Mac OS X 10.7 Lion – Upgrade or Wait?


July 13, 2011

Everyone is excited about Lion. Even though many new features on Mac OS  X 10.7 are giving us improvements we kept asking for since 10.1, Apple has again succeeded in giving all the new features the strong essence of innovation that makes us unable to hesitate to install and try Lion out as soon as we are able to.

But we are also afraid. What if some important apps stop working? One word talks for itself: Rosetta. Yet another technology has been killed even before it had a chance to fade from something new to something we take as normal.

10 and more years ago, as a Mac fan I used to be always the first one to install new versions of Mac OS. I was often even using beta version. Today, I find myself being often the last one to upgrade. What has changed?

As I am getting busier and busier, I find even a small issue with the apps I use for my daily work very distracting. Today, my critical non-Apple software includes FileMaker Pro, Things, ScreenFlow, and printer/scanner drivers. Fortunately I have found one simple but very useful rule for deciding when to upgrade what.

The rule is: Operating system should be your oldest piece of software.

You still can (and should) try the new system as soon as you can, but it would be silly to do that by replacing your working system. Use a separate testing computer for that if you have one, or at least a new disk partition. But don’t spend too much time playing with the new system. Otherwise, especially in the case of Apple’s product, you’re risking that you will get used to the new features and will miss them when returning to the older version.

Why should OS be your oldest software?

I know, it sounds a bit outrageous, but it’s very logical. Think about this: How many users does any single application have? Way less than the operating system itself. And there are millions of apps out there. So what’s more likely? That operating system vendor will spend money and time to make the new OS compatible with apps, or that app vendors will have to take care of upgrading their apps for the new OS?

You got it. Application updates almost always follow the OS update with a delay. Yes, key app vendors have access to early versions of the OS, but serious companies always wait until the final release of the OS is out, just to make sure they test their updated apps on the shipping OS.

So the rule is definitely logical. The only trouble with is is that you almost always have to break it because not all software vendors are quick enough to get their updates out in a reasonable time. So I actually use a little bit more complex rule.

The modified rule is: OS should always be the oldest piece of my critical software. Every exception (piece of software older than the OS) must be carefully tested, and sometimes replaced with an alternative, before I use it for important work.

It may not be the best rule, but I can say that since I keep applying it I have never had any issues caused by an application being unexpectedly incompatible with my operating system.

Of course, you can apply the same rule to apps and their plug-ins…

So this is my rule, and my alway-the-same answer to the question: “Should I upgrade or wait?”

What is your approach? Let me know your own rules in the comments below.

Title image derived from photo by Tambako the Jaguar

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Phil Coates July 13, 2011 at 8:48 am

I find keeping my OS fully up to date helps reduce errors and problems plus I get very frustrated with bugs that exist in old OSs – but certainly I do experience pain with major upgrades….
You may find my Lion compatibility page (which I keep updating) useful –


HOnza July 13, 2011 at 11:43 am

What a great coverage! Very useful site. Thank you, Phil!
BTW I like your byline :-)

HOnza July 13, 2011 at 11:56 am

One extra note. Your site lists FIleMaker 8.5 through 11 as ok. I have today seen weird behavior of FileMaker solution that opens off-screen windows for processing complex tasks on Lion. Since Rosetta is not the only deprecated technology that has been removed, I expect also some plug-ins to need to be updated for Lion…

Jon July 14, 2011 at 6:41 am

My biggest concern with Lion is the loss of Rosetta. I’ve been using Quicken 2006, which won’t work under Lion and I’m switching to See Finance. Even though I rarely have a need to open FileMaker databases in versions less than 8.5, I hate to lose that capability. I’m going to keep a clone drive of my current setup in case of emergency.


HOnza July 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm

It’s always smart to keep a bootable backup of your previous system for at least a few months after upgrading.

HOnza July 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm
Phil Coates July 15, 2011 at 2:53 am

I have updated my page – thanks HOnza! Just for the record. I am using Lion DP as my main OS, using FM 11 A on large projects every day, and I love the new gestures – and I am not having any problems – phew!


HOnza July 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Update – the weird behavior I saw yesterday was not caused by Lion. Anyway, being careful is usually not a bad idea… ;-)


Josh Ormond July 20, 2011 at 9:41 am

Still waiting to upgrade to Leopard. Have I waited long enough? LOL

I think I need to upgrade my iMac first.


HOnza July 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm

It depends. Do you still use any piece of software that’s older than Leopard and update is not available for it yet? ;-)

HOnza July 20, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Lion has been released and FileMaker promptly updated their Knowledge base. Excellent summary can be found on the MightyData’s blog:


Adam Dempsey July 21, 2011 at 4:45 am

I’ve downloaded Lion now, not sure whether to hold with the actual install for a while though, to allow more of my apps to be updated with compatibility fixes.


Tom Fitch July 21, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I’m probably going to keep my iMac on Leopard, at least for a while. I’ve been lusting for a new MacBook though, so Lion will be my OS when that happens.

Thanks for the links, HOnza!


HOnza July 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I would suggest waiting for most used plug-ins to be confirmed as compatible.
However, for technological reasons, there are likely to be more plug-ins needing update after 64-bit version of FileMaker Pro is released than for Lion.
FileMaker 11 already forced plug-in vendors to shift from Carbon to Cocoa, so most FM11 compatible plug-ins should be ok with Lion. I hope to have more details about 24U plug-ins soon.


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