Aperture 3: big things, little things.

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It's been a verrrrry long time coming. But having spent the past hour playing around with the new version of Aperture, all I can say is: thank you. My stubbornness feels completely repaid.

This upgrade adresses everything that was lacking and adds a ton of features, big and small. It's as though Apple actually read every article, blog and  forum post about Aperture 2, made a checklist of everyone's wishes and added them one by one. But the amazing thing about this new release is they've managed to add all these while keeping the UI just as streamlined and refined as before - in fact it's cleaner and easier to read.

I'm not going to go through everything so I strongly encourage you to look at the new online tutorials and extensive feature list. But here's a quick rundown of my favorite new stuff.

destruction be gone

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Ok, name the key feature every Aperture user has been asking for since Lightroom 2's release?  Yup: non-destructive local editing.

Well, every single adjustment brick in Aperture 3 now offers non-destructive local editing via the new Brush tool. You can paint an adjustment in or out using the same tools as the previous Dodge and Burn plugin (brush, feather and erase). Once you've applied localized editing, a new brush icon appears on the brick - clicking the icon brings the Brush HUD back for further tweaking.

Beyond the main adjustment bricks, you can also access brushes for individual adjustments (Dodge, Blur, Burn, Color etc). These then appear in the Adjustments HUD like any other brick and you can change the amount of effect applied. This is all in real-time, non-destructive and it flies.

The other huge change regarding adjustments? We can now duplicate any brick. Combined with the new brushes feature this means we now have something akin to layers within Aperture itself. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

Current plugins still require the creation of a TIFF or PDS file though. I don't know if third-partys will have access to APIs allowing non-destructive editing - it would be pretty huge, but I'm not holding my breath. Still, I have a feeling my use of plugins or round-trips to Photoshop is about to diminish substantially.

full screen. all the time.

There are a lot of nice UI touches in Aperture 3 that give it even more polish than before. But the one I'm most excited about is the new Full Screen mode. I always loved full screen mode. But in my day to day workflow it was rarely used, mainly because I kept having to go in and out of it all the time - no longer. Apple have made Aperture 3's full screen mode more productive than ever with new browser and project views, a navigation toolbar and a refined thumbnail view.

It is really, really nice.

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real life printing

The print dialog has received a massive overhaul: picture packages, autofill multiple shots according to size, brightness, saturation and contrast adjustments, the list goes on. For instance, I can now skip the book tool and create a contact page template complete with logo, title, subtitle, watermark and my choice of metadata - all within the print dialog. This is going to be a huge timesaver.

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it's the little things

Small details count. Because little things tend to add up. I use a lot of Smart Albums but often find myself having to go back to a picture's original project. In Aperture 2 I had created a metadata view assigned to Tooltips (T) that included the file's path so i could at least find out where the picture was located in the database. Every time I used it I wished for a "Reveal in Project" command. Every single time.  So I was ecstatic to find out Aperture 3 now had a command called… yes: Reveal in Project!

This is just one little thing. But man, am I ever happy about it.

labels! flags!

Yes. We can now assign labels and flag photos. No more weird keywords meant solely for organizational purposes appearing on Flickr. There were workarounds (custom metadata views) but this is welcome indeed.

faces, places, movies, fast switching libraries etc...

All These are just the tip of the iceberg. I could write ten pages on the new features and possibilities in Aperture 3. I haven't talked about Faces and Places, the new book plugins that allow the use of the book tool with third-party suppliers, tons of refined metadata tools, IPTC compliance, fast switching libraries, searchable project description fields, Flickr and Facebook integration, a slideshow editor that's essentially a built-in iMovie complete with video and audio, refined import panel, and presets…. oh! goodness… PRESETS!

Needless to say this is a milestone release that  - in my humble opinion - leapfrogs Lightroom by several meters at least. I'm pretty sure Adobe are scrambling right now. If they aren't they're being complacent.

I for one am glad I didn't jump the fence. Lightroom? What's Lightroom?

P.S. My library has just finished upgrading. It took several hours but everything seems in the right place. It's now performing a face detection operation. I'm going to let it work and see how it goes. Hearing my new iMac's fan for the first time (!)