With the release of macOS 10.13 High Sierra, you’re probably wondering whether your Adobe software will work in the new Mac operating system.
With every macOS upgrade, full information about compatibility is typically not available on the day the new system is released or even shortly after. More information emerges over time, especially as Apple, Adobe, and other software developers test with the final public release and produce updates with fixes. I’ll update this article as new information comes out.
If you use your Mac to run a business or another activity where you can’t afford to lose productivity, do not upgrade to High Sierra until you’ve made plans to fully recover your previous configuration 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.
To make the best use of my time and yours, I focus on verified reports or reports acknowledged by Adobe, and generally avoid repeating random anecdotes. But I do mention my own experiences.
The next section is about recent Creative Cloud versions. If you’re looking for information about older versions, jump to:
Official statements and verified reports
Note: On October 18, 2017, Adobe announced the 2018 release of Creative Cloud applications and made them available for download. These are the most compatible with High Sierra.
Adobe typically publishes compatibility information after they have had a chance to test with the version actually released to the public, so expect this section to be updated over time. Here is what’s known so far:
The Photoshop team posted the document Photoshop and High Sierra | macOS 10.13 listing the issues they’re aware of.
If the High Sierra upgrade converted your boot volume’s file system to the new APFS file system, in Photoshop CC 2017 or earlier you won’t be able to assign your boot volume as a scratch disk in the Scratch Disks section of the Preferences dialog box. (This is fixed in the 2018 release of Photoshop CC.) If you have an HFS+ volume mounted, such as a partition or external drive, you can still assign that. Just keep in mind that a scratch disk should be both large and fast. Even though the list of scratch drives is blank in Preferences, Photoshop doesn’t display an error, and continues to work.
There’s also a Scratch Disk settings dialog box you can pop up by pressing the Command and Option keys as Photoshop starts up; that does list an APFS boot drive (as Startup, not as its volume name) and appears to allow it there. This may mean Photoshop is able to use the APFS boot drive anyway, but isn’t reporting it properly in the Scratch Disks section of the Preferences dialog box.
Adobe has acknowledged the scratch disk problem in a post on the official Photoshop user forum, but there is no word yet on when a Photoshop update will address this.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
The Lightroom team hasn’t published anything yet about Lightroom compatibility with High Sierra, but Victoria Bampton (the “Lightroom Queen”) has some information (Lightroom and macOS High Sierra Compatibility), especially about older versions of Lightroom. Some of the issues may be fixed in the 2018 release of Lightroom.
Some Lightroom presets may fail to sort in alphabetical order in High Sierra; Adobe has acknowledged this issue at feedback.photoshop.com.
For a few users (not all), Lightroom 6/CC 2015 crashes on launch in High Sierra. Some have been able to resolve this by adjusting permissions on the Lightroom application folder.
Adobe Illustrator CC 2017
The Illustrator team posted a compatibility document (Illustrator and High Sierra). It lists issues with APFS, color management default settings, and GPU rendering. Some of those problems are fixed in the 2018 release of Adobe Illustrator CC.
Adobe InDesign CC 2017
The InDesign team has posted a compatibility document (InDesign and High Sierra compatibility).
There was a widely reported visual problem with the mouse pointer in Adobe InDesign on High Sierra. Investigation by Adobe and Apple revealed this to be an Apple bug. It’s fixed in the macOS 10.13 Supplemental Update which became available on October 5, 2017. Install it from the Mac App Store, Updates tab; or from the link above.
Adobe Premiere Pro
While there’s no published document about High Sierra compatibility yet, an Adobe representative said, in a post on the Adobe Forums:
I talked to product management. You should be good to go with macOS High Sierra right now. As an editor, I would not change the OS if I was in the middle of an important project, however.
Older versions of Adobe software (CS3–CS6)
Adobe software older than the Creative Cloud (CC) versions are not officially supported on macOS 10.13 High Sierra. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t work; it just means that if those old versions have any new issues related to macOS 10.13 High Sierra, there won’t be any updates to address them (in other words, the only version with the High Sierra fixes will be the current version).
I have upgraded my test Mac to the release version of High Sierra. Based on some quick tests I did, Adobe applications before CS6 do not run as smoothly as they did in earlier versions of macOS/OS X. The CS3–CS5 applications seem particularly risky to me.
There are more hoops to jump through to get the installers to work (see below), and I’m having trouble getting some installers to accept serial numbers they accepted in Sierra. While I can install and run Photoshop CS3 and CS4, some of the older CS3/CS4 applications like Illustrator and InDesign aren’t starting up properly for me. CS5 applications run better, but some were crashing after I quit normally. High Sierra is the first macOS version where I really think it’s time for CS3–CS5 users to move on; the code in CS3 is a decade old at this point.
Adobe doesn’t test older (pre-Creative Cloud) software for compatibility because covering all of the features for multiple older versions would require extensive testing, and I also don’t have time to verify everything from importing to editing to printing. If you still depend on those old versions for serious production or need information about a specific feature (especially “does it work with my printer/tablet/scanner etc.”), you need to set up a test system to verify your workflow on High Sierra before upgrading your production system (see How to test macOS 10.13 High Sierra yourself below). And if your tests determine that your programs won’t run well under High Sierra but you want to upgrade, consider maintaining a system on a spare hard drive or partition just to run an older version of macOS for those applications.
Many older applications have problems in High Sierra simply because over the years, Apple has changed so much of the code in OS X/macOS. Even Apple’s own professional software is affected; older versions of Apple Final Cut Pro, Motion, Compressor, Logic Pro, and MainStage won’t run in High Sierra (see About Apple Pro Apps and macOS High Sierra).
With that in mind, here are some notes about getting older Adobe software to run in High Sierra.
Installing and activating older Adobe software on High Sierra
As in Sierra and earlier, older Adobe applications are able to launch only 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 that software. Java for OS X 2015-001 isn’t the most current version of Java for Mac, so be aware that installing it may introduce incompatibilities or security vulnerabilities.
Be prepared to uninstall and reinstall if needed. Adobe applications were already installed when I upgraded my test Mac to High 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. You may also need to reset Adobe licensing files on your Mac (see Registration servers, update servers, and activation servers below).
If you can’t find your old Adobe installers, you may be able to download them from a page on the Adobe web site (Adobe software and other downloads) which has links to many older versions of Adobe Creative Suite applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator, along with Lightroom and more.
macOS Gatekeeper may prevent older Adobe installers or software from starting: Gatekeeper is an Apple security feature (added in Mountain Lion) that helps prevent malicious applications from running. If you run Adobe installers or software released before Gatekeeper, you should know what to do if Gatekeeper prevents Adobe software from starting. Adobe covers that in this tech note: Error “has not been signed by a recognized distributor” | Launch Adobe applications | Mac OS. The short answer is to bypass the error by right-clicking the application icon, then choose Open from the context menu. Depending on the Mac you use, instead of right-clicking you can also Control-click, or if you have a trackpad set up for two-finger secondary click you can do it that way instead.
“Installer Failed to Initialize” error, or installer failing to run. Some Adobe installers may fail to launch silently, or 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.
The error message is documented in an Adobe help page: Installing Creative Suite on macOS 10.12 (Sierra). But I found that the same workaround helped when the Photoshop CS3 installer silently failed after I double-clicked it.
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. However, being unable to reach an activation server may keep an application in a trial period with an expiration date. If you’re trying to install a CS3 application, you will probably need to get a new serial number that doesn’t require activation, because Adobe retired the activation server. You can get that at this Adobe page: Activation or connection error | CS3, Acrobat 8. For help with Adobe licensing and activation problems, see the Adobe help pages Activation and deactivation troubleshooting and Troubleshoot activation limit reached or sign-in failed errors.
Adobe Creative Suite 2 (CS2) compatibility
There is no way to run Adobe CS2 software on macOS 10.13 High Sierra. The only option is to use a newer version of the software.
The question of CS2 compatibility comes up during every recent Mac system 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 system upgrades, macOS 10.13 High Sierra requires that software be written for the Intel processors that have been running Macs for over 10 years. But 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.
Other ways High Sierra may affect Adobe software
A few more changes in High Sierra have potential implications for Adobe users.
APFS (Apple File System)
The file system is the part of the OS that keeps track of all your files. This is such a fundamental function that when that changes, there is great potential for big problems if the transition isn’t handled 100% properly. High Sierra is built on top of the new Apple File System (APFS), which is designed around security, reliability, and the ability to work across macOS, iOS, tvOS and watchOS. APFS will eventually replace the decades-old HFS+, but for now, High Sierra can work with APFS or HFS+.
If your Mac’s system volume is on a solid-state drive (SSD), the High Sierra installer converts its file system to APFS; this is not optional. At this time, upgrading to High Sierra will not convert system volumes based on hard drives or Fusion drives, but that’s expected to happen in a later release.
I haven’t had obvious problems installing or using older Adobe software on the APFS volume that’s created by default, but some of the random glitches I’ve seen in CS3–CS5 applications may be related to APFS. Some Adobe features that involve a folder or drive location (such as the scratch disk feature of Photoshop) may not work properly with APFS. Also, the Illustrator CC tech note linked above notes errors you may encounter related to APFS.
When APFS was originally made available to developers for testing, it was case-sensitive. This raised concerns about Adobe application compatibility because most Adobe installers do not work on case-sensitive file systems. But during the beta period, Apple developed a case-insensitive version of APFS, and that is the version that the final installer for High Sierra uses when it converts a boot volume to APFS. Maybe that’s why many old and current Adobe installers still work in High Sierra.
If you have trouble using a feature that interacts with the file system, it could be related to an incompatibility with APFS.
HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format)
Apple added support for the HEIF format in High Sierra. One reason is because it uses less space to save photos at the same quality level as JPEG. Because HEIF is a container format, it can use a single document to store image-related data such as the burst sequences captured by smartphones for animations, focus stacking, and exposure stacking, as well as extra channels and metadata — in other words, it’s a great way to store Live Photos, HDR images, and the depth map from an iPhone camera.
The 2018 release of Photoshop CC adds support for HEIF; this requires macOS 10.13 High Sierra. Specifically, you can load an HEIF depth map into the Lens Blur filter.
I’m still looking into which other Adobe applications support HEIF; at this time Lightroom does not.
HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) and H.265
HEVC/H.265 provides more efficient encoding of high resolution video than today’s H.264 standard, especially for 4K resolution and up. HEVC can cut video file size by half without losing perceptible quality. My understanding is that Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Media Encoder, and other Adobe video applications already have support for HEVC/H.265.
Even if you have the software to encode/decode HEVC/H.265, you also need fast enough hardware because it’s very processor-intensive. Older Macs can’t handle it, but the processors in newer Macs and iOS devices have hardware acceleration for HEVC/H.265 and HEIF.
External GPU support
In High Sierra, Apple added support for external graphics processing units, called external GPUs or eGPUs. The idea is that you put a powerful graphics card inside a box and connect it to your Mac using Thunderbolt, and that upgrades the graphics capabilities of your Mac.
Unfortunately, eGPU support is not in the initial release of High Sierra; it is currently accessible only to developers. For the general public, official eGPU support is expected to arrive in an update some time in 2018.
eGPU support should help address a big complaint about Macs: You can’t upgrade the graphics hardware of any Mac, unless it’s a Mac Pro. But with an eGPU, you can. The reason eGPUs are practical now is because of the data capacity and throughput that’s finally possible with Thunderbolt 3. It’s enough to smoothly drive a large display at a high resolution.
While Apple was probably driven to add eGPU support to address the needs of augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) developers, eGPUs should open up more graphics acceleration options for photographers, designers, and video editors. For example, instead of having to buy a 15-inch MacBook Pro just to get discrete graphics, you should be able to carry a thin, light 13-inch MacBook Pro around town, and then back at the office plug it into an external GPU that gives it a graphics card more powerful than anything found on a laptop.
Last release to support 32-bit applications
High Sierra is the end of the road for applications that are still written for 32-bit processing. Most Mac applications have been written for 64-bit processing for some time now, so if your applications are up to date you may not have any issues here. But if you’ve been holding on to some old 32-bit applications for as long as possible, you won’t be able to run them in the macOS upgrade that comes after High Sierra.
How do you know if you’re running 32-bit applications? Click the Apple menu, choose About This Mac, and click System Report. Now, in the System Information window that opens, click the Applications category, and then (after a slight delay on some systems) look for the 64-Bit (Intel) column. On smaller displays you might need to scroll the list to the right.
How to test macOS 10.13 High Sierra yourself
While online compatibility lists are useful, the advice of others can only go so far because it may not reveal problems related to the specific combination of applications and hardware you use. A better way is to test the new macOS upgrade yourself. But be careful: You want to test the new OS without compromising your current working production system, and you have to pay attention to licensing and activation issues. To understand how to do that, read another article I’ve written: How to test a macOS upgrade with your Adobe software
Wondering what High Sierra is all about?
For the most in-depth review you’ll probably find anywhere, read the macOS 10.13 High 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.
As usual, I will probably wait a few months to upgrade my production Mac to High Sierra. That will give Apple, Adobe, and other developers to release any necessary updates needed to make everything work smoothly together.
This article was originally posted on September 25, 2017 but continues to be updated as new information emerges.