Now that macOS 10.12 Sierra is available from the Mac App Store, you’re probably wondering whether your Adobe software will work in the new Mac operating system.
With every Mac system upgrade, information about compatibility is often not available on the first day the new system is available, and emerges over time. If you use your Mac to run a business or as a serious hobby, do not upgrade to Sierra until you’re prepared to recover if things don’t work out. (That applies to any operating system upgrade on any device.) Wait until you are confident that all of your software and hardware is compatible, then back up everything, then upgrade. With that in mind, here’s what I know so far about the state of Adobe software in Sierra.
The next section is about the Creative Cloud versions. If you’re looking for information about older versions, jump to:
Official statements and verified reports
The short answer is that the latest updates are the most compatible with Sierra. In most cases that means the CC 2017 versions, which are now available. Install them using the Adobe Creative Cloud desktop application.
Adobe posted a general statement about application compatibility (macOS Sierra (10.12) compatibility FAQ | Creative Cloud), but for now it links to the Photoshop and Lightroom statements below. It also claims that other most Adobe applications do not require updates to be compatible, and that any problems can be reported using the Adobe bug reporting form.
This section is updated as new information becomes available.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
According to the system requirements for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC, it requires “macOS 10.12, 10.11, or 10.10” so it claims to be compatible with Sierra. This applies to the most recent version only, which at this time is Lightroom CC 2015.7/6.7 or later.
The Lightroom team posted a more specific Sierra statement (Lightroom and Sierra | macOS 10.12). It says “Adobe recommends that customers update Lightroom to the current version prior to updating macOS 10.12 (Sierra).” It lists a number of compatibility issues, especially with Lightroom 5 and earlier, saying:
To avoid these compatibility issues on macOS 10.12 (Sierra):
- Update to Lightroom 2015.7/Lightroom 6.7, or
- Remain on your current Mac OS X version and do NOT update to macOS 10.12 (Sierra) if you are running Lightroom 5 or earlier.
Earlier, “Lightroom Queen” Victoria Bampton published a blog post with similar findings about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom in Sierra (Lightroom and macOS Sierra Compatibility).
The Tone Curve may be difficult to control in Sierra. (Lightroom 6: Tone curve is Insensitive to MacBook Pro Touch Pad). Adobe said this was fixed in Lightroom 6.8 / CC 2015.8, but there are reports that variations on the problem still exist.
Adobe Photoshop CC
According to the system requirements for Adobe Photoshop CC 2017, it requires “macOS version 10.12 (Sierra), Mac OS X version 10.11 (El Capitan), or Mac OS X version 10.10 (Yosemite)” so it claims to be compatible with Sierra.
For Adobe Photoshop CC 2015, the Photoshop team posted a document (Photoshop and Sierra | macOS 10.12) which they update with known issues. Most are minor, except that some users have encountered a crash when printing. (Update: Adobe says the Sierra print crash is resolved for some users in macOS 10.12.1, and resolved for all users in Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.)
If you find a problem with Lightroom or Photoshop in Sierra, report it at the Photoshop Feedback site. If you run into a problem with other software such as Acrobat, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, or After Effects, try posting about it in the Adobe Forums. So far there aren’t many posts about Sierra in the Adobe Forums, so either “no news is good news” or everyone’s waiting to see what happens to the early adopters.
Adobe InDesign CC
According to the system requirements for Adobe InDesign CC 2017, it requires “Mac OS X 10.10, 10.11 or 10.12” so it claims to be compatible with Sierra.
There is apparently an InDesign CC 2015 startup crash on Sierra when using a RAID with Adobe InDesign CC 2015 (11.4.1). The solution is to roll back to 11.4. The details are in an Adobe Forums post (InDesign crashes after start since Sierra update).
According to the system requirements for Adobe Illustrator CC 2017, it requires “Mac OS X versions 10.12 (Sierra), 10.11 (El Capitan), or 10.10 (Yosemite)” so it claims to be compatible with Sierra.
Adobe Premiere Pro CC
According to the system requirements for Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2017, it requires “Mac OS X v10.10, v10.11 or v10.12” so it claims to be compatible with Sierra. However, the Premiere Pro forum has several threads discussing (and sometimes resolving) possible instability in Sierra, and users are trying to resolve issues that seem specific to Sierra in one particular discussion. I haven’t seen an Adobe statement about Sierra compatibility for Premiere Pro CC 2015.
Adobe After Effects
According to the system requirements for Adobe After Effects CC 2017, it requires “macOS X versions 10.10 (Yosemite), 10.11 (El Capitan), or 10.12 (Sierra)” so it claims to be compatible with Sierra.
Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
According to the system requirements for Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, it requires “Mac OS X v10.9, 10.10, 10.11, or 10.12” so it claims to be compatible with Sierra.
Many Mac users prefer to view PDF files in Apple Preview instead of Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat. However, in macOS Sierra, Apple rewrote the PDFKit framework and this rewrite is apparently very buggy. Apple has been fixing these bugs, but some remain in macOS Sierra 10.12. An article by Mac veteran Adam Angst at TidBITS (Sierra PDF Problems Get Worse in 10.12.2) describes some of these bugs, which can result in data loss in some cases. In the article, developer Christian Grunenberg says makes a statement that has always been true to some extent, but even more so in Sierra:
Apple supports only a subset of the PDF specification, and that support has always been buggy.
For maximum compatibility and reliability with all PDF versions and features, you’ll want to work with PDF files in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro, or a third-party application that does not rely on Apple PDFKit.
Older versions of Adobe software (CS3–CS6)
I have upgraded my test Mac to the release version of Sierra. So far, various versions of Adobe Creative Suite (CS) applications I tried (the oldest being Photoshop CS3) are at least able to launch in the Sierra beta. As in El Capitan and earlier, older Adobe applications are able to launch after you run the Apple installer for Java for OS X 2015-001. If you see the alert below, clicking More Info takes you directly to the Apple download page for Java for OS X.
Adobe software older than the Creative Cloud (CC) versions are not officially supported on macOS 10.12 Sierra. That doesn’t mean they won’t work; it just means that if those old versions have any new issues related to macOS 10.12 Sierra, there won’t be any updates to address them (that is, you’re on your own). After doing some quick tests, Adobe application compatibility with Sierra appears to be comparable to their compatibility with OS X 10.11 El Capitan, with very similar limitations and conditions to those we’ve seen with the past few OS X releases. If Adobe does what they’ve done in the past, they will not be testing most older (pre-Creative Cloud) software at a level that can confirm which specific features do and don’t work; you’ll have to do that testing yourself (see “How to test macOS 10.12 Sierra yourself” below).
With that in mind, here are a few things I’ve seen since trying out some older versions in Sierra.
Be prepared to uninstall and reinstall if needed. Adobe applications were already installed when I upgraded my test Mac to Sierra. After the upgrade, some older Adobe applications had licensing errors. I was able to fix these by uninstalling and reinstalling those applications, and the lesson here is to always make sure you have all of the information you need (such as license keys or registration numbers) to reinstall any of your key software.
“Installer Failed to Initialize” error. Some Adobe installers may fail to launch with the error “We’ve encountered the following issue. Installer failed to initialize. This could be due to a missing file. Please download Adobe Support Advisor to detect the problem.”
Unfortunately, Adobe Support Advisor no longer exists, but there is an immediate workaround that should get the installer going:
- Right-click (or Control-click) the installer and choose Show Package Contents.
- In the Install window that opens in the Finder, go to the Contents/MacOS folder, and in there, double-click Install. That will open the Terminal application, some lines of code will automatically run, and the actual Installer should successfully launch.
Make a note of this workaround, because any pre-CC installers are unlikely to be updated.
[Update: A few days after I posted this, Adobe published a help document that confirms this workaround: Installing Creative Suite on macOS 10.12 (Sierra)]
Adobe Illustrator CS4. When starting the application, you may see an “Error loading plugins” alert which mentions PhotoshopExport.aip and PhotoshopImport.aip. This has been a problem for several OS X versions, and there is no fix that I know of. You can only work around it by clicking “Don’t show again” in the alert.
Adobe Illustrator CS5. Illustrator CS5 may crash on quit; this problem also existed in El Capitan so try the solution offered at the Adobe forums (Illustrator CS5 crashing on exit), specifically the part about renaming
Registration servers, update servers, and activation servers. If you get a message saying that a registration or update server is not available in an old Adobe application, that won’t stop the application itself from working so it’s not much of a concern. A missing activation server may keep an application in trial mode, but I had no problems maintaining activation in the Adobe CS3 through CS6 applications I tried.
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.
How to test macOS 10.12 Sierra yourself
Since Apple made macOS 10.12 Sierra available as a public beta on on July 7, 2016 it’s been possible for you to test your own workflows with Sierra and report bugs back to Apple. Of course, you can now test with the final release version.
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.
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 have 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. If this will be your third activation, Adobe may have you 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.
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 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 sign in again to 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.
Other aspects of Sierra that may affect Adobe 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.
Wondering what Sierra is all about?
For the most in-depth Sierra review you’ll probably find anywhere, read the macOS 10.12 Sierra review at Ars Technica. As with every major release of the Mac operating system, the Ars Technica review not only evaluates the visible features that Apple promotes, but goes under the surface to explain changes to some of the underlying technologies in macOS and how they affect your Mac experience.
This article was originally posted on June 16, 2016 but has been updated throughout the macOS 10.12 Sierra public beta and final release.