Last word on Lion and application compatibility

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At the risk of beating a dead chestnut, I’ve received several inquiries regarding applications and their likely (or assured) compatibility with Lion. Rather than chew up precious email bits and forum threads, let’s wrap up this “Will my applications run under Lion or not?” package with a colorful bow.

Q. When I followed your advice for determining whether an application was listed as PowerPC or Intel in System Profiler, I found some applications listed as Classic. Will these applications be deleted when I upgrade to Lion? If not, will they work with Lion? And, again, if not, can I delete them?

A. There is no indication that the Lion installer will seek out incompatible applications and delete them. So yes, they will remain on your Mac’s hard drive.

The last time those Classic applications worked was under OS X 10.4 (Tiger). They were dead as doornails in Leopard and Snow Leopard and remain so in Lion. You can delete them from any Mac you have that will run Lion. If you have another, older Mac that runs Tiger or earlier and you don’t have the original copies of those applications (and you still want to use them), you might consider moving them to that older Mac before you delete them from your Lion-bound computer.

Q. I depend on the RosettaStone software to learn languages and I hear it won’t run under Lion. ¡Qué lástima!

A. No te preocupes por eso. Rosetta—the technology that allows Intel-based Macs to run PowerPC applications—and RosettaStone language software have only one thing in common: The word rosetta. Completely different beasts. Any RosettaStone software that is Intel-native or Universal will run under Lion.

Q. But why can’t Apple keep Rosetta as an optional installation for Lion as it did with Snow Leopard?

A. Rosetta was always intended to be a transitional technology—one to get users over the OS hump and provide them with the time they needed to upgrade their software to Intel-native versions or find alternatives. That hump has lasted about 5 years, which isn’t bad in this fast-paced world of technology.

There have been suggestions that Apple can’t include Rosetta because it doesn’t own the technology. Maybe. But I have to think that a company with Apple’s bank balance and technical smarts could find a way to either renew that Rosetta license or develop a technology of its own if it really believed this was of vital importance. Given the relatively small number of users affected by the demise of PowerPC applications (vocal though they may be), I have to also think that continuing to provide this bridge is completely off Apple’s list of priorities.

And because it is, it’s really, truly, seriously time to plan for the future—you can expect no further Apple-branded flotation devices. As I’ve written before, you have options that include running Lion in addition to an older version of the Mac OS on your computer as well as using other operating systems to run vital software. But for applications like AppleWorks, your hand is being forced for real this time. Moving AppleWorks word processing and spreadsheet files isn’t terribly difficult. Moving database files, however, is more challenging. FileMaker provides some tips on how to move those files to Bento. Not a perfect solution, but at least it's a more forward-looking solution than clinging to an old OS (and, perhaps, old hardware) to keep a zombie application shambling along.

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At a Glance
  • At $30 for all of your Macs, the only reason not to upgrade to Lion is because you rely on old PowerPC-based apps that won’t run on it. Otherwise, it’s a great price for a major upgrade.

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