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Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" Q&A - Published July 19, 2011

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What applications are not compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion"? What upgrade or substitute options are available for common incompatible applications?

Some applications that are compatible with Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" and earlier versions of Mac OS X are not compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion".

Although incompatible Mac OS X applications are not limited exclusively to those written for PowerPC processors, perhaps most notably, Mac OS X Lion does not support the "Rosetta" translation engine. As a result, no PowerPC Mac OS X applications will operate on Mac OS X Lion.

Before deciding whether or not to upgrade a particular Mac, one will need to upgrade, replace, or discard incompatible applications or run the risk of "entombing" data in formats that can no longer be accessed on that computer.

This is most likely to be an issue for "old school" -- or at least middle school -- Mac users who have Mac OS X applications that have not been upgraded to Universal or Intel versions. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of PowerPC Mac OS X applications that one could have installed and running smoothly on a Mac OS X Snow Leopard system that will not be able to make the leap to Lion. always is happy to help old school Mac users. Consequently, five common applications that are not compatible with Mac OS X Lion, as well as upgrade and substitute options, follow:

Intuit Quicken 2007

Quicken 2007 (along with 2005 and 2006) do not work with Mac OS X Lion. The company's own FAQ notes that Intuit would like old school Mac users to "upgrade" to the often inferior Quicken Essentials, try or switch to Quicken for Windows.

Intuit tries its best to spin these options in the most favorable light. The company proclaims that Quicken Essentials for Mac "is ideal if you do not track investment transactions and history, use online bill pay or rely on specific reports that might not be present in Quicken Essentials for Mac." "is ideal if maintaining your transaction history is not important to you" (and you're comfortable storing your financial information exclusively online). Finally, Quicken for Windows is "ideal if you use Quicken to track investments" but disclaims that "you will need to re-download your investment transactions or manually enter them."

In other words, if you use Quicken on your Mac for anything approaching personal finance, there is no convenient migration path from Quicken 2007 to another Intuit program. Even worse, the company FAQ quietly notes that Intuit is "evaluating options for Quicken Essentials for Mac," which is common corporate speak for discontinuing the product. At a minimum, it certainly is not a solid declaration of future support.

You could follow Intuit's advice -- and note that if you migrate from Quicken 2007 to Quicken Essentials, you will need to "upgrade and transfer your data on your current operating system. It will not import on Lion." -- but the official options seem unlikely to make sense for most users.

Given the relatively low cost of personal finance programs, the time needed to migrate to a new software package already, and Intuit's history of lackluster Mac support and unlikely future support, it will be more logical for most users to switch to a new program with a similar feature set.

Two such native Mac OS X options -- both of which support importing data from Quicken -- are IGG Software's iBank 4 and Jumsoft's Money 4. Based on hands-on experience with iBank 4 -- although some interface elements seem a bit awkward and some reporting features are missed from Quicken -- it is a worthy replacement. Furthermore, unlike Quicken Essentials, both iBank 4 and Money 4 are available with a free trial as well so one can experiment with each prior to purchase.

Microsoft Office 2004

Because Microsoft Office 2004 offers VBA macro support and an interface that some find superior to the subsequently introduced Office 2008, many users have stuck with Office 2004 (or even Office 2001 or Office X). It also is worth noting that Office 2008 will run without Rosetta, but the installer will not, so complicated workarounds are required to install it on a Mac without Rosetta support.

If one is using Office 2004 or an earlier version, the simple solution is to upgrade to Office 2011, which is intended to be able to read older documents without difficulties. However, be sure to always save a backup of every file and never open the only copy of a file with a newer version of the application, just to be safe. Additionally, there are some known issues and crashes even with Office 2011 (as well as Office 2008), but Microsoft is addressing these issues as well as implementing new Lion-specific features with a fortcoming version of Office 2011.

Depending on one's budget and needs, one might choose to delay upgrading until funds are available. If one's needs are basic, the free open-source OpenOffice and LibreOffice "knockoffs" also might be of interest.

Adobe Creative Suite 2

Because of the high cost of Adobe Creative Suite, many users no doubt have stuck with an older version and only have upgraded when forced due to compatibility or when new features were added that enticed them to upgrade.

Although it always is important to save backups and never test with an original, files should be able to survive the ride without difficulty and the simple solution is to upgrade to the current Adobe CS 5.5 (or at least Adobe CS 3). However, there are some known issues even with the latest Adobe software and those on a budget may need to defer upgrading to OS X Lion until it makes financial sense to do so.

Filemaker 6

As well documented by Tim Cimbura, Filemaker 7 "introduced an entirely new file format and rewritten application from the ground up. The work involved to migrate a Filemaker 5 formatted database can be significant and so some companies decided to leave a working solution alone."

Cimbura provides helpful advice about upgrade and reworking options, but in general, upgrading an older database to use Filemaker 11 could be fairly simple or it could be quite difficult, depending on its age and complexity. For some, an upgrade may be feasible whereas others may need to keep a "legacy box" running Mac OS X Snow Leopard or earlier.

It also is worth noting that Filemaker only is certifying that the "shipping versions of Filemaker products will be updated to support OS X Lion." Filemaker 11 hasn't yet been updated though and there have been some reported problems. Theoretically, Filemaker 8.5, Filemaker 9, and Filemaker 10 also may work as these are native Intel versions of the program. However, running these versions is not supported and one should backup everything prior to experimenting.

Eudora 6

Newer Mac users may smirk and have no interest in -- or even knowledge of -- Eudora, but many old school Mac users are fans of the vintage e-mail program, some from back in the days where "waste cycles drawing trendy 3D junk" was an option.

To those who have stuck with the program despite it being essentially unsupported for years, perhaps no modern e-mail program can match its ability to juggle multiple e-mail accounts as well as its speed, customization, advanced filtering and quick and granular search.

Some possible substitutes are MailForge, Thunderbird and the Thunderbird-related Eudora OSE/Penelope project, but no doubt these options will not be ideal for some for diehard Eudora loyalists. However, if one wants to upgrade to OS X Lion, it will be necessary to leave Eudora 6 behind.


These five applications certainly are not exhaustive, but each is common.

For what aims to be all Mac OS X applications with information on which apps are fully compatible, partially compatible, or not compatible with Mac OS X Lion, Roaring Apps offers a helpful crowdsourced database.

Ultimately, it will be important to review the applications that one uses on a regular basis and calculate the cost and availability of new or upgraded applications if necessary. Only then will one be able to determine whether it is prudent to upgrade now, later, or perhaps even not at all.

Also see: How can I tell if a Mac OS X application is written for PowerPC or Intel processors?

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