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Definition - What does Rosetta mean?

Rosetta is a translation program that enables PowerPC processor-based Macintosh application programs to run on Intel-based Macintosh computers. This translation is hidden from the application user. Rosetta is based on Transitive Corporation's Quick Transit technology, which allows pre-existing Mac OS X software to run on the newer Intel-based processor without implementing any change. Rosetta does not include a graphical user interface.

Techopedia explains Rosetta

Rosetta is named after the Rosetta Stone, a stone tablet that includes the same decree in three languages, which made it possible to decipher ancient hieroglyphics. This speaks to the translational abilities of the Rosetta program.

Mac OS X applications running on both the Intel processor and the PowerPC processor are termed universal applications. Applications without a universal version can be used on the Intel processor-based Mac through Rosetta, which is integrated with all Intel-based Mac computers. Rosetta works behind the scenes to translate a non-universal application to run on an Intel-based Mac. The Mac OS X (version 10.6) Snow Leopard does not include Rosetta by default; the program has to be installed separately.

Rosetta is considered a userland program that deals with userland code, which might make it less capable than Apple’s earlier 68k emulator for PowerPC. However, it also avoids troublesome debugging and possible security holes. Rosetta is not compatible with and does not run the following:

  • Screen savers
  • Kernel extensions
  • Applications requiring exception handling
  • Bundled Java applications
  • Code that inserts preferences into the system preference frame
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