Charles Moore's Mailbag

The Implications of Losing Rosetta in OS X 10.7 Lion

Charles Moore - 2011.05.09 -Tip Jar

Publisher's note: When Mac OS X 10.7 Lion ships laterthis year, Rosetta, whichhas allowed Intel-based Macs to run PowerPC (PPC) software since 2006,will no longer be part of the Mac OS. This will not only render appswritten prior to the Intel switch unusable - it will also preventsoftware installers and application updaters that depend on PPC codefrom running. Although Migration Assistant does a great job ofmigrating your apps, work files, preferences, and user accounts to anew Mac and installing a new version of OS X doesn't usuallydelete old apps, the inability to do a clean reinstall is a concern forsome users. If you're one of them, before you install Lion, clone yourcurrent setup to another drive and keep that available for apps,installers, and updaters that will no longer function in

My conversation with Low End Mac reader Demetrios merits a specialedition of the Mailbag. The termination of Rosetta with OS X 10.7Lion is going to have many consequences that we probably haven'tthought of yet and is of particular concern to low-end Mac

Hi Charles,

I emailed you some time ago with regards to browsers.

I was wondering if you knew of the status of Rosetta on Lion?

There is much speculation and bad logic flying around.

I have tried to add some comments in some of the discussion forums,but something went wrong in some (e.g. AppleInsider) when I tried toregister with them.

My concerns regard what has not been considered by many.

Your pages seem to do well on Google searches, and you might discussthe matter on one of your pages.

If you are interested, here are my concerns (hopefully without toomany typos!):

What most users should want in 10.7 Lion is support for PowerPC(PPC) apps that require Rosetta. There is a failure by many tounderstand what an absence of Rosetta means.

If you run Word for Mac 2008, which is Universal Binary and was onlysuperseded in 2010, you won't be able to install it on Lion. Why?Because Word 2008 uses PPC code in its installer. So you'll have to buyanother version of Word.

If you run Adobe's Creative Suite 2 (CS2) and have the upgrade CD tothe current CS 5, you won't be able to install CS2 on to your newcomputer which runs 10.7, to then be able to install the update to CS5if it does not have Rosetta. Why? Because updater CDs only work if theycan find a legitimate copy of an earlier suite. If you can't installCS2, which is PPC, then the updater won't find an earlier version toupdate.

(Conversely, if you own Macromedia's Studio 8, you can currentlyupgrade to Adobe's CS5. But again, Macromedia Studio 8 is PPC, so ifyou've bought the upgrade to CS 5 - or 4 - you won't be able to installit on OS X Lion without Rosetta, because you won't be able toinstall Macromedia Studio 8. And if you own Photoshop Elements 4 - as Ido - it too can be upgraded to CS 5. However, as it is PPC, I would notbe able to install it onto a new machine running Lion if it does nothave Rosetta, so an upgrade to CS5 won't work as the installer won'tfind any product to allow its installation. So if you've bought anupgrade to CS 3, 4, or 5, all of which are Universal or Intel, toupgrade your earlier PPC version, you won't be able to install any ofthem on Lion because you won't be able to install the earlier PPCprogram required for the installer to work.)

There are many programs which cannot be updated, like ImageReady andGoLive, which last appeared in CS2.

A rather fanatical group of users use Macromedia's (now Adobe's)FreeHand (which Adobe replaced with Illustrator) known as Free FreeHand. This will not work onyour Mac without Rosetta (it currently works on Snow Leopard with afile fix downloadable off Adobe's site, and it works perfectly onWindows).

If Apple does not include Rosetta, then obviously Windows becomes aviable prospect. Weigh the costs: A new Adobe Creative Suite costs morethan buying a new Windows machine plus the cost of buying an olderversion of the Creative Suite that will run on the PC (but won't run onyour Mac with Lion). Or you can do what I have been doing, run Windowsthrough Parallels, and slowly buy Windows versions of programs. Windowssupports users of older programs (e.g. in the Win XP mode in Win 7Ultimate); Apple screws the customers who have purchased Applecomputers along with the programs to run on them.

Apple newbies think that it would be okay to jettison Rosetta. Yetmany of the people who now run some PPC apps initially bought them fortheir Intel machines not too long ago when PPC versions were the onlyversions of the programs they needed that were available. Withoutaccommodating users with older programs, Apple merely confirms that itintends on capturing market share off Windows without caring to lookafter the customers it already has. Eventually the newbies who onlysurf the net simply to make Facebook updates will get stung too.

Hi Demetrios,

I share your dismay at Rosetta being dropped as afeature from OS X 10.7 Lion. However, I think that just as with thetermination of Mac OS X Classic Mode support in OS X 10.5 Leopard, the decision willnot be reversed. Those of us who prefer and/or depend on residualPowerPC applications are going to have to find Intel-nativealternatives or just keep on keeping on in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

The Wikipedia entrycovering OS 10.7 Lion, notes the following:

Dropped features

  • Front Row
  • A Java Runtime Environment (JRE) is no longer installed by default,but can be installed on demand.
  • Adobe Flash Player is no longer installed by default and must beinstalled manually.[citation needed]
  • Rosetta, software which makes possible the execution of PowerPCsoftware on x86 hardware, is no longer available.
  • Samba, software used since Mac OS X 10.2 for capability withWindows file sharing, has been removed and replaced with Apple's owntools for Windows file sharing and network directory services.

The Wikipedia editor cites this AppleInsider article as a resource reference. AppleInsidernotes that "Apple has already restricted Mac App Store titles to Intelcode, leaving PowerPC support abandoned along with Motorola 68000code."

I still miss Classic Mode and continue to run it on myold Pismo PowerBooks,which are booting from MacOS X 10.4 Tiger. I expect I will miss Rosetta even moreprofoundly, but it appears that whether we like it or not (and I havedefinitely mixed feelings), the future of the Mac platform is going tobe increasingly integrated with the IOS app universe, so if we want tokeep using Macs, we're going to have to grin and bear it.


Hi Charles,

It's obvious that Apple are getting rid of Rosetta.

You've missed the point.

To buy Adobe's current creative suite in Australia costs $3,175 asper Adobe's site. The upgrade from a previous version costs $1,003(on the same page), because Adobe rips off non-Americans.

People have spent actual money for high-end programs to run on theirmachine, and then paid for upgrades that won't work on Lion. Eventhough CS5 is Lion compliant, anyone who bought the upgrade from CS2won't be able to install onto Lion because the installer won't workwithout a previous version (CS2 is PPC).

Windows looksafter their users.

Do you seriously believe, that Windows users will buy Macs becausethey might look like iPhones? Seriously?

I have just bought an HTC phone, and no one I know with an iPhonelikes Macs.

Hi Demetrios,

I didn't intend my comments to be argumentative.

Ouch! That price for CS2 in Australia sounds ugly,even without looking up the current exchange rate for the Aussie $.

I'm Canadian, and CS2 is expensive here as well. It'snot cheap anywhere. Personally, I use Photoshop Elements, but I'm not agraphics professional, so I (vicariously) appreciate your point forthose who are. However, that's an Adobe issue.

Backwards compatibility is always a sore point forexisting users when major changes are made. I agree that Microsoft hasmade a much greater effort than Apple to accommodate ongoingcompatibility, but the preponderance of Windows users are still on XP,released in 2001(about the same time as OS X 10.1) and "replaced"by Vista in 2006 (about the same time OS X 10.4 Tiger, the lastversion with Classic Mode, was replaced by 10.5 Leopard). Arguably,backward compatibility has held Windows back in some contexts.

I didn't reference the iPhone and ventured no opinionas to precisely why so many erstwhile Windows users are switching toMacs these days. I suppose the iPhone/iPad/iPod halo has been acontributing factor, albeit a superficial one for serious computerusers. Nevertheless, it can't be denied that Apple's sales performanceover the past three years has been spectacular.

Most of the people I know with iPhones like Macs, butthat's just the crowd I roll with. I also have friends who would neverlook sideways at a Mac but profess to love their iPads

Fair Winds,

Hi Charles,

I had intended on emailing you with regard to what Apple writes onits "foreign" sites (which includes Canada) re: Rosetta, but which isremoved from Apple's US site.

Rosetta page on Apple's website
The Rosetta page as it appears on the Apple UK site today.

These are the links to the Rosetta pages on the Canadian, UK, Australian, Italian, German, French, and Chinese Apple sites.

I have a feeling that Apple will soon delete them all as any readingof them is pretty damning to Apple's removal of Rosetta (so I've takenscreenshots of all of the above & copied the underlying HTML codefor the Australian page).

It is interesting to note what Apple wrote back in 2006:

"Most existing applications will continue to run, thanks toRosetta."

"You'll never see it, you'll never configure it, you'll never haveto think about it. It's built into Mac OS X to ensure that most of yourexisting applications live a long and fruitful life." And, "Rosettadynamically translates most of your PowerPC-based applications to workwith your Intel-based Mac. There's no emulation. No second-classstatus. It looks and feels just like it did before. On a Mac, you'dexpect nothing less."

According to Apple this is to "Protect your investment".

Well, we bought our Intel Mac a few weeks after the release ofLeopard, and checked out whether what we had would work. We wereconsidering whether or not to buy a PC if we had to re-buyprograms.

Commentary on Apple's broken promises.

When Apple was running the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" adverts, the last(or nearly last) one was titled Broken Promises, in which PCpledges that Windows 7 won't have any of the problems of the previousoperating system. That system was Vista, and the problems with Vistawere that it broke drivers and caused problems, and also broke programsalready installed. Win 7 resolved that issue. The Premium and Ultimateversions of Win 7 can run them in virtual XP mode.

As for the Apple Broken Promises ad, critical of Windows, it's nolonger hosted by Apple (I couldn't find it), but I have a copy of it onmy hard drive....

Thanks, Charles!


Hi Demetrios;

Thanks for the follow-up and links. I checked, and theCanadian one still works. (Publisher's note: As of today, the Canadianone no longer works, but the others still do. dk)

I won't dispute that Microsoft has done a much moreassiduous job with backwards-compatibility for Windows than Apple haswith Mac OS. I think Steve Jobs has a philosophical disdain for folkswho stubbornly hold on to technologies and modes he regards aspassé. I could spend some time here inventorying thetechnologies he's thrown under the bus over the years.

On the other hand, over 53% of computer users (58% ofWindows users) are still running XP, and I suppose Microsoft's willingness to sustaincompatibility has something to do with that.

I think it would've been good for Apple to maintainRosetta for a few versions yet, but I suspect the substantialconvergence of OS X and the iOS in Lion presents practicalobstacles to doing that.

We're heading for an iOS world in the Mac orbitwhether we like it or not.


Hi Charles,

Thanks for your response.

I was reading somewhere (a month ago?) about Windows 8 (or later),and Windows is apparently going to be going down a similar path toApple.

I think that the reasons that people are still on XP are largelybecause of Vista (and that many Windows users don't like theunfamiliar). Additionally, Apple controls its own hardware. With a PCyou can buy a machine (or bits to build one) and install XP, Vista, orWin 7 (as far as I know - which could be wrong). But with Apple, a newMac (i.e. Mac Pro) will only run Snow Leopard.

My partner works at the stateMuseum here, and she has told me that they always buy theincremental upgrades (to programs such as, for instance, the AdobeSuite). I'm sure they - and a lot of other businesses and bodies -won't be happy when they upgrade their Macs and find that they have tobuy new suites too. If I was them, I know what I'd do to my Macs in thegraphics department.

Personally, I wouldn't mind paying for Rosetta, a "Rosetta" app,which might run like the X11.

I suppose that the next version of Parallels will also run Leopardand Snow Leopard as VMs within Lion. Parallels already runs VM Leopard(& Snow Leopard?) servers.

Maybe not ideal, but workable.

Still not happy...


Hi Demetrios,

I agree that a lot of Mac users are going to beseriously disgruntled when it sinks in that older and often veryexpensive productivity software that has been doing a perfectlysatisfactory job running with Rosetta support will no longer work onMacs booted in Lion. And, of course, while Apple will continue tosupport Snow Leopard and perhaps Leopard for some time with securityupdates and compatible versions of Safari, the iApps, etc., they willnot do so for nearly as long as Microsoft has supported XP.

I expect that what little remains of official Applesupport for Tiger will be dropped entirely with Lion's release, soOS X Classic Mode (which I still use for a handful of applicationsthat have no satisfactory substitutes in OS X software) will be agoner, as it already is if you have a Mac that doesn't support Tiger.The loss of Rosetta will be even more inconvenient and traumatic.

I'm doubtful that Rosetta will be carried over byApple after Snow Leopard in any capacity. It's already an optionalinstall in Snow Leopard. I do assume that Parallels (and Apple's BootCamp) will be updated to support Lion. The size of the cohort of usersthat want/require Windows support on the Mac is too large and tooelemental to Apple's market share resurgence to cut off.

I expect that the proportion of Mac users who dependon Rosetta support is much smaller, so the the persuasive purchase theywill have on Apple's decision-making may be intense, but notwidely-based.


Hi Charles,

Just emailing you on an interesting point: Microsoft still continuessupport for PPC apps, which work as far back as OS X 10.2 Jaguar.Office 2004 has just had an update to version11.6.3


"Before you install the Office 2004 for Mac 11.6.3Update, make sure that the computer is running Mac OS X 10.2.8 (Jaguar)or a later version of the Mac OS X operating system."

"MS11-023: Description of the security update forOffice 2004 for Mac 11.6.3 Update: April 12, 2011"

Office 2008 and Office 2011 were updated too).

Apple really aren't nice to those who use their product.

There will come a point of resistance, when Apple's growth willstop. I hope that happens with Lion.


Hi Demetrios,

Excellent point. I haven't been much of a Word fan sinceversion 5.1, which still runs nicely in Classic Mode on my Tigermachines. That's convenient, since I have a big archive of Word 5.1docs, but I have to admire Microsoft's commitment tobackwards-compatibility.

That said, Apple has a different philosophy, and itseems to be working quite well for them - or at least evidently nothurting them much in the marketplace. I don't anticipate that they willbe changing their minds, so we Mac veterans who have mixed feelings atbest about the iOS-ization of OS X will be obliged to adapt orswitch to another platform. However, if things keep unfolding as theyseem to be, Windows and Linux will also be concentrating more ontablet/touchscreen-friendly versions of their OSes as well, so I doubtthat there's much shelter from this going forward.


Hi Charles,

With regards to word processing programs, I came from a G3 on 9.0.4to Intel running Leopard.

The biggest reason was word processing. AppleWorksreally didn't cut it (in my opinion). I downloaded CorelWord for Mac on OS 9,* which I liked, but it would crashbecause of the kind of files I created.

We had to upgrade because we needed real word processing that couldhandle large image files and text in Unicode.

We bought iWorks and then Office 2008 when it came out, but it didnot take me long to stop using Word. Love Pages. (Only people who useWord at work seem to prefer it over Pages.)

The bad thing about Pages is the backward compatibility element,which is typical of Apple. If someone sends a Pages file created inPages 09 and you've only got 08, you can't open it. Compared to Word,that's bad. You can open a .docx file in Word 2004 (in Tiger, but notJaguar). So for the sake of compatibility you have to save your Pagesfiles as Microsoft .doc (or .docx) documents. That way they can be readon old Macs, new Macs, and on Windows machines.

I eventually upgraded the G3 to OS X 10.2 Jaguar (which I bought fromeBay) - because I can't bring myself to throw a machine that stillworks away.

This is a screenshot I took a few weeks ago.

The point is, Apple got all of its users to buy OS X versions ofprograms they already had. And now, these programs and subsequentupgrades won't be installable on Lion.

For how long will Apple support its new programs coded as Intel orUniversal that came into existence before Lion, before requiring usersto buy more programs? Of course Adobe (and others) don't care, becausetheir programs sell (not that it's Adobe's fault).

My previous point may not have made sense, so I'll try to make itdifferently. There is an interesting element to Lion, such as"autosave", which will only work on new programs coded for Lion, butwon't work on earlier Intel/Universal coded programs. It indicates tome that Apple will eventually run only post-Lion programs on theircomputers.


* WordPerfect 3.5e forMac is still available as a free download.

Hi Demetrios,

I haven't used any word processor application forproduction since the old Classic OS version of Nisus Writer back inthe late '90s. Bean serves nicely if Ineed styled text that Tex-Edit Pluscan't handle. I have a copy of Pages '08 on my hard drive, but I onlystart it up occasionally and have never really found a reason to use itinstead of my mainstay text editor, Tex-Edit Plus.

Speaking of which, Tex-Edit Plus developer Tom Bendertold me a while back that he plans to develop a Cocoa version of TE+,but no sign of it yet, which will create a major dilemma for me ifLion, as rumoured, turns out to be 64-bit only and thereby dropssupport for Carbon apps. TE+ is the most important andnon-substitutable application in my production suite.


Hi again Charles,

This is a screenshot for what happens when installing Office 2008 onSnow Leopard. Although written in Universal code, has a PPCinstaller.

Office 2008 installer requires RosettaOffice 2008 installer requires Rosetta
Microsoft Office 2008 supports Intel Macs, but the installer requiresRosetta, so it won't run with OS X Lion.

Hi again Charles,

Apologies if my last email was little garbled.

With reference to Office 2008, it should be noted that it was theonly version of Office available for Snow Leopard for 14 months afterSL's release, and that anyone who bought it and installed it duringthat time needed Rosetta. And, if in the future, these users buy a newMac with Lion and with no Rosetta, these users will find that theircopy of Office 2008 won't be able to be installed.

I'm sending a detail of a screenshot of a frustrating Snow Leopardbug!

I have folders on my desktop and on external drives. When I copy afolder from any external drive onto any of my machines, I get the usualdialog, something like, "are you sure you want to replace an olderfolder with that name?". But what Snow Leopard does whilst copying, isit wipes the folder clean and then says "The operation can't becompleted because an item with [that] name already exists"!

This does not happen on the G3 on Jaguar, or the G4 on Tiger, or onmy current machine when it was on Leopard, or even on Windows runningXP. This happens once every five times on Snow Leopard, and it hasstill not been fixed.

A secondary bug that seems associated with this one is thatsometimes, when it successfully copies a folder over, it reorders allthe items in that folder into alphabetical order, which means that Ieither have to rearrange them or open the folder to drag the items intoit (thus retaining the order I had them in). Do you think that Applewill ever fix this?


Hi Demetrios,

That's a nasty bug I hadn't heard of before.

Will Apple fix it? If they haven't by now, I wouldn'tbet on it for Snow Leopard. Probably with Lion.

Your mention of the SL Finder rearranging the contentof folders, one of the things that drives me nuts with OS X isthat the Clean Up Selection command doesn't have a confirm dialog. Onthe cusp of my sixth decade, I've been known more than once to driftoff at the keyboard, only to awaken and find the 100 or so icons on myDesktop all regimented neatly in rows of columns rather than in theordered chaos of where I had put them. There must be a keyboard commandor mouse click that initiates the reordering, but it is maddening tohave to spend 20 minutes or so groggily restoring them to where theywere.


Hi Charles,

With regard to the rearrangement of the Desktop that you mention, ithad never happened to me until Snow Leopard (of course, when I rebuiltthe desktop on OS 8.6 once, I had the icons rearranged).

It has happened a few times to me on Snow Leopard. After arrangingthe items in the order I wanted, the computer again rearranged themwhen I started it up the next day.

I fixed this with TechTool Pro. I suspect that it might be a problemin the way it handles memory? (Just a wild guess.)

I booted up on the TechTool Pro disc, defragmented the files, andthen defragmented the disc into a contiguous segment. All was fineuntil the next upgrade (from 10.6.5 to 10.6.6), after which all of myicons were again rearranged. So now, I defragment the the computerafter each upgrade.


Hi Demetrios,

I haven't noticed system upgrades causing anyrearrangement. All that defragging sounds time-consuming andtedious.

The only instances I've had this happen have beenafter falling asleep at the keyboard, so I can't say for sure exactlywhat I do inadvertently to trigger the rearrange.


Hi Charles,

It's a known issue and subject to afew discussions on Apple's site. Page 4 is where I made mycontribution.

I suspect it is a question of how SL handles memory. I have moreprograms installed on it than you can poke a stick at, as well asWindows XP, which also has a full compliment of programs. Maybe ifthere are only a few programs installed it requires less memoryallocation? My mother-in-law has the default apps plus Microsoft Officeand has had no problem.

SL definitely has many shortcomings.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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