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TUAW Tip: How to tell if an application is a Universal Binary

Scott McNulty

You want to figure out if an application is Universal, but you're not sure how to do it? There is a very simple easy way to find out. Simply select the icon of the application you're curious about and either right click and select 'Get Info' or hit Command + i. Either one will get you to the info window about the application you selected.

Look under 'General' and you'll see 'Kind: Application.' Next to that (assuming you're running OS X 10.4) you'll see either 'Universal,' 'Intel,' or 'PowerPC.' This lets you know on what Macs this application will run natively on:

  • Universal runs on either PowerPC or Intel Macs.
  • Intel only runs on Intel Macs (no matter what).
  • PowerPC runs natively on PowerPC Macs (odd, huh?) but the application will, most likely, run on Intel Macs in Rosetta, Tiger's emulation layer. Some applications, such as Microsoft's Virtual PC, will not run on Intel Macs at all.
Finally, another tip for all you folks out there that are using Universal apps on Intel Macs that use plugins which aren't Universal. Assuming you still have the Info window open you should see this 'Open using Rosetta' check box (pictured to the left). This forces a Universal apps to use its PowerPC native codebase (in Rosetta) thereby letting you use your older plugins. Note that this option is only available for Universal applications.

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