Aperture 1.5 Inverness

Almost a year to the day since its initial release, Aperture receives its fifth update, the first to move it beyond a subset of version 1.1. Although some were hoping - indeed predicting - that this would be a fullblown version 2 release, we're not convinced there's enough here to justify that.

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Aperture 1.5

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Almost a year to the day since its initial release, Aperture receives its fifth update, the first to move it beyond a subset of version 1.1. Although some were hoping - indeed predicting - that this would be a fullblown version 2 release, we're not convinced there's enough here to justify that. Neither, it would appear, was Apple, so once again it's a free update.

We don't necessarily think Apple should be applauded for offering Aperture upgrades for free, because they still have the feel of patches that add features we'd like to have seen present from day one.

We'd also like to see its resource requirements trimmed. While idling in the background, Activity Monitor showed Aperture to be hogging between 60% and 77% of the CPU capacity on the 1.5GHz PowerBook G4 we used for our tests. We had 2GB of memory installed, of which it took an enormous 250MB in real terms, and a further 575MB of the virtual equivalent. The fans in our system also ran the whole time Aperture was open.

At least, with this release, it will now run across the whole of Apple's current hardware line-up, including the Intel-based Mac mini, which opens it up to a far wider audience than ever before, when even some G5-based iMacs were under-equipped on account of the integrated graphics. You do need at least 1GB of memory, though (2GB for the Mac Pro), so if you're looking to buy a new machine for non-Adobe pro photo-editing, make sure you specify all the necessary upgrades. You might also want to opt for a Mighty Mouse, since this lets you control the Loupe magnification with the scroll ball, which we found impossible to replicate using a third-party mouse.

Despite all our resources, though, there seemed to be no discernible speed increase over the previous edition in our tests and, if anything, we felt we were waiting longer for images to render at their full resolution. The Loupe was also sluggish at times; so much so that it would be quicker to fully open an image than selectively preview it.

The ability to reference images that are no longer physically on our system, however, is a boon, since large libraries are always better stored on a removable drive, network attached storage or server. To test this, we imported 717 Raw and Jpeg images from a variety of folders on an external drive, telling Aperture to reference the originals and leave them in place, then removed the drive. They remained viewable at full-screen, although, obviously, couldn't be edited.

You can also reference images from your iPhoto libraries without reimporting them into Aperture, which should save considerable disk space, and then use your Aperture libraries in other iLife applications, such as iWeb, without exporting them. We suspect that this has more to do with a better integration of Aperture technologies and the core OS, because Aperture libraries and projects also appear in the screen saver and Desktop background dialogues in System Preferences.

Searching has been much improved, with an excellent pop-up panel allowing you to specify not only parameters that must be met, but also those that should be excluded. We also welcome the ability to stamp commonly used metadata onto images using presets. You've always been able to simultaneously set attributes on multiple files upon import, but by enabling you to save variables such as credit and copyright to a preset, Aperture lets you apply these to multiple files across multiple imports on multiple sessions, which will be a real time- and frustration-saver if you find yourself importing from several smaller memory cards rather than one single large one.

The new edge-sharpening panel is both simple and effective, and quite forgiving of slightly out-of-focus images, which we found it could crisp up very quickly. Indeed, it often wasn't obvious until after we had applied the filter that the original image wasn't in focus to start with.

We are, at last, starting to see third-party industry support for Aperture, with Getty, iStockPhoto, Flickr and others now shipping free extensions for batch uploading your images from Aperture to their libraries. Let's hope that this, and Apple's continued development of Aperture continues. Why? Because if it wants to charge for the next edition it's going to have to include more extensive updates than we see here.

If you are an existing Aperture user then we'd definitely recommend downloading and installing this upgrade. Financially, at least, you've got nothing to lose. If you were holding off an initial purchase to see what the next edition would bring, though, it's unlikely the improvements seen here - welcome though they are - will be enough to have you emptying your pockets.

Author: Nik Rawlinson

MacUser Online