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Working with Apple’s Aperture on macOS Catalina and Big Sur

In June 2014, Apple announced that the development of Aperture had been discontinued. Though the Aperture application would continue to work for years to come, it was time to plan to move on to a different photo management tool.

HoudahGeo can help with the migration process. Before moving away from Aperture you will want to safeguard geotags and other metadata currently stored with Aperture. HoudahGeo can copy these to industry-standard EXIF / XMP tags embedded within your JPEG or RAW image files. These geotags will be available for other photo management and editing tools to pick up.

Starting with macOS 10.15 Catalina, Aperture is no longer compatible with macOS. For many, this was a major reason not to upgrade their systems past macOS 10.14 Mojave.

Sticking with a dated version of macOS however, is not always practicable. Fortunately, there is another solution. The open-source Retroactive tool allows you to run Aperture and other discontinued applications on macOS Catalina and Big Sur. Thanks to Retroactive you can continue to use your favorite photo organizer. You can also use Retroactive Aperture to check your Aperture library after having migrated to a different tool. There may be an edit you would like to refine rather than start over elsewhere.

Retroactive: Aperture on Big Sur
Retroactive: Run Aperture and iPhoto on Big Sur

HoudahGeo 6.1 adds support for the Retroactive version of Aperture. HoudahGeo recognizes the modified version of Aperture. Your library shows in the HoudahGeo media browser from where you can add images to your geocoding project.

HoudahGeo 6.1 can also “notify” Retroactive Aperture: send it changes you made to location and metadata.

As of this writing, there however is a small issue that requires you to take a few extra steps after Retroactive has updated the Aperture application. Without these macOS will not allow HoudahGeo to talk to the Retroactive Aperture application.

Backstory: The first time you try to use “notify”, macOS will ask for you to confirm that it is OK for the HoudahGeo application to control the Aperture application. At the next command, macOS will check if HoudahGeo has the required permissions. For macOS to remember that it is OK for both applications to connect, it needs to unequivocally identify the pair. MacOS relies on code signatures to identify applications. Unfortunately, the code signature of Retroactive Aperture is damaged. Thus macOS cannot identify the application and grant HoudahGeo permission to automate it.

Until Retroactive addresses the issue, you can follow the steps below to add a code signature to Retroactive Aperture. This is a one-time procedure.

  1. Log in as a user with Administration privileges
  2. Create a backup of your original Aperture application
  3. Use Retroactive to update the Aperture application
  4. Copy the updated Aperture application to your Desktop
  5. Open /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app
  6. Copy-paste the commands below one by one to the Terminal window
  7. Press Return after each command
  8. When asked for your password, type it in – there will be no feedback – and press Return
cd ~/Desktop/Aperture.app/Contents/Frameworks/AppKit.framework
sudo mkdir Versions/C/Resources/
cd Versions/
sudo ln -s C Current
cd ..
sudo ln -s Versions/Current/Resources Resources
sudo ln -s Versions/Current/AppKit AppKit
sudo /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Add :CFBundleExecutable string" ~/Desktop/Aperture.app/Contents/Frameworks/AppKit.framework/Versions/C/Resources/Info.plist
sudo /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Set :CFBundleExecutable AppKit" ~/Desktop/Aperture.app/Contents/Frameworks/AppKit.framework/Versions/C/Resources/Info.plist
codesign -vvv -fs - ~/Desktop/Aperture.app
  1. Re-read the output from the commands in the Terminal window. Look for error messages
  2. Give the Aperture application on the Desktop a try
  3. When all looks good, move the application to your Applications folder replacing the previously updated copy