When you’re not sure whether your applications will work with the latest macOS upgrade, you might go online to see if a website can tell you that your software is compatible. But 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.
How does the 2016 MacBook Pro measure up for photographers? Let’s take a look at some of the changes, and what they mean for photographers and other creative professionals.
With OS X 10.11 El Capitan now available as a free download from the Mac App Store, you’re probably wondering how well your Adobe software and other Mac apps will run on it. Upgrading to El Capitan seems to go relatively smoothly for most software. The biggest problems with compatibility and stability were with the first release of El Capitan (OS X 10.11.0); many of those problems were fixed in OS X 10.11.1. Here’s what I know so far about the state of Adobe software in El Capitan.
Now that OS X 10.10 Yosemite is available as a free upgrade from the Mac App Store, you’re probably wondering how well your Adobe software and other Mac apps will run on it. Below is a summary of various reports I’ve read on Adobe.com and around the web. I’ll continue to update this article as I find out more. The good news is that upgrading to Yosemite seems to cause fewer compatibility challenges than some earlier OS X upgrades did.
Yosemite and current versions of Adobe software
Adobe FAQs: Adobe has published a tech note, Mac OS X Yosemite (10.10) compatibility FAQs. It contains links to additional information, so be sure to expand each of the FAQ questions there. On that page Adobe says “The latest versions of all Adobe CC products are compatible” and that no updates are required to run Adobe CC products on OS X 10.10 Yosemite.
The Adobe FAQ says “In our testing we have found no other significant issues with running Creative Cloud products with OS X Yosemite,” but with every OS X release things have turned up. I add them to this article as I come across them.
Lightroom 5: The Maps module may load slowly, or fail to load completely. According to an Adobe statement at Photoshop.com (Lightroom: Issue with Map module in OS X 10.10 (Yosemite)), the problem is apparently related to an Apple change in Yosemite that interferes with retrieving map data from Google Maps. [Update: Apple fixed their bug in OS X 10.10.2 which is now available. After you install OS X 10.10.2, the Lightroom Maps module should work properly.]
InDesign: InDesign generally seems to run fine on Yosemite, but some users have seen a crash in Open/Save/Export dialog boxes. While speculation in that linked forum discussion suspects a Finder plug-in installed by Dropbox, it could be related to the Default Folder utility (see below). [Update: Dropbox has notified customers that OS X 10.10 has a crashing bug that affects Dropbox integration with Open/Save dialog boxes. They say Apple fixed this bug in the OS X 10.10.1 update.]
After Effects: The After Effects team has also published a blog post about Yosemite compatibility, After Effects good to go with Mac OSX v10.10 (Yosemite). In it they say that they tested After Effects CS6 through After Effects CC, and while those versions mostly run fine, a few minor issues are listed at the end of the article including a long first-time startup for Adobe Media Encoder.
Default Folder: While this very useful utility is not by Adobe it modifies the Open/Save dialog boxes, and the release notes for version 4.6.11 say “Fixed a problem that could cause Carbon applications to crash on some machines running Yosemite. This included Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Office applications, among others.” If you use Default Folder, run the updater from Default Folder preferences or download the latest version from the St. Clair Software web site.
Upgrading to Yosemite with older Adobe software or from earlier versions of OS X
If you’re upgrading from OS X 10.9 Mavericks or OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion you probably won’t run into problems. But if you’re making a bigger jump from an earlier version of OS X, or from Adobe software earlier than CS6, you may find issues that affect your migration. In many cases you can clear up problems by reinstalling the Adobe software.
Note that CS2 applications, including Photoshop, were written for Macs with PowerPC CPUs. OS X 10.10 Yosemite only runs Intel CPU-compatible software, so Yosemite will not allow CS2 to run or install. Adobe CS3–CS5 applications may run but Adobe did not test them extensively on Yosemite.
Photoshop: The Photoshop team has published their own blog post about the OS X upgrade, Photoshop & Mac OSX 10.10 (Yosemite). In it they say that they tested Photoshop CS6 through Photoshop CC and found no issues. However, the comments section of that post contains a lively discussion of issues some users are running into. For example, it has been discovered that the Yosemite installer might corrupt an existing Photoshop CS5 installation; if this happens reinstall Photoshop CS5 and then it should work.
In Photoshop CS6 in OS X 10.8 through 10.10, if you are having problems with keyboard shortcuts or brushes, including lags when painting, and especially with a Wacom tablet connected, you may need to install the “white window workaround” plug-in and try updating your Wacom driver. Adobe is reportedly working with Apple and Wacom on the problem.
Although Photoshop CS3, CS4, and CS5 were not extensively tested on Yosemite by Adobe, I upgraded a test Mac to Yosemite with those versions of Photoshop already installed and have been able to run them. License activation and deactivation work fine. However, I have not had time to try printing or serious editing with them.
Update from reports in the comments, also reported at the official Photoshop Feedback site: Photoshop CS5 will crash if you try to create a custom paper size in the Print dialog box. A workaround is to create the custom paper size in any other program in Yosemite, and then go back to Photoshop CS5 and choose the custom paper size.
Photoshop Elements 11 or 12 may slow down or become unresponsive in Yosemite. In the tech note Photoshop Elements stops responding after Mac OS update to Yosemite, Adobe says this is a problem related to the trackpad and can be worked around by using a mouse. Apparently this is not a problem in the current version, Photoshop Elements 13.
Illustrator: There are some reports that the Type menu font previews in Illustrator may not appear in Yosemite. The reported workaround is to go into the Accessibility pane of System Preferences and select Reduce Transparency. It wasn’t clear which versions of Illustrator are affected.
Illustrator CS4 seems to have problems loading the Photoshop format import/export plug-ins in Yosemite.
An application won’t start: Two possible reasons for pre-CC versions to not launch in Yosemite are Java not being available, and having non-Adobe plug-ins that aren’t compatible with Yosemite. See the topics Java requirement below and Plug-ins above.
Java requirement: When launching some older Adobe software for the first time in OS X, OS X may say that a Java runtime needs to be installed. If a button is provided, click it; if not download the Java installer from the Java for OS X 2015-001 page at Apple Support and install that. Note: Sometimes when you visit that link to Java for OS X, you get a blank page. If you see this in the Safari web browser, try opening Safari preferences, click the Advanced tab, and turn off the “Never use font sizes smaller than…” option. If that doesn’t work, try this direct download link: Java for OS X 2015-001 download
Some users have reported that the Adobe launch issue is not fixed until you reboot a second time after the Java installation. Also, some report that earlier versions such as CS3 are not working with the latest version of Java (currently Java 8), but it does work if they install Java 6, which is provided by Apple in the link above.
It’s understandable that some people avoid installing Java because to its security issues, but OS X won’t let some Adobe applications launch without it. In the case of Photoshop, Adobe says Photoshop doesn’t need Java at all, but OS X puts up the message anyway.
OS X Gatekeeper may prevent older Adobe software from starting: Gatekeeper is an Apple security feature (added in Mountain Lion) that helps protect you from running malicious applications. If you run Adobe 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.
Adobe software released after Gatekeeper was introduced properly conforms to Gatekeeper requirements, so no adjustments are needed for them.
Intel compatibility required: If your Adobe software is earlier than CS5, to run under Yosemite at all it must support Intel processors. After Apple switched to Intel-based Macs, Apple started phasing out support for running software based on the older PowerPC processors. Starting with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Mac OS X no longer runs PowerPC-based software. You’ll have to check compatibility for each of the Adobe applications you want to run; for example, Photoshop CS3 was the first version of Photoshop that ran on Intel-based Macs. But even if your software older than CS5 runs on Yosemite, it may still have other issues because OS X has changed a lot since then.
Upgrading from Mac OS X 10.6 or earlier: You may also want to read my blog post “Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: Will Adobe apps and other software work?”, so that you can also be up to date on the more dramatic changes that were introduced in Lion, such as the end of OS X support for PowerPC-based software.
General compatibility and other info
To learn about OS X software compatibility of Mac software in general, one resource is the Roaring Apps database. It lists OS X software and its reported compatibility with the last few versions of OS X, and it’s crowdsourced from user reports which are said to vary in reliability. As always, for any software that you cannot afford to be without, you should do two things: Check that company’s support website to verify compatibility, and also set up a test installation of Yosemite on a separate volume (like a spare hard drive or even a large enough USB flash drive) to run tests with your own files, peripherals, and workflows.
Wondering what Yosemite is all about? For the most in-depth Yosemite review you’ll probably find anywhere, read John Siracusa’s review at Ars Technica. As with every major release of OS X, Siracusa not only reviews the visible features that Apple promotes, but goes under the surface to explain changes to some of the underlying technologies in OS X and how they affect your Mac experience.
TRIM support for third-party SSDs: If you replaced your Mac’s original internal drive with a solid state drive (SSD), depending on the brand it may be a good idea to enable a feature called TRIM for better long-term performance. However, due to changes Apple made in Yosemite to increase the security of OS X, you can’t enable TRIM in Yosemite without compromising certain aspects of OS X security. For the details, see Trim Enabler and Yosemite by Cindori Software, creator of the Trim Enabler utility.
10-bit video displays: For many years, Photoshop users and other graphics professionals have wanted proper support for 10-bits-per-channel video displays on Macs. (This isn’t about the file format, but the data path to the video monitor.) While 10-bit-capable displays, graphics cards, cables, and software (such as Photoshop) have been ready for some time, Apple has not provided the necessary APIs to complete the chain. As far as I know, there is nothing in Yosemite or even the new Retina iMac to indicate that this has changed.
If you use Photoshop CC on a Mac and it crashes when using GPU-assisted features like Smart Sharpen, you may need to turn off OpenCL support in Photoshop until the problem is fixed. Reports point to a possible bug in the Apple graphics driver for AMD/ATI GPUs in OS X 10.9.2 Mavericks. (Which means this crash may only apply to you if your Mac has that type of GPU in that version of OS X.)
[Update: This did turn out to be an Apple bug. Apple fixed it in OS X 10.9.3. If you are running 10.9.3 or later you do not need to perform the steps listed below; you can leave OpenCL turned on in Photoshop. This also means that if Photoshop is crashing and you are using OS X 10.9.3 or later, the cause is probably not related to this problem.]
The official Adobe help page for this issue walks you through the steps to disable OpenCL support in Photoshop:
Here’s a picture of the option, since the Adobe help page doesn’t include one (click to enlarge):
This bug has also been discussed in posts in the Adobe Community forum for Photoshop (such as Crashes with PS CC on Mac OS 10.9.2), and on the Mac Performance Guide blog (2013 Mac Pro: Photoshop CC Filter Crashes Appear to be Due to Apple Graphics Drivers). The MPG article also refers to OS X 10.9.2 issues with with some external monitors such as the NEC PA series; I’ve also seen these problems.