Darktable developers preparing to ditch macOS support

Feb 10, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Darktable developers preparing to ditch macOS support

Feb 10, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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This is not the news that anybody wants to really hear, but it looks like Lightroom alternative Darktable may no longer be available on the Mac soon. According to the developers of the software, it’s just getting too difficult to keep up. While Darktable is an open-source project with contributors in the community, for the last ten years, maintaining and compiling the Mac versions of Darktable has been down to a single person.

That person has done a wonderful job of keeping up with things for the last decade, but now he’s ready to move on and pass the mantle on to somebody else. This means that the next stable release of Darktable, version 4.2.1, is probably going to be the last one available for the Mac – unless they can find a replacement.

A post by Darktable developer Pascal Obry on the Darktable forums on pixls.us explains the situation.

As everybody knows, darktable is a community-driven project. One particular area that is always everyone’s not-first choice is maintenance. Especially, maintenance of the darktable as a whole, on a particular platform.

As it happens, @parafin has been a person solely responsible for maintaining, and packaging, darktable on OS X for the last 10 years.

We would like to thank him for all of his efforts!

Everything has it’s limit, and presently, it has been indicated that @parafin wants to end that tenure, and pass on the mantle.

At the same time, there is a big roadblock on the OS X side: currently, as requested by @parafin, the minimal required  XCode version is XCode 12.4 (LLVM10-based), and with LLVM16 about to be released in ~April, that puts us to 7 (sic) LLVM versions to support, in addition to currently supporting three GCC releases. Not only is this support matrix unsustainable, not having a path forward makes it impossible to someday make use of the compiler (and library) features introduced in later compiler versions.

In summary, unless someone steps forwards and commits to the role of OSX maintainer, we will be forced to fully and completely stop supporting OS X, after the next minor release (4.2.1).

As well as needing a replacement person to deal with the Mac side of things, the reality of compiling for Mac to retain compatibility is becoming more complex and requiring work that nobody else on the team is currently capable of doing. So, the team is reaching out to find a replacement from within the community that can take on the responsibility. If they can’t find somebody able and willing, though, it looks like Darktable for the Mac may be resigned to the history books – at least until and unless somebody pops up in the future to revive it.

Many of us love open-source community projects. Not just because they’re usually “free” and come with a level of support (albeit from the community) that many commercial applications don’t have but because they’re also often updated more quickly when issues arise. Because anybody in the community can potentially contribute to the code, if somebody’s need is urgent enough to get a problem fixed or a feature added, they can fix it and submit it.

But this is the double-edged sword of such open-source projects. They can only continue to exist for as long as somebody (or a bunch of somebodies) is willing to keep working on them. So, if you’re a macOS developer and are a Darktable user, it might be worth reaching out to the project and offering your support!

To find out more, check the thread on pixls.us, head on over to GitHub or contact the team through the Darktable website.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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