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Following the launch of Apple's M1-powered Macs, numerous third-party apps have been updated to ensure they are optimized to run on Apple's custom silicon. Even if an app hasn't been updated, Apple's non-Intel Macs can still run them, thanks to Apple's Rosetta 2 translation layer. But how do you know which of your apps are running natively as Universal executables and which ones are using Rosetta emulation? Read on to find out.

m1-macs-banner.jpg

Universal Apps Explained

When developers update their apps to run natively on Apple silicon, they use something called a Universal binary. Originally, Universal apps referred to executable files that run natively on both PowerPC or Intel Macs. At WWDC 2020 in June, however, Apple announced Universal 2, which allows apps to run on both Intel-based Macs and Apple silicon Macs.

If an app has yet to be updated to Universal 2, an M1-powered Mac will still run it, but it will do so by converting the Intel x86-64 code using Rosetta 2 emulation software. Even when emulating x86 code under Rosetta 2, the M1 Macs generally run non-native apps faster than Intel-based Macs, but it's good to know which apps have been optimized for the advanced hardware inside your M1 Mac. Here's how.

How to Check for Universal Apps in macOS

  1. Click the Apple symbol in the top-left corner of your Mac's menu bar and choose About This Mac.
    about-this-mac.jpg

    In the "Overview" tab, click the System Report... button.
    about-this-mac-overview-copy.jpg

    In the System Report window, select Software -> Applications in the sidebar. In the Applications list that loads, look under the Kind column to see whether an app is a Universal binary or a non-native Intel executable.
    check-for-universal-apps-copy.jpg
In addition to the System Report list, you can check individual apps too: right-click an app's icon in Finder, then select Get Info from the contextual menu and look at its Kind under "General."

In addition to the above, iMazing has released a free app [Direct Link] that scans your macOS apps and displays their supported CPU architecture, while repo offers a free menu bar app called Silicon Info that lets you quickly view the architecture of the currently running application.

silicon-info.jpg
Silicon Info menu bar app

You can also check if an app has been optimized for Apple silicon before you even install it, thanks to a website by Abdullah Diaa called Is Apple silicon ready? The site maintains an up-to-date database of apps indicating native M1 support, Rosetta 2 only, and those that don't work at all.

It's worth noting that Apple considers Rosetta 2 to be a temporary solution for developers while they remake their existing Intel-based programs to run on Arm-based Macs, meaning they will eventually need to create Universal apps that work natively on both ‌‌Intel and Apple Silicon‌‌ machines.

Apple ended support for OG Rosetta three years after its release to smooth the transition from PowerPC chips to Intel processors, so if a developer doesn't update their app eventually, it may become unusable on Apple's M1 machines in the future.

Article Link: How to Tell Which Apps Are Optimized for M1 Apple Silicon Macs
 

Wowfunhappy

macrumors 65816
Mar 12, 2019
1,149
1,376
I really do hope Rosetta 2 will stick around for much longer than the original Rosetta. Rosetta 1 was always slow on computers of the day, and consequently did not make for a great user experience. It was also licensed technology, and Apple presumably didn't want to keep paying the licensing fee.

Rosetta 2 was developed in-house, and it's super fast. And, perhaps even more importantly, there are far more Intel Mac apps than there ever were PPC apps (because Macs are more popular today), so we’d loose access to a much richer library of software.
 
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NewUsername

macrumors 6502
Aug 20, 2019
346
676
Snow Leopard still had Rosetta as an optional download. Lion was the first OS without Rosetta support, but that version came out in 2011, i.e. five years after the first Intel Macs.
 
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MacCraig Pro

macrumors member
Jan 1, 2012
58
17
Manchester, UK
I really do hope Rosetta 2 will stick around for much longer than the original Rosetta. Rosetta 1 was licensed technology, and Apple presumably didn’t want to keep paying the licensing fee. Plus, it was pretty slow on machines of the day.

Rosetta 2 was developed in-house, and it’s super fast. Plus, there are far more Intel Mac apps than there ever were PPC apps; the Mac is more popular today, so the software library is larger.
Agreed! It works really well and is seem less so far for me.
 

haruhiko

macrumors 603
Sep 29, 2009
5,639
3,859
That it’s so difficult to tell which apps are running natively and which are running emulated is a great achievement of Apple. I can’t really distinguish which app is running on Rosetta on my M1 8/8 MBA. They are all very fast, and much faster than my 2017 iMac with 32GB of RAM.
 

Marbles1

macrumors 6502
Nov 27, 2011
251
906
it's a shame you don't get notified when an app you already own on the iOS store has been made available for Mac.

I have to go to the App Store, view what I've bought already and press refresh.
 

chabig

macrumors G3
Sep 6, 2002
8,186
5,467
How do you check in the App Store before you buy the app?
If you have an M1 Mac, both universal and Intel-only apps run. Since architecture doesn't matter, the App Store doesn't list it as a property. Many developers will mention it in the release notes, though. And a clue would be how recently the app was updated.
 

Atarikid

macrumors regular
May 14, 2011
244
70
I get Universal binaries. It's easy. But sadly it also goes with double file sizes too.

It's OK for small apps but some exceed 3GB (Ableton Live for example). So basically the Universal app you need to download is 6GB instead of 3GB (and it also will occupy 6GB on your system).

I remember PPC/Intel Stripping tools which could strip the unneeded.
But that's not possible now with code signing - if you would strip it now, it just won't work.

Anyhow, I think devs should also provide separate ARM and Intel downloads.
 
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chabig

macrumors G3
Sep 6, 2002
8,186
5,467
i thought that Rosetta wasn't emulating but rather translating the app before running it?
It does translate. The difference between translation and emulation is proving to be difficult to understand for many, including MacRumors writers. Or maybe they're intentionally dismissing Rosetta 2 as emulation to generate clicks, by writing articles that subtly imply a performance penalty for translated X86 apps even though time and time again we have seen there is none.
 
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justperry

macrumors G4
Aug 10, 2007
11,796
8,726
I'm a rolling stone.



In addition to the above, iMazing has released a free app [Direct Link] that scans your macOS apps and displays their supported CPU architecture, while repo offers a free menu bar app called Silicon Info that lets you quickly view the architecture of the currently running application.

silicon-info.jpg

Silicon Info menu bar app

I found some hiccups in this App

1. It scans your Application Folder by default, if you untick this box it will scan your whole disk for Apps including the /Volumes folder, this means it will also scan all attached Disks for Apps, including TimeMachine backups.

2. Scans for all architectures, including PPC and Universal, a problem arises here, Universal can be Intel/Apple Silicon or PPC/Intel, I still have the older Universal Apps, those are not Apple Silicon.
 

weaztek

macrumors 6502
Aug 28, 2009
321
147
Madison
Rosetta 2 was developed in-house, and it's super fast. And perhaps even more importantly, there are far more Intel Mac apps than there ever were PPC apps (because Macs are more popular today), so we'd all stand to loose access to a much richer library of software.
Plus, a lot of customers are sick of technological obsolescence.

For example, I bought software to rescue images that have been deleted from memory cards a few years ago. I used it once and want it to work the next time I need it in a few years. And if it doesn't work that's going to leave a very bad taste in my mouth.
 
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BornAgainMac

macrumors 604
Feb 4, 2004
6,746
4,049
Florida Resident
I found some hiccups in this App

1. It scans your Application Folder by default, if you untick this box it will scan your whole disk for Apps including the /Volumes folder, this means it will also scan all attached Disks for Apps, including TimeMachine backups.

2. Scans for all architectures, including PPC and Universal, a problem arises here, Universal can be Intel/Apple Silicon or PPC/Intel, I still have the older Universal Apps, those are not Apple Silicon.

Yeah, that is the first thing I thought for Universal Apps. Otherwise people will get confused and look at C&C Generals and say "Wow, I had Apple Silicon optimized game all this time."
 

justperry

macrumors G4
Aug 10, 2007
11,796
8,726
I'm a rolling stone.
I get Universal binaries. It's easy. But sadly it also goes with double file sizes too.

It's OK for small apps but some exceed 3GB (Ableton Live for example). So basically the Universal app you need to download is 6GB instead of 3GB (and it also will occupy 6GB on your system).

I remember PPC/Intel Stripping tools which could strip the unneeded.
But that's not possible now with code signing - if you would strip it now, it just won't work.

Anyhow, I think devs should also provide separate ARM and Intel downloads.

This is not true, a binary is just part of the App package, a slimmed-down App will not magically give you back half of that App size.
There's a lot more in an App package than Binaries, like for instance images, supporting files, databases and so on.

Just an example below, this is Safari App package, look at the Safari binary size, there are more binaries in /Safari/Contents but not that many and not huge.

Edit: I just researched a bit more into the Safari App package, it's ~19 MB, slimming it down would not even save you 1 MB.
There are much bigger binaries but in my experience slimming down an App folder saves you max 10% of the total size, done that after going from PPC to Intel, lots of Universal Apps back than, there are still Universal Intel/PPC Apps.

Screenshot 2020-11-27 at 15.50.53.png
 
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scartart

macrumors member
Feb 9, 2017
52
80
A Blackmagic Disk Speed Test update was released yesterday to provide native support. My M1 Mini now write benchmarks at 2400 MB/s rather than 2150MB/s. I wasn't expecting Rosetta to have made that much of a difference considering most of the delay would be in relatively slow speed of the disk.
 

BigES

macrumors newbie
Nov 27, 2020
1
0
I'm still on Catalina (10.15.7) due to company restrictions and none of the System Report, Get Info, or Activity Monitor methods work here. Obviously, I would still like to know if my apps are Universal so I can plan for my upcoming (2021) AppleSilicon purchase.

What does work in Catalina is the built-in terminal command "file", for example:
> file /Applications/BBEdit.app/Contents/MacOS/BBEdit
/Applications/BBEdit.app/Contents/MacOS/BBEdit: Mach-O universal binary with 2 architectures: [x86_64:Mach-O 64-bit executable x86_64] [arm64]
/Applications/BBEdit.app/Contents/MacOS/BBEdit (for architecture x86_64): Mach-O 64-bit executable x86_64
/Applications/BBEdit.app/Contents/MacOS/BBEdit (for architecture arm64): Mach-O 64-bit executable arm64
 
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Hyperchaotic

macrumors regular
Feb 19, 2005
151
169
Not entirely fond of calling it "optimized", it's sorta true but I'd rather call them "native" when compiled for ARM. To me "optimized" would mean making use of the extra features or the M1. But that ship has sailed and I just need to get over myself :)
 

Harald Vienna

macrumors newbie
Nov 27, 2020
1
0

lipo is your old friend​

The interesting fact is that arm64e Binaries are smaller than x86_64 :-O
For example:

[harald on Linda]/Applications/Safari.app> lipo -detailed_info /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/MacOS/Safari
Fat header in: /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/MacOS/Safari
fat_magic 0xcafebabe
nfat_arch 2
architecture x86_64
cputype CPU_TYPE_X86_64
cpusubtype CPU_SUBTYPE_X86_64_ALL
capabilities 0x0
offset 16384
size 81616
align 2^14 (16384)
architecture arm64e
cputype CPU_TYPE_ARM64
cpusubtype CPU_SUBTYPE_ARM64E
capabilities PTR_AUTH_VERSION USERSPACE 0
offset 98304
size 65024
align 2^14 (16384)

To add up all components script:
find /Applications/Safari.app -type f -perm 755 -exec lipo -detailed_info {} \; | \
awk '/architecture/{arch=$2}/size/{s[arch] += $2}END{print "arm64e: " s["arm64e"]; print "x86_64: " s["x86_64"]}'
 

BenedictBellamy

macrumors newbie
Jun 19, 2020
21
13
I don't get why people would get the Intel MacBook Pro 13" or Intel Mac mini over their Apple Silicon counterparts. Because even apps that are not Universal, Rosetta does a perfect job at translating. The only real reason to get an Intel model of these machines is to run BootCamp.
 
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