How to get Photoshop extensions and plugins working on M1 Macs


If you are on the list of creative pros who recently migrated to the new Apple M1 Macs, you may have discovered that the latest version of Photoshop is missing something that you are used to seeing.

In any other previous version of Adobe Photoshop under the Windows menu, you will find your plugins and panels under “Extensions”. However, in the latest version of Photoshop, this menu item no longer exists and has been replaced by a separate drop-down menu called “plugins”.

Normally these updates would be a good thing. But for anyone who has become accustomed to using third-party plugins and extensions as part of their workflow, losing access to them can be quite frustrating. Many companies that create these add-ons are in the process of creating updated installers, but in the meantime, users need to find other ways to access these legacy tools.

What has changed with the M1 chipset?

Most of the existing plugins and panels for Photoshop are designed with a technology called CEP, but with the launch of M1, Adobe has switched to using UXP for everything, which is supposed to make things safer.

How to get your Photoshop plugins and panels to work on a Mac M1?

There are several things you can do to regain access to your extensions.

The first is the way Apple and Adobe suggest, i.e. by activating the Rosetta 2 option to open Photoshop. Rosetta 2 is a “behind the scenes” feature of macOS that is used to translate Intel-based Mac applications so that they can run on Apple Silicon Macs.

To activate this feature on your mac M1, open your applications folder and choose the application of your choice. Then right click on the app and select “Get Info”. From there, you can choose to open the app using Rosetta 2.

This is a fairly straightforward workaround for most situations, however, you may experience severe slowdowns and excessive memory usage when running Photoshop in this mode. In my case, even working on a single large PSD file, the system couldn’t even do a quick select and mask without running out of RAM.

If you fall into the same category as me, there is another solution that will work until your favorite third-party tools are updated for Mac M1.

For those who are struggling like me, there didn’t seem to be a lot of answers to easily fix this problem. However, San Diego photographer Joshua Mitchell has found that simply reverting to Photoshop version 22.2.0 is a way to get things going again.

To do this, simply open your Adobe Creative Cloud application manager, navigate to the “All apps” section for the desktop and choose the additional options menu item “…” next to Photoshop (as shown in the screenshot below), then select “Other versions”.

From this screen, you can choose to install an older version of Adobe Photoshop, going back to six previous updates. Keep in mind that this will remove the current / updated version you installed, but any previous or legacy versions of your plugins and extensions should reappear when you reopen the app.

If plugins and panels are the key to your workflow, staying one or two versions behind while we wait for extension updates to go through is a pretty low price to pay. Hopefully Adobe will release an update by mid to late May 2021 that will allow you to downgrade to the latest version of Photoshop and access your extensions and plugins. Until then, this is a great solution.

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