iPhoto users, you’re out of time with macOS Catalina. What’s your next step?

Not everyone migrated to Photos. Now you almost have to.


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If you’ve continued to use iPhoto after Apple discontinued it in 2015, you had to know its days were numbered. Many people preferred iPhoto’s controls and the new Photos app was initially missing features and buggy, crashy, and slow at times. Photos has improved substantially, though it’s still not everyone’s cup of tea.

Now, iPhoto’s number is finally truly up. The outdated software won’t launch in macOS Catalina, because its core functions rely on a software framework Apple has also sent riding into the sunset.

If you upgraded to Catalina without first launching Photos or finding another solution, what options do you have? Plenty.

  • Launch Photos in Catalina. Photos can still read and upgrade an iPhoto library, as it doesn’t require launching iPhoto. Photos doesn’t copy the iPhoto images, but it uses a special kind of link that lets the same file exist in two places, avoiding increasing your storage requirements.

  • Switch to Google Photos. Google offers desktop and mobile apps for importing images and syncs via its cloud service. You can have the desktop software read an iPhoto library to upload your images. 

  • Switch to Adobe Lightroom for photo library managing and maybe for cloud-based sync. Adobe offers two different versions: one is oriented towards images stored on a computer (Lightroom Classic), while the other leans heavily on cloud-based sharing and access for mobile, desktop, and Web (the weirdly named Adobe Photoshop Lightroom). The cloud-oriented version is just $10 a month, which includes 1TB of storage and the use of all the apps across your devices.

  • Install a virtual machine to keep macOS Mojave or an earlier macOS running for iPhoto and other apps. While it’s not a solution forever, you can use Parallels or VMWare Fusion within Catalina. You can postpone making a change for a little or long while. (You could also revert to Mojave, but that’s a time-limited choice, too, and Mac models released after this point won’t run macOS before Catalina.)

With Google Photos and either Lightroom choice, you won’t be able to preserve metadata added in iPhoto, however. And you might not be able to import modified versions of photos you edited within iPhoto—only the originals. Upgrading to Photos or using a virtual machine preserves both.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Ken.

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