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Whoah… Aperture is Running on macOS Big Sur

PhotoJoseph's picture
February 1, 2021 - 9:40am

This is the first post in a long time I've made on Aperture, but it turns out (yes, this is old news) that you can run Aperture on Big Sur, with the help of a little app called… Retroactive.

The end of Aperture was announced on June 02, 2014 (for a bit of nostalgia, here's the article I wrote that day), and last updated in October 2014. Officially, macOS Mojave was the last version of macOS that supported Aperture. But for many users, the app has lived on. Personally, I froze an iMac at macOS Mojave 10.14.4 and have been running Aperture on there. Not for any new photos — regular readers will know that I've been using Lightroom for quite a while now — but for my old libraries. But I finally decided to put the time into migrating these old Aperture libraries to Lightroom.

That, however, is a different post. I'm in that process right now, and it's going… well… ish… but it's happening. I'm documenting it all so I can write a complete story, summary and advice once I'm done.

However in the process of starting this, I learned of a tool I'd never heard of before (someone probably told me about it and I ignored it, if we're being honest), and that's the tool Retroactive.

This is an open source project, and you have to download it from GitHub, but it's fully documented and easy to get to. Just visit the GitHub page and follow the instructions. You can read more about the app and its development in this Medium post.

Obviously I wanted to try this! So I downloaded Aperture from the App Store… I wasn't sure if it'd actually download (I thought in the past I'd seen a “not supported” error and it wouldn't download?), but it worked! You'll have to find it in your previous downloads (just click your name in the lower left corner of the App Store), as it won't show up in search results. 

Once installed, this is what you'll see in the Applications folder…

So, you download Retroactive, launch it, and it walks you through a couple of steps, and then…

Whoah. Holy crap. It worked.

I gotta say… I never thought I'd see Aperture running on a Mac Pro!! My library opened just fine. I suspect this will be a bit faster than the old iMac I've been running Aperture on ;-) 

Well, back to the process of converting this library to Lightroom. I'll update you as soon as that's completed. For now though… wow. I can't believe this works!

Apple Aperture Retroactive

Have you compared what migrates to Lightroom vs what migrates to Capture One? I found that Capture One did a more complete job of importing Aperture libraries compared to Lightroom. I provided an article about it here on your site way back when.…

I haven’t compared it, because you already did! The transition to Capture One is definitely superior. But if you don’t want to use C1, then…

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

I downloaded Aperture, I am using Big Sur, but an install page never came up. I never had a chance to put the app into my applications folder. The info box was referring me to the info page on how to merge Aperture library with Photos. Is this a viable alternative?

An install page for what never came up? There's no installer for Aperture; that just downloads from the App Store. And Retroactive also doesn't have an installer. Once you download it, the app is in a folder in your Downloads folder. It has instructions there on how to open it.

If you just try to open your Aperture library, then it will migrate to Photos, which is fine, if that's what you want to do. The point of this is to get Aperture running on Big Sur.

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

Bravo, Joseph! I had not heard of Retroactive and your post makes it crystal clear. I check your site every so often in faint hopes of changes, and there was your post. 

I had been staying with Mohave as I still use Aperture (for many reasons). Now I can last a few more years! Thank you so much. 



Glad you found it! Keep in mind that this is not a guarantee of future compatibility… personally I'd be getting my library out of Aperture ASAP. But this is, at least, a lifeline.

In fact I'd go as far as saying that it's entirely possible any macOS Big Sur update could kill this, so be wary!

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