MacBook Pro
Photo by Mikaela Shannon on Unsplash

From the day I first laid eyes on the M1-based Apple’s MacBook Pro, I have been a massive fan of the machine. It is fast. It is powerful. It runs cool. And most importantly, it has excellent battery life. It will be a huge boost for desktop computing, which remains stuck in the past when it comes to applications. And one of those applications from the past I absolutely can’t live without is Adobe’s Photoshop. 

Barring minor adjustments to fix the vagaries of the lenses, I don’t use Lightroom. I was an early convert to the cloud variant of the Adobe Lightroom photo library tool. It offered easy access to all my digital negatives and edited files anywhere, anytime. It didn’t have the bells and whistles of its desktop-based big brother — and since I didn’t need them, I don’t miss them. 

I prefer Photoshop for everything. I like the layer-based approach to editing photos. It gives me much better (and granular) control over my edits. Photoshop was the solitary reason I owned an iMac Pro and a MacBook Pro. My models were packed with memory and top-of-the-line graphic processors, and as a result, I could breeze through my photo edits. 

With Apple ready to switch to its silicon, I decided it was time to sell those machines. What made my decision easier was that Adobe’s Photoshop Beta was spectacularly fast. Even the Intel-based Photoshop performed well on the 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 processor. Adobe promised a brand new M1-version of Photoshop in March 2021. And they delivered. The application has garnered gushing reviews across the board. Many have been gobsmacked by the software’s performance on M1 machines. I am no different. I love the performance of M1-Photoshop. 

Except for one small thing. 

The M1-Photoshop is pretty useless for those — like me — who use third-party extensions as part of their editing workflow. For instance, I use some extensions that allow me to pursue highly granular masking via luminosity masks. Other extensions for color grading (including Adobe’s own Color Themes) and additional tune-ups are also part of my flow. And none of them work with the new Photoshop. 

Extensions are not working because Adobe has shifted to a new way of writing extensions — specifically, using UXP. According to Adobe, “UXP provides modern JavaScript, a curated selection of UI components, and a more streamlined workflow for plugin developers.” In the past, Adobe used CEP (Common Extensibility Platform), which used web-based technologies like CSS to make the extensions work. The shift to UXP is visible with the M1-Mac version of Photoshop. 

In its breathless blog post and news releases around the new M1-Photoshop, Adobe (intentionally, I suspect) failed to mention that extensions weren’t working. Like many, I was forced to re-install those extensions, only to find them absent. After a few tries at rebooting the software and the computer, I was perplexed. I ended up on their support website to get the answers. Adobe wants us to get in touch with the extension developers to see if they are offering upgrades. 

They aren’t. 

For me, this has meant going back to the Intel version (via Rosetta). It is frustrating because I can switch to the M1-version and see how good Photoshop could be on the new platform. Mostly, I am disappointed in Adobe’s communications (or lack thereof). 

Of course, developers will come out with updates at some point, but exactly when is anybody’s guess. If you are like me and use extensions and external add-ons for Photoshop that you can’t live without, it might be a good idea to wait. 

Updated March 29, 2021. Adobe Photoshop team posted a long article about the changes in Photoshop, how extensions and plugins work, and the underlying new technologies. While it is a good explainer and removes the opaqueness around the issue, it doesn’t take away from my original argument — you are stuck using Rosetta unless extension developers rollout the upgrades.