The public beta of Adobe’s new photo management application, Lightroom, was released today to general approval.
Having played with the app for a few hours, I’d say it seems to be hovering somewhere around the iPhoto Pro / Aperture Lite area. Certainly the feature set is aimed at advanced users, but the approach is simpler, and I’d say slightly less intimidating than Aperture’s.
As with many other Apple applications, you can see how iPhoto has been influential. Much of the essence of the Lightshow GUI is broadly the same: a library, and list of sources, on the left; image thumbnails or full-size images in the centre; panels and palettes to the right.
It’s a beta, and the production team are very honest on the download page: this is by no means anywhere near finished. Which means there’s a lot of rough edges, of course: many functions are incredibly slow, almost to the point of being unusable.
On the other hand, there’s a lot that’s very impressive about this beta.
Navigating the image library is swift and very intuitive. Much nicer than iPhoto. A great deal of thought has gone into creating sensible, easy-to-learn keyboard shortcuts which make browsing your library a task you can do without using the mouse at all.
But what I think is really interesting are the minimum specs required to run Lightroom.
Aperture, you’ll recall, requires a very recent machine with a high quality graphics card, at least a gig of RAM, and ideally a G5 processor. In other words: an iMac G5, Power Mac, or some PowerBooks. Top of the range kit.
Lightroom, by contrast, needs only a G4 processor, OS X 10.4.3, 512MB of RAM, and a gig of free disk space. In other words: a Mac mini. Bottom of the range kit.
Aperture is all the more a ‘pro’ application because it demands ‘pro’ hardware. Lightroom’s relatively easy-going nature immediately has the potential to make it a better-selling, more popular product, simply because it’ll work on much more of Apple’s installed base of machines.
The release of Lightroom couldn’t come at a better time. Too many people are caught in the empty space between iPhoto and Aperture; they love iPhoto’s ease of use, but get frustrated when it starts to slow down with a few thousand images stored in its library. Lightroom, when it reaches final release, might well be just the thing to plug that gap.