Amongst all of the glowing reviews for Snow Leopard praising its speed and performance tweaks, there have been also been complaints about incompatible programs and peripherals. While the behind-the-scenes tweaks and polish have made for an overall better operating system, users may want to hold off until Apple works out the kinks. Gizmodo’s review had a tiny mention at the end about Flash in Safari 4 not working on far more pages than in Leopard. Apple claimed that Flash would run in a process separate from Safari, therefore protecting the whole browser from crashing if Flash did. Macworld’s reviewer never did see this happen, reporting that “Several times… the entire browser did crash, leaving me with no recourse but to relaunch Safari and browse my History menu for the pages I was reading before the cataclysm.” ComputerWorld not only provided a list of apps and utilities they couldn’t get to work with Snow Leopard (iStat, NeoOffice, LiveSync and Xmarks for Safari), but also offered some currently working alternatives. Engadget warns that those with heavily tweaked systems are likely to be the most affected. For instance, users who rely on InputManager plugins will find that 64-bit Snow Leopard doesn’t play nice. Even in 32-bit compatibility mode, there were “random freak-outs.” If you have Unsanity’s Application Enhancer, or Safari plugins 1Password and Glims, you may want to hold off on this upgrade. Engadget was probably the most critical of the major reviewers, listing several bugs and frustrations dealing with other barely working software, non-working 3G USB modems, and trouble getting Safari to boot in 32-bit mode. Several of the software problems mentioned by Engadget were attributed to the shift to 64-bit. Snow Leopard is supposed to be compatible with 32-bit applications as well, but that compatibility isn’t ubiquitous yet. Plus, switching between 64 and 32-bit mode is still rather inelegant and annoying. Macworld noted this when talking about using preference panes:
“…if you click on a third-party preference pane that hasn’t yet been upgraded to a 64-bit version, System Preferences will tell you that it has to quit and reopen itself in 32-bit mode in order to open that preference panel. …it gets frustrating after you do the launch-quit-launch dance a few times.”
David Pogue wrote a mostly favorable review and only briefly mentions any software woes. His list of problematic apps includes some fairly important programs like Microsoft Word and Photoshop CS3. He and others have pointed out two very helpful lists of software incompatible with Snow Leopard. The official list is quite shorter than this one at wikidot and doesn’t mention many of the programs reviewers have complained about. Most reviewers were confident that fixes, patches and further tweaks will solve the problems and return users to their customary state of Mac-bliss. Each of the reviews I read contained far more praise than frustration. Every new operating system will have its bumps and bugs. But an improved user interface and smaller footprint on the hard drive isn’t going to be much consolation when a much used and much needed program no longer works or crashes easily and often. Holding off until patches and fixes abound is a good plan for most. But if the core of the problem lies in the 64-bit architecture and Snow Leopard’s inability to be truly compatible with 32-bit software, will Apple succeed in pushing everyone forward or holding everyone back?