Snow Leopard: Incompatible Software

How Snow Leopard yells you and what you should do.

One of the drawbacks of updating to any new operating system — be it the latest version of Mac OS or Windows — is the risk that some of your older software might not be compatible. But it makes sense: as your system software is updated to add more features and take advantage of the power and capabilities of more modern computer hardware, software applications that are not updated along with it may simply cease functioning. This is probably the best argument for updating all of the software you rely on regularly.

When you install Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on your Mac, it automatically reviews the software installed on your computer. At the very end of the installation process, it notifies you of incompatibilities it found with a dialog like this:

Incompatibilities Found

Incompatible SoftwareClicking the More Info button displays a dialog with details about which software is incompatible and what the Snow Leopard installer did with it. In this example, Snow Leopard won’t work with my Palm Sync software. That’s okay with me because I no longer use a Palm (I have a BlackBerry now), which is why I never bothered to update the Palm Sync software. By moving it to the Incompatible Software folder it created, the Snow Leopard installer made it easy for me to simply delete it from my hard disk.

If, however, I still used and needed that software, I’d be researching Snow Leopard-compatible updates for it. If the software was still supported by its developer, I’d likely find one, install it, and be able to use it with Snow Leopard.

The dialog shown here includes a link that you should definitely follow if you either see this dialog or before you update to Snow Leopard if you believe some of your older software may not be compatible. The link is to a Knowledge Base article titled “Mac OS X v10.6: About incompatible software.” It includes a known list of incompatible software, as well as links to the developer sites to get updates.

How this Affects Me

I use one old piece of hardware — a 10-year-old HP LaserJet 2100TN printer — and one old, unsupported piece of software — ecto — on a regular basis. The HP printer required some reconfiguration to get working, as I wrote about here. But in all honesty, I was prepared to replace it if I couldn’t get it to work — I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a piece of computer hardware to last that long and I consider myself lucky that it has. ecto, which is the software I use daily to compose blog entries offline, hasn’t been updated in at least two years. Its developer handed it off to another developer who has pretty much abandoned it. With the release of Snow Leopard, it has begun to show some minor compatibility problems. Although it’s still functional now, I’m beginning to think of its replacement; I seriously doubt that it’ll be updated or continue to work with future versions of Mac OS.

But that’s just the way it is. If you want to move forward, you have to move everything forward.

While I realize that there has been a great deal of whining from some Mac OS users about Snow Leopard incompatibilities, I don’t think the problem is as serious as some might want you to believe. If application software is regularly updated and supported by its developer, it’s likely to be Snow Leopard compatible either now or by the end of October 2009. (Remember, Snow Leopard was originally slated for release in September, so its early release caught a lot of developers by surprise.) It’s really not fair to expect Apple to find and test its operating system software with every Mac OS application developed in during the past 10 years. It’s the developer’s job to make its software compatible with new hardware and operating system software. This is probably the best reason to avoid software developed by fly-by-night developers who might not be around when system software updates are released.

If you do have older software that’s no longer support and is “mission critical” to your work or organization, the answer is simple: don’t upgrade your hardware or system software. If it works on whatever setup you currently have, just stick with that until you can find an alternative solution.

It’s in the Book!

Snow Leopard Book CoverYou can find more information about using application software with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide.:

  • Application Basics is covered in Chapter 10, pages 183-208.
  • TextEdit is covered in Chapter 11, pages 209-232.
  • Internet Applications are covered in Chapter19, pages 405-444.
  • Mac OS Utilities is covered in Chapter 24, pages 569-594.

3 thoughts on “Snow Leopard: Incompatible Software

  1. “…I don’t think the problem is as serious as some might want you to believe.”

    With one exception. HP seems to have a Laissez -faire attitude about updated drivers. I have a scanner less than a year old that no longer works after having upgraded to Snow Leopard. I’ve emailed HP support, and phoned them. The driver for my scanner was supposed to be out in Oct. but tech support now, does not know when it will be available. Mine is not the only case – there are numerous complaints on the HP forums about other models of scanners and printers that are not performing on the new system.

    I realize that it is not Apple’s problem but in this case it would be nice if Apple could find a way to put the squeeze on HP.

    Thanks for being there.

    ~jerry

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