eventually sign you out of one of your first two activations automatically so that you don’t exceed two. You can also manually sign out of one of your first two activations yourself if you want.
When you’re done testing and want to go back to using your two production Macs, it’s a good idea to sign out of the Creative Cloud desktop application on the test volume to leave two activations available for your two production Macs. If you forget to sign out, don’t worry, Adobe will probably just ask you to sign into the Creative Cloud application on one of your production Macs and eventually deactivate Creative Cloud on your test volume until you sign in there again. Remember, you don’t have to uninstall any Adobe software to switch activation away from the test volume; you can leave the software installed and only sign out. That makes it easy to come back later for more testing, because all you have to do is reactivate.
For the older Adobe Creative Suite (CS) software, the process is manual. If you need to free one of your two activations For each Adobe Creative Suite application you want to test, such as Photoshop CS6, choose Help > Deactivate on one of your production Macs. With that activation now made available, you can now reboot into your macOS 10.12 Sierra test volume, install the CS software you want to use and activate it there. Activation should happen at the end of installation, but you can always do it by choosing Help > Activate.
When you’re done testing and need to return to your production Macs, you should now choose Help > Deactivate in those same applications before you shut down macOS 10.12 Sierra on your test volume so that Adobe activation instance is made available to the production Mac where you need to work.