Aperture, Lightroom come into focus

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If you’re a photography pro (or want to be just like one), both Apple and Adobe are competing for the left side of your brain. And each of them tried to stake out new ground in that competition this week. On Monday, Apple announced an update to Aperture, its photo management software. Version 1.5, which will be available as a free download later this week to all Aperture users, was announced at the annual Photokina confab for photographers in Germany.

Aperture 1.5 promises some features that users have been requesting: increased flexibility in where you store images and a plug-in facility that gives you new options for sharing, storing, printing, publishing, and even selling your pictures. And it works with a greater number of cameras than did prior versions.

An interesting cool prospect is being able to browse your Aperture library—including both online and offline photos—with the iLife or iWork ’06 media browser so you can continue your work in iWeb or Keynote, for example. Theoretically, you could have imported the images you wanted to use into iPhoto, but the more flexibility the better—especially if you’re actually using Photoshop and Bridge as opposed to iPhoto to edit your images. At the same time Apple was polishing up Aperture, Adobe was tinkering with its own workflow management tool, Lightroom, which has been rechristened Photoshop Lightroom. The point, I’m guessing, is to make sure that people connect this photo management app with Adobe’s flagship image editor. That would certainly make sense. After all, Photoshop is practically ubiquitous as an image editor—either in its pro form or as Elements—and tying it into Lightroom perpetuates the Adobe zeitgeist over the image-editing universe. But Lightroom is going to be released later than originally expected. Announced at the beginning of the year, the software was originally targeted for a November release. That scheduled release has been pushed back to the “beginning” of next year—at least until Feb. 28, 2007, when the just-released beta expires. That makes me wonder whether it might be worth it for Adobe to simply hold off releasing Lightroom until it is ready to launch the third version of Creative Suite, which is scheduled for a Spring 2007 release, or perhaps even include Lightroom as part of CS3.

It’s gratifying to see some actual competition in the photo software realm. If you already bought Aperture, you’ll be happy that Apple has been so concerned about revising this new app. If you’re hanging onto your old PowerPC until CS3 arrives, and you’ve been awaiting Lightroom because of its close relationship with Photoshop, the prospect for an even tighter integration with Adobe’s image editor seems inevitable—and encouraging.

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