October 2, 2006
Adobe has released Adobe Lightroom Beta 4 for Macintosh and Windows now available for download at: Labs.Adobe.com. Windows users can now access more of the module features that were previously unavailable in the PC version of public Beta 3. But the main changes in Beta 4 have all taken place in the Library and Develop modules. In this second part review we are going to concentrate on what’s new in the Library module, such as the new interface changes to the grid layout, the ability to batch rename images, and convert to DNG and CD/DVD archiving. Read the rest of this story for an in-depth look at the Beta 4 Develop module.
The new Library panel interface
As was mentioned in the Beta 4 Develop module story, the Lightroom Beta 4 interface has a new darker gray look. Thumbnail images should load more quickly than before, although full optimization of the display code has not been worked on yet and won’t be until close to the time of version 1.0 shipping. After you initially install Beta 4, you will see a lot of empty gray thumbnail spaces at first. This is because Lightroom will only process library images to build the thumbnails and previews when you explicitly tell it to do so, or when you import new images. This allows you more control over the preview rendering process and will help speed up your work in Lightroom because the program won’t always be running the rendering processes in the background. So be warned. In the beginning you are going to see blank gray cells each time you visit a new shoot, but these disappear after you have visited a shoot the first time around. Note that in the Lightroom preferences there is an option to set how many days the 1:1 previews should be kept. The default option is set so that these will be discarded after 30 days and this will help keep your cache file size from bloating out of control as you add more images to the library.
You can manage the preview rendering by going to the Library menu and selecting one of the options at the bottom. If you have a large library of images to process, it is obviously going to take a while to rebuild all of the previews, so in these instances be prepared for a long wait. The other thing to bear in mind here is that the Lightroom Library management has changed quite substantially and you may want to think about re-importing everything from scratch for Beta 4. Now you don’t have to do this in order to get up and running with the new Beta, but it is never a bad idea to do so when working with a test product such as this. But for now let’s continue looking at the main interface.
The Import and Export buttons have been brought back and the Toolbar menu at the bottom allows you to edit the Library images quickly (use ‘T’ to toggle hiding and showing the toolbar).
Of the two toolbars shown here, the upper screenshot shows the grid view toolbar, with the Sort by options, followed by the T-shirt size options for the grid cell size and the grid count plus how many images are selected. The screenshot below that is the version you will see when in the Loupe or Compare viewing modes. As you can see, image rating information is displayed, along with thumbnail rotation and navigation controls, a play button to launch an impromptu slide show, as well as displaying the filename of the most selected image.
The Navigator can now work as a temporary Loupe mode enabler whenever you are working in the Library module in Grid mode (as shown in the above screenshot). Mouse-down anywhere in the Navigator panel and a library grid image will be displayed in Loupe mode. Release the mouse and the Grid view will return. The trick here is to remember to ‘mouse-down’, as in click with the mouse and keep the mouse clicked down (a simple ‘mouse-click’ will take you directly to the Loupe mode).
The Filmstrip also has a new look, providing more feedback information, a Library image sort menu (bottom right) and view mode navigation buttons (bottom left). I also quite like the fact that you can now Option/Alt+double-click an image cell in the Grid to go directly to the Develop module and then Option/Alt+double-click again to return to the Library Grid mode (see the screen shot below of the image that was selected in the earlier library module, now displayed in the Develop module).
Lightroom feedback status
The top left corner features a revised feedback status monitor. What you will often see normally is a progress bar like the one on the right, indicating that a task is being performed in the background, what that task is, and where applicable, tiny thumbnails showing you which images are currently being processed. If more than one operation is taking place at a time, you will see the grouped status indicator (like the one on the left). If you click on the arrow to the right, you can toggle the status indicator between each of the tasks that are in progress and the grouped indicator.
Grid Cell options
There are two modes for the Library grid cells. The Compact view that you had in Beta 3, or the new Expanded cells option that allows you to see more information about each cell image. In this expanded view you will notice the little icons in the bottom right corner of the thumbnail. If you double-click on the icon with the lines, this will automatically take you to the Applied Keywords panel in the Library module where you can readily start editing or adding to the keywords linked to that particular image. If you double-click the plus/minus icon, this will automatically take you to the Develop module.
To customize the Grid cell options, go to the View menu and choose View Options… Or use Command-J (Mac), Control-J (PC). The interface is shown below and, as you can see, there are lots of options that allow you to customize the grid cell appearance, including setting custom thumbnail sizes (so you aren’t just restricted to the T-Shirt size buttons!).
Library view options
The View Options also lets you customize what gets displayed when you switch to the Loupe mode view. In the example shown below, I customized the Loupe View options to overlay the Shoot name and Date time information to have this appear briefly when each image is first displayed in the Loupe view mode.
Note there are two Loupe Info settings available for you to configure in the Library View Options.
Renaming images and convert to DNG
A lot of testers have been asking on the public forums for a rename feature. In Beta 4, you can make a selection of images via the Grid or Filmstrip (but you must be in the Library module) and go to the Library menu and choose Rename Photos… (or use the F2 keyboard shortcut).
Another top request has been to add a convert to DNG function. You can convert other file formats such as JPEG to DNG, but for the most part, you will only want to convert actual raw files to DNG. So the Convert Raw files only option is best left selected. Lightroom will also let you convert your raw files and remove the original raw files, if you wish. I think busy photographers will like this feature because it allows you to import your raw files quickly just after shooting, without converting them to DNG. On a busy studio shoot this can easily save an hour or more of computer processing time. Then, when time allows, you can convert the raw files to DNG when it is more convenient to do so.
The Lightroom Library folder
When you launch Beta 4 for the first time, make sure that Lightroom is pointed to the right Library file (if the previous library was located on an external drive, you may need to hold down the Option key (Mac) / Control key (PC) on first launch and locate the old library file that way). Although Beta 4 will update smoothly from Beta 3, you are in all honesty better off starting from scratch and recreating a new library. It’s up to you.
Exporting shoots to a folder or a disk
This shoot export process is referred to as creating a photo binder. Go to the Library menu and choose Export Photos as Photo Binder…
Choose a name and a location to save the Photo Binder to and click Save. Lightroom will then generate a Photo Binder folder with the .lrbinder suffix. A Photo Binder is a folder that contains copies of all the original images placed in a subfolder hierarchy that matches that of the original shoot structure hierarchy used in Lightroom. The Lightroom Metadata.lrdata and Lightroom Previews.lrdata files are also stored separately in the .lrbinder folder.
The advantage of using the Export photos as Photo Binder option is that it allows you to create a folder package that contains both copies of all your original master files, but also contains the ‘lrdata’ files that can be used when importing photos from a Photo Binder to place those files in an exact matching shoot hierarchy in another computer running Lightroom and with all the metadata information intact and pre-generated previews all ready to load.
Exporting a shoot to another computer
Currently the only way to synchronize files with another computer running Lightroom is to export a photo binder from one computer, transfer the photo binder to another computer running Lightroom and use the Library > Import Photos from Photo Binder option. This procedure will make the transfer of library images smoother and quicker than before. It is not a complete solution and does not answer requests for library synchronization between computers, but what you see so far can be taken as a first step towards achieving that goal.
Exporting library images to a disc
There is also another related option that allows you to burn images to disk as a Photo Binder.
This may not be exactly what testers have been asking for. The Burn Disc as Photo Binder… does the same thing as the Photo Binder Export, but it creates a Photo Binder folder on a CD or DVD rather than a hard disk location. So, maybe it is not quite what we hoped for just yet. For now it does provide a useful mechanism to create archives of your shoots on DVD (just don’t exceed the 4.4 GB limit!)
Library image editing and sorting
Compare mode editing allows you to select two images and then use the keyboard arrow keys to change the view for the most selected image and thereby let you compare alternative shots more easily. Drag and drop is now working in the filmstrip and custom sort orders are memorized when you save images as a Collection.
Click to see larger image. Photograph: © Martin Evening.
The Filters panel has also changed slightly. As before, you can filter by text: this filters images according to any matching criteria in the Shoots, Collections Keywords panels or Captions. Instead of a ratings slider you click on the star ratings to filter images in the library. To turn the rating filtering off, just click on the stars. So, as in the example below, you can reset the rating filter to zero by clicking on the star; or, you can turn all Filters off by clicking the On switch at the top.
The Adobe Lightroom book
Peachpit will be publishing The Adobe Lightroom Book by Martin Evening. Martin has been working with Lightroom from the beginning, providing feedback to Lightroom’s development well before the public beta and monitoring the product’s development. The Adobe Lightroom Book describes Lightroom’s features in detail and with photographers in mind. The book is aimed at photographers at all levels: amateurs as well as professionals and will offer a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about the program. Photographers who routinely work with raw images will find Lightroom, and The Adobe Lightroom Book, an indispensable tool in their digital darkroom.The book is also currently available as a Rough Cut version (Beta 3 only)
ROUGH CUTS BOOK: The Adobe Lightroom Book
by Martin Evening
Publisher: Adobe Press
Pub Date: December 29, 2006 (est.)
Print ISBN-10: 0-32-138543-8
Print ISBN-13: 978-0-321-38543-7
eText ISBN-10: 0-321-45003-5
eText ISBN-13: 978-0-321-45003-6
List Price: USD $40.00 (when released)