Two Easy Ways To Easily Tell If You Are Running Mac Apps That Are Compatible With Apple Silicon

So you just got a brand you Mac with the M1, M1 Pro, or M1 Mac processor in it. Congratulations! You absolutely made the right decision. But to fully leverage that new processor, you need apps that are designed for Apple Silicon so that you get the best performance and the best compatibility. Which means the question is, how do you make sure that your apps are ones that work with Apple Silicon? Before I get into the two ways that I would recommend to do that, let me explain the three different app types and why you should care:

  • X86-64 app running under Rosetta 2: If you’re coming from another Mac, or the developer of the app in question is on the lazy side, they may have only created an app that runs on Intel Macs that have Intel processors using the X86-64 bit instruction set. Which means that when you use that app on an Apple Silicon computer, macOS will have to use a translation layer called Rosetta 2 to allow it to run on Apple Silicon. Most of the time this works very well. However it is entirely possible that you may not be getting the best performance from the app in Rosetta 2. Also, it is also possible that you may have some issues with the app as no translation is perfect.
  • Universal Apps: This is where things get a bit confusing. Apple uses the term “Universal” for Apple Silicon/M1 optimized apps which work with Intel Macs too. But Apple uses the same term to refer to the same app being available on iOS and macOS. In this case, I am talking about the former as that form of Universal App ensures that you get good performance and compatibility with Apple Silicon Macs.
  • Apple Silicon Apps: These are apps that are native on Apple Silicon. These apps will give you the absolute best performance on your Apple Silicon Mac.

At the moment, I would expect most people who own Apple Silicon Macs to have Universal as developers really only want to write one app that works on both Intel and Apple Silicon platforms. But over the next few years, I expect that developers will transition over to Apple Silicon apps because there will be less and less Intel Macs in the market as time goes on and Apple will eventually drop support for Rosetta 2 for that reason. Thus it’s in your interest to make sure that you have as many apps that are Apple Silicon compatible as possible to stay ahead of this.

So, how can you tell what types of apps you’re running. Apple has a built in tool called System Information that can help you with that. Simply go to the Apple Menu –> About This Mac –> System Report. This will bring up System Information. Scroll down to the Software section and pick Applications. You should see this:

Here is where you will see all the apps that are on your Mac. Under “Kind” you will the type of app. In the screen shot above, you will see that I have the Apple Silicon version of Zoom, but everything else on the screen is a Universal app. You will also see iOS apps which is fine, Intel apps are ones which you should upgrade if you can, and Other. I honestly have no clue what that is. And nothing that I searched for cleared that up for me. If anyone out there has any info on this, I’d really appreciate a comment or an email with some clarification.

The second option is to use an app called Silicon which scans your computer for apps and displays everything in a user friendly way:

If you see a green dot next to the app, you’re good. If you see a yellow dot next to the app, then you need to update the app. It really doesn’t get any simpler.

Once you have an idea of what types of apps you have, I would go to the developer’s website or to the App Store to see if there is an update. If there isn’t one, I would email the developer as that may encourage them to update their app seeing as they will have to do it at some point.

Hopefully this helps you to get the most out of your new Apple Silicon Mac. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll do my best to help you out.

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