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Why macOS Catalina breaks so many apps and what you can do about it

Apple's latest Mac update, macOS Catalina, was released earlier this week, and this brought a series of complications, both small and large.

First, this update is the first for Apple to drop 32-bit application support, causing a variety of problems for users of smaller apps, plug-ins, and other software that may not be updated for some time, or was made possible by an company that no longer exists. There are also quite a few other issues with Catalina, such as incompatibility issues with Adobe software and unforeseen obstacles when removing iTunes.

That leads us to a series of important questions for Mac users who may be at risk of disrupting important workflows by Catalina. What exactly can go wrong if you perform an upgrade? Do you need to upgrade now, and what should you do before you pull the trigger? Or do you have to wait a while, and if so, what is the best way to do that and also to check when it might be safe to make the leap?

Screenshot by Dieter Bohn / The Verge

What is wrong with Catalina so far?

Apple first announced that it would eventually reduce support for 32-bit apps more than a year and a half ago, when it started pushing warnings to macOS High Sierra users that 32-bit software was not & # 39; supported & # 39 ;. The apps still worked, but with Catalina's official unveiling at WWDC in June, Apple made the final abandonment official. With the launch of Catalina, 32-bit apps no longer work.

That has resulted in a number of understandably messy problems. For example, older versions of Adobe products such as Photoshop use 32-bit license components and installers, which means that they do not work after you upgrade. Even the Adobe removal program does not work after the Catalina upgrade, because that is also a 32-bit component.

Screenshot by Dami Lee / The Verge

Adobe recommends that you do not update your Mac if you rely on this older, pre-Creative Cloud version of Photoshop or Lightroom. It also says that even if you upgrade, you probably have to uninstall that software first, otherwise it's hard to get rid of it if it is disabled.

Other popular pieces of software that have become entangled in this 32- to 64-bit transition include older versions of Microsoft Office, numerous older versions of Mac apps such as GarageBand, and discontinued apps such as iPhoto. For those who do play games on a Mac, there are probably quite a few 32-bits and there is no way to save them after upgrading to Catalina.

Over on The Tape Drive Apple blogger Steve Moser has compiled a list of 235 apps and counts that are not supported in Catalina. That includes some versions of Transmit, 1Password, QuickBooks, VMWare Fusion and Parallels.

But the problems reach beyond the loss of 32-bit app support. Due to incompatibility issues, even newer versions of Photoshop installed and managed with Creative Cloud have file naming issues, plug-in authentication issues, and video rendering issues. Adobe says on its support page for the problem that drops, ExtendScript Toolkit, and Lens Profile Creator cannot run.

Because Catalina marks the official end of iTunes as a stand-alone app, third-party apps that rely on iTunes also come across as a storage location for music files and for the functions it offered for linking with other software. This particularly affected DJ apps such as Rekordbox and Traktor, which offer the ability to sync XML files generated from iTunes, breaking the link between the software and DJ & # 39; s music libraries, a crucial feature is for live performances. For those who depend on that software, Apple says they should not upgrade to Catalina either.

Certainly more problems will pop up as more users upgrade to Catalina and encounter new, unforeseen problems. But for now, if one of the aforementioned pieces of software is vital to your work or your daily computing, it's probably a good idea to wait to upgrade.

Do you want to upgrade now?

If you want to upgrade, there are some simple ways to find out if your machine is being hit hard by the loss of 32-bit support. Apple has made every effort to ensure that if you choose to install the new operating system, you will be notified of the software installed on your computer that is not supported after the update.

But if you want to do that in advance, before you download Catalina and go to the final stages of the installation process, you can use Spotlight search on your Mac to open the System Information tool. From there, browse to & # 39; Software & # 39; and click on & # 39; Legacy Software & # 39 ;. At the top of the window you will find all software that becomes unusable once Catalina has been installed. On my work machine it was just one app – an old piece of software for recording Skype conversations. But on my home machine, a one-year-old Mac Mini, I have a lot of older software.

Screenshot by Nick Statt / The Verge

I have an old version of Microsoft Office on that machine, a 32-bit version of Valve & # 39; s Steam launcher that I have never uninstalled and what looks like old versions from iMovie and pre-Creative Cloud Adobe apps. I use my Creative Cloud subscription on this machine, so I can remove that Adobe software. But if I hadn't heeded Adobe's warning to do this prior to Catalina, the company says I should have used my manual cleanup tool, which can be annoying to solve problems and time-consuming to perform.

The question whether you need to upgrade is largely based on the risk that some apps no longer work or you may encounter problems that you are not yet aware of. even in supported 64-bit software.

If you are like me, you do not use highly specialized apps and you do not use a four- or five-year Mac. You usually use your new laptop or desktop for web browsing, general productivity issues (calendar, notes, file management, etc.), light media creation and editing and writing. In that scenario, upgrading to Catalina is reasonable and you probably won't cause too many problems.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Why you might want to wait

There are enough reasons not to upgrade to Catalina. Apple says the operating system will work on computers since 2012, but of course that means tons of 32-bit software lying around that you use from time to time without realizing it.

In my opinion, it is not worthwhile to use those apps only to use Catalina, when the upgrades you get are mostly focused on new devices. For example, you cannot use the new Sidecar mirroring feature without a Skylake Mac and a newer iPad.

Another reason why you may want to wait to upgrade is if you are a creative professional, someone who uses Photoshop or one of the aforementioned music software to which the iTunes removal applies. It is always safer to work on a machine that is integrated into your existing workflow, instead of running the risk of breaking something and getting a roadblock for a project with an expiration date.

As Dieter Bohn of The Verge states in an article with the appropriate title, You need your operating system cannot be updated immediately, ”consumers, and in particular Apple fans, were lulled to sleep by software updates due to the stable operation of the mobile phone. He calls it a low risk and high reward decision to update a new app or go to the latest version of iOS, because although you may encounter a bug here or there, you do get access to cool new functions, great backgrounds, and generally fast app acceptance of new possibilities by third parties.

The same does not apply to the Mac, which as a much more open platform can bring more complications and entails a higher risk in the event of a serious bug or incompatibility issue. "You are probably dependent on your Mac or PC for" real work, "so updating on day one can threaten that real work – literally threaten your livelihood," writes Bohn. "It's better to wait and see how things shake, to let other people experience the problems and report them."

In case you persist, there is one thing you want to do: in a hurry, click Settings, click Software Update, and clear the "Automatically keep my Mac up to date" check box. This ensures that your Mac is not trying to secretly install the update on your behalf. Most Mac users have checked this box by default, so you must manually disable the setting to prevent a forced Catalina installation.

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