macOS 12 Monterey: Will Adobe software work?

With the release of macOS 12 Monterey, you’re probably wondering if your Adobe software will work in this macOS upgrade.

We are just starting to see Monterey compatibility information from Adobe, which I cover later in this article. More information emerges over time, 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.

The good news is, if you are upgrading from macOS 11 Big Sur, the differences between it and macOS 12 Monterey are relatively minor, so software that is running well in Big Sur may run well in macOS 12 Monterey. But if you are upgrading from macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier, Apple changed macOS in ways that may prevent older applications from running in macOS 12 Monterey. If you have applications you must use, but you have older versions that aren’t compatible with macOS 12 and you choose not to upgrade them to current versions, you should delay upgrading to Monterey. If you decide to upgrade to Monterey, expect to run only recent versions of software, including Adobe Creative Cloud applications.

This time there is a new wrinkle. Apple is releasing 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro computers using the M1 Pro and M1 Max processors that bring an unprecedented increase in performance and efficiency, creating more than the usual amount of interest in upgrading from an older Mac. Like all new Macs, they won’t run a version of macOS older than the one they shipped with, so you don’t have the option of installing an older version of macOS on them. If you are one of the many Mac users who will replace a much older Mac with a new Apple Silicon Mac that runs only macOS 12 or later, you may have no choice but to update some of your software, including older Adobe software.

For more details, or if you have questions about Adobe Creative Suite (CS) software, read on…

What’s covered in this article

I focus on information that’s direct from Adobe, and on verified reports. To make the best use of your time and mine, I don’t repeat rumors and random anecdotes. But I may mention my own experiences.

Here are the major sections of this article relating to Adobe applications and macOS 12 Monterey:

Official Adobe statements for current Creative Cloud software

Adobe Creative Suite 3 through 6 (CS3–CS6)

Adobe Creative Suite 2 (CS2)

Do not upgrade until everything you use is ready

Caution: If you are upgrading from macOS 10.14 or earlier, it’s particularly important that you research which applications you have on your Mac before you click that Upgrade button. The longer you’ve been using a Mac, the trickier the macOS 12 Monterey upgrade may be, because major changes by Apple will block a lot of older software from working.

There are principles that apply to almost any system upgrade, whether it’s for Macs, Windows PCs, or mobile devices. Those principles remain true for the macOS 12 Monterey upgrade:

  • Be prepared. If you use your Mac to run a business or another activity where you can’t afford to lose productivity, do not upgrade to macOS 12 Monterey until you’ve made plans to fully recover your previous configuration if things don’t work out. For example, have a complete system backup that you know how to restore in as little time as possible.
  • Check all of the hardware and software you rely on. Before you upgrade, remember to check compatibility for everything installed on or connected to your computer. Especially anything that depends on driver software being compatible. That could include printers, graphics tablets, scanners, cameras, networking equipment, calibration equipment, backup software, diagnostic software, adapters, hubs, docks, and so on.
  • Test your complete workflow. Published compatibility reports may be on test systems that don’t have the same hardware and software you use. If you must ensure complete compatibility with everything you use, run your own tests with macOS 12 Monterey on a separate system, such as an external drive with a Monterey test system installed.
  • Current versions will be the most compatible. You can expect that current versions of Mac software will be updated for full compatibility with macOS 12 Monterey, but previous versions probably won’t. For Adobe applications, that means you can expect the most recent Creative Cloud (CC) versions to be either already compatible or will be updated eventually. But if you use an older version such as CS6 or earlier that Adobe no longer updates, any issues with macOS 12 Monterey will not be fixed. We all want to avoid paying for software as much as possible, but even though a major OS update might be free, there are sometimes unavoidable associated costs when that OS upgrade makes it necessary to pay for software or hardware upgrades too.

For an in-depth review of Monterey, read the macOS 12 Monterey 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.

Potential issues so far (with macOS, not Adobe)

For a summary of general problems reported with macOS 12 Monterey as of November 3, 2021, read the article macOS 12 Monterey Upgrade Issues at TidBITS, a website run for over 30 years by some of the world’s most experienced Mac users. 9 to 5 Mac has an article listing widely reported problems (Application memory error affecting many Mac apps; Intel as well as M1). A long thread on the Apple Discussions user forum talks about issues with external storage (Monterey struggling with External SSD).

If you are upgrading from macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier, consider reading Big Sur: Read this before upgrading by Howard Oakley. Although the article is about macOS 11 Big Sur, that version was a major break from the past — many changes compared to earlier versions of macOS also apply to macOS 12 Monterey, which stays relatively consistent with macOS 11.

Official Adobe statements for Creative Cloud software

macOS 12 Monterey is listed as one of the three versions of macOS supported by Creative Cloud applications in the Adobe document Operating System Support Guidelines for Creative Cloud Apps. However, it does advise checking on the specific system requirements for each application you use (see below), because some may vary.

On October 27, 2021, Adobe published the article Known Issues and Solutions in macOS 12 Monterey. It summarizes issues Adobe has become aware of in macOS 12 Monterey, initially mentioning Photoshop, IIlustrator, and InDesign.

Over time, many Adobe product teams publish more compatibility information specific to their application. As those articles appear during the next few weeks, this section will include those links. So watch this space!

Adobe Photoshop

The Photoshop system requirements, updated for the “October 2021 release (version 23.0) and later,” now state a minimum of macOS 10.15 Catalina, and Recommended versions macOS 10.15 Catalina and macOS 11 Big Sur. macOS 12 Monterey is not mentioned (yet?). However, the Known Issues in Photoshop document does specifically list macOS 12 Monterey, macOS 11 Big Sure, and macOS 10.15 as the currently supported Mac operating systems.

Photoshop is mentioned in the more general Adobe document Known Issues and Solutions in macOS 12 Monterey.

Adobe Lightroom Classic

The Lightroom Classic system requirements, updated for the “October 2021 release (version 11.0) and later,” now state “macOS Catalina (version 10.15) or later,” which implies compatibility with macOS 12 Monterey, but they don’t mention it specifically.

Adobe InDesign

The Adobe InDesign system requirements, updated for the “InDesign 2022 version 17 (October 2021) release” now state “macOS version 11 (Big Sur), and macOS version 10.15 (Catalina),” not yet mentioning macOS 12 Monterey.

InDesign is mentioned in the more general Adobe document Known Issues and Solutions in macOS 12 Monterey.

Adobe Illustrator

The Illustrator system requirements, updated for the “October 2021 release,” now state macOS 10.15 Catalina through macOS 10.12 Monterey as the supported operating systems.

Illustrator is mentioned in the more general Adobe document Known Issues and Solutions in macOS 12 Monterey.

Adobe Premiere Pro

The Premiere Pro system requirements, updated for the “Premiere Pro 22.0 (October 2021) release,” now says “macOS Catalina (version 10.15) or later,” which implies compatibility with macOS 12 Monterey although they don’t mention it specifically.

Adobe After Effects

The After Effects system requirements, updated for the “After Effects 22.0 (October 2021) release,” includes macOS 12 Monterey. This application is not yet optimized for Apple Silicon, but an Apple Silicon version is now in public beta.

Getting ready to upgrade

If you’re upgrading from a stable macOS 12 Big Sur system that you’ve gotten used to, chances are that the macOS 12 Monterey upgrade will be relatively smooth and things will probably run more or less as you expect.

But if you’re upgrading from macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier, the macOS 12 Monterey upgrade may be more challenging. The more major versions of macOS that you are jumping to get to macOS 12 Monterey, the more I recommend that you:

  • Make a complete backup of your current Mac system, and keep that unchanged until you are satisfied that macOS 12 Monterey is working properly. Start your backups of macOS 12 Monterey on new media. This is so that if you have to retrieve software, documents, or settings from your old system, or completely revert to it, its backup still exists.
  • Plan and budget in case you need to upgrade other software that you use, because Apple has changed so much about how macOS works that fewer old applications will run properly, or run at all.
  • Start over and install applications and files from scratch on Monterey, to avoid unanticipated incompatibilities. Upgrading an older macOS version or using Apple Migration Assistant is likely to work, but older software may not migrate properly since so much has changed. A clean install is also a good idea if you want to make sure you don’t carry forward any software or orphaned settings files that won’t work in macOS 12 Monterey.

Only the most recent Adobe applications will be supported

Adobe supports only the current major version of its Creative Cloud applications plus one version back. For example, as I write this the current version of Photoshop is Photoshop 2022 (version 23), so Adobe supports that and Photoshop 2021 (version 22). This policy defines the versions you can install from the Creative Cloud desktop application, so currently you can install those two versions of Photoshop and the minor updates in between.

This is important if you need to keep using a version older than the last two. If you are a Creative Cloud member with a fresh installation of macOS 12 Monterey and now need to install applications, you will be able to install the two most recent versions of Adobe applications, but nothing earlier. Also, if Adobe follows the pattern they’ve established for past recent macOS releases, only the most recent version will get compatibility updates for macOS 12 Monterey. Therefore, for full Monterey compatibility, expect to run only the most current version of the Adobe applications you use. (Links to installers for some older versions of Creative Cloud applications may be found on the Downloads page at ProDesignTools.com.)

macOS requires 64-bit compatibility

macOS 10.15 Catalina and later support only applications that run 64-bit code. This is no surprise, because Apple has been warning about the 32-bit cutoff for several years now. To be compatible, an application and all of the components installed with it must be 64-bit compliant. Adobe has been updating its applications over time, so most current applications run under macOS 10.15 Catalina and later. The Adobe article Why don’t my Adobe apps work in macOS Catalina? discusses 64-bit compatibility for Adobe applications on macOS. It also includes a table of some Adobe applications that are still 32-bit, whether they are going to be updated, and suggested alternatives if they not going to be updated.

Note: “64-bit application” has nothing to do with the bit depth of images or channels. Among other things, it’s about the amount of memory an application can address at once. 64-bit compliance doesn’t make any visible difference to the user, but aspects of it make it possible for an application to achieve much higher performance than a 32-bit application.

Catalina and later may quarantine old plug-ins

You might see an error that plug-ins cannot be found or verified. This is because of recent macOS security requirements, including that plug-ins need to be notarized and hardened. If you rely heavily on plug-ins in Photoshop or other Adobe software such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, or Adobe Audition, you must make sure your plug-ins are compatible with macOS 12 Monterey. If they are not, macOS will quarantine them and they will not load.

Older versions of Adobe software (CS3–CS6)

Already officially unsupported, Adobe Creative Suite 3 through 6 applications cannot be installed or used on macOS 12 Monterey because of incompatibilities which can vary depending on the application. It may be because they are not 64-bit code, or they are too old to meet current Apple requirements for code security or compatibility, or other technical reasons.

Many of those versions already have significant issues running in macOS 10.14 Mojave, and they cannot run on Apple Silicon Macs. CS3–CS5 applications are now well over 10 years old. It is time to upgrade…or, if you must continue to use them, you can keep an older Mac that can run an older versions of macOS/Mac OS X.

InDesign Secrets reports that Adobe InDesign CS6 and earlier are 32-bit code and will not run in Catalina and later (see macOS Catalina is Incompatible with InDesign CS6 and Earlier).

Even if you have the installers for CS2/CS3 applications, Adobe has “retired” the activation servers for those versions, so you can no longer activate them even on older versions of Mac OS X/macOS.

Adobe Creative Suite 2 (CS2) compatibility

There is no way to run Adobe CS2 Mac software on macOS 12 Monterey. There are too many incompatibilities with current Macs and versions of macOS, and they cannot be fixed. The only option is to use a current version of the software.

The question of CS2 compatibility comes up during every 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 12 Monterey requires that software be written for the Intel processors that have been running Macs for over 15 years, and now the new Apple Silicon processors. 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.

What I’m doing

I rely on my Mac to pay my bills, so I can’t afford for it to be out of service because of a major software problem. So, as with every major release of macOS, I won’t install macOS 12 Monterey on my production Mac on the day it is released. I will wait for several months through the inevitable series of early bug-fix updates for macOS 12 to settle down and become more reliable, and I will also wait until fully Monterey-compatible versions are released of Adobe software and all of the other applications and utilities that I rely on to get things done.

For the last few macOS upgrades, I did not upgrade until 6 to 9 months after release. For macOS 11 Big Sur, I waited 11 months after its release before I finally installed it. It is likely that I won’t upgrade my Mac to macOS 12 Monterey until spring or summer of 2022.

Update, November 2021: I now have an M1 Pro MacBook Pro, which runs only macOS 12 Monterey or later. (I am keeping my old Mac on Big Sur for now.) So far, I have not had major problems running Adobe Creative Cloud applications. The main problem I am dealing with is the external storage issue listed above in the section “Potential issues so far (with macOS, not Adobe).”

This article was originally published on October 25, 2021 and will be updated as new information emerges.

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