Software rationalisation - Catalina and now Apple Silicon

I’ve been semi-retired from my graphics profession for over five years now, and the arrival of Catalina started to made me think of a long-term upgrading path. Apple Silicon (AS) has only made me realise I do need to at least have a strategy.

I’ve got an ageing MacBook Pro 2012 with an SSD upgrade, and hopefully I can now carry that along until AS arrives - by then I’ll need certainly need to upgrade. So fingers crossed, that means a hardware path might be clear.

Software is harder, and made me really think about the tools I use. Most of my work was on Adobe Creative Suite - but aside from that I don’t seem to be able to get away from MS Office, and I’m guessing that will definitely transition into AS.
All Apple apps - Safari, Photos, Pages etc etc will hopefully (!) survive the transition, but I’ve never forgotten how Apple has arbitrarily dropped its own applications in the past.
My ScanSnap S1300 is invaluable for general office use (we are aiming for a paperless office), and hopefully the recent Catalina update means I can use that at least via Rosetta 2.

To be honest, I can probably find workarounds for the other small apps I use, which leaves Adobe. I’m still using that last non-subscription version of Creative Suite, and use it so comparatively rarely now I can’t justify upgrading to the subscription model. I bought Parallels as a lifeboat in case I was forced to upgrade to Catalina (I’m still running Mojave), but to be honest, I really don’t like working in it.

I’ve stopped web design, so don’t need Dreamweaver any more; PDF Expert seems just about an adequate replacement for Acrobat Professional; I’m going to have to accept that any page layout I do these days can be done perfectly well in Pages - so reluctantly I don’t need InDesign. Which just leaves Photoshop and Illustrator. I know these so well, and they do things other cheaper replacements can’t do easily. I probably only use 20% of their capabilities, but it’s a vital 20%.

I have been recommended the Affinity suite of apps - which do look good. Anyone got any experience of them?

Is anyone else in the same situation? I’m guessing many will be, and this would make a good (ongoing?) TidBITS article.

You should definitely check out Affinity Publisher as an InDesign alternative. Quite enjoy using it and the workflow is very close.

I own Affinity Photo as well and for whatever reason I stumble on using it, it’s quite full featured, but I prefer the comparitavely positive experience in using Pixelmator Pro which is very friendly. Affinity Photo is possibly a more capable tool, perhaps more closely adhering to being a full Photoshop replacement but I have found sufficient differences in workflow for it to trip me up, I have to look up ‘how do I do X in Affinity Photo…’ all the time. I have been using Photoshop since 1990, so perhaps old dog/new tricks at play. All that said, I know others swear by it and the iPad app is functionally very close to the Mac app. I find that Pixelmator Pro has qualities which delight and please me more in use so I tend to load that application more often.


I’m in the exact same boat. And as I mentioned in other recent threads, I missed out on years of really great new applications, features, speed, etc. because I bought a new 9600 few weeks before Apple announced it would only run on yet to be released G5 models.

I’m also running Adobe CS5 Creative Suite, and I also can’t justify a subscription just to do personal stuff. So I’m going to try to adapt to Photos or maybe Photoshop Elements. I will try to do without InDesign, Illustrator and Acrobat Pro, but Dreamweaver could a bigger problem. I’ll just hope my luck will hold out and I’ll be able to keep my ancient Mac alive so I can fire up the CS apps if Imreally need to.

MS Office is a different story. I’ve tried over the years to get used to Pages, Numbers and Keynote, and I’ve found the learning curve to be too frustrating. But what seems to be an insurmountable problem for me is that stuff created in Apple’s apps do not render properly when opened in MS Office apps, which is a killer for me. So I think I’m stuck here.

A very big problem for me will be FileMaker Pro. I have three databases I designed in version 10 that I cannot do without, and they act exactly the way I want them to. My husband has some also. If anyone has any suggestions about another app that’s non subscription that will be a no brainer to maintain old FileMaker databases and will be cost effective, I’d appreciate it. I almost had a heart attack when I saw what FileMaker subscriptions or CDs cost.

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I’m in the same boat. I’ve been unable to find any product that comes close to being an adequate replacement for FileMaker. I’m still running 11 (on Sierra, which is unsupported but it works). I can only think of three options:

  • The last version of FileMaker to be available in a non-“advanced” release is version 16. It is 64-bit and should therefore work on macOS Catalina. It’s not supported on that platform, but I’ve read reports by others that it does work there. I’m not sure if anybody is still selling (legal) license keys for it, but it may be worth doing some web searching. There were sellers a few months ago (the last time I looked) but today Amazon is currently only showing one seller who has only a 50% reputation and is accused of selling counterfeit licenses - someone who should be avoided.

    • Will version 16 work on Apple silicon via Rosetta? Nobody knows right now. Hopefully people will soon run some tests and let us know. If it does, then that’s a pretty good stopgap solution.
  • The latest version is pretty expensive, at $540. That’s a lot of money, but if it works on Apple Silicon via Rosetta, you should be able to keep using it until Rosetta is retired, which (if Apple follows the timeline used for the PPC-Intel Rosetta package) should be about five years. Can you justify the cost if you think of it in terms of $110 per year for that non-subscription license?

  • Wait for an ARM-build of FileMaker. We can assume that it (probably version 20) will ship for about the same price (around $550). Still very expensive, but if history means anything, it will probably remain usable for 10 years or so. Can you justify the cost if you think of it as $55 per year?

For myself, I’m probably going to upgrade my Macs to 2020-era Intel systems, because I don’t want to be an early adopter of a new hardware platform. I’m going to try and buy a copy of version 16 at that time, if I can still find anyone selling legitimate licenses. Otherwise, I’ll bite the bullet and pay for the latest version and hope I can get 5-10 years of life out of it. Not my preferred option, but still better than trying to create a schema compatible with other products and migrating everything over to it.


The main serious database that I know about is Panorama X, written by Jim Rea. It can probably do everything FileMaker can do, but would require that you rewrite the database entirely, I believe. (Panorama X can import the data but only in CSV or the like.) What’s interesting about it is that it’s a subscription model, but you’re charged only when you actually use it for real in a month, so it’s great for occasional-use databases.

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Yes, my research led me to the same conclusion as Adam. I too have a database that needs an overhaul and refresh but the FileMaker upgrade price is prohibitive. If I used Panorama X it would be for about four months a year, which would be around 33 bucks a year if I bought the 100 dollar option. Considering that but mainly daunted by the rebuilding process…

My son uses TapForms, a less capable but surprisingly good tool for his historical research, comes with iOS versions as well and is very affordable. He recommends it highly.


Just got an email prompt that the annual sale of Summerfest is coming to an end, there’s 25$ off PanoramaX.

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