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I'm looking at the possibility of changing our photo management software. Thinking about Aperture or Lightroom. And want to know if either supports:

  1. Having folders/libraries on separate harddrives/Volumes.
  2. Tolerates having network folders occasionally connected
  3. Snappy interface
  4. A solid enough piece of software as not to crash or behave weirdly. [ so the wife doesn't get stuck and have to call me ;) ]


The wife is photographer and I'm the computer programmer.

Our current setup is Picasa, with a "Recent/Working" folder on the local iMac harddrive, and "Archive" folders on NFS mounted Linux Server, Raid 5, for redundant and extra storage capacity. (the Linux server also syncs with Amazon's EC2)

Picasa is doing OK, but I get annoyed when it doesn't do behave properly. Usually around issues when the Linux disk isn't mounted. And overall, I wish Picasa seemed a little more polished and snappier.

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I think Aperture 3 will meet all your criteria, but only if you have fairly powerful hardware. I'm currently running it on a brand new MBP with 2.66GHZ and 8GBs of RAM, and it's snappy and stable.

I don't think you need quite that much, but I was previously running it on the 2007 MBP (silver keyboard) with 2GB of RAM, and with that configuration, it completely failed on your points 3 and 4. It would freeze, crash, and even froze the entire machine once- I don't think I'd ever had a full OS freeze before (on a Mac).

One nice aspect of Aperture is that there's a free trial.

You can download and try a fully functional version for 30 days and see how it runs on your setup. One other note is that the interface takes a little getting used to- it's not nearly as intuitive as a picasa or iphoto, but with a little training or practice, I find it incredible powerful and accessible. There are also some decent videos from Apple to teach you the basics, and some better (but paid) ones on

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I would consider myself an on and off beginner DSLR photographer, and I use Aperture. You can have multiple libraries. Create a new one or choose an existing one just by holding the ⌥ key when opening Aperture.

I've had it crash on me only once or twice, and only when I was using either the Flickr or Facebook export, not while using the program for anything else.

Not sure what you're looking for in point 2. If you're thinking about storing a library on the network, Aperture would just start up with the option to create a new library if that network library is unavailable. Then, upon reconnecting the network connection, just double-click on the library to open it in Aperture.

Another library-management feature you may be interested in is part of the just-released Aperture 3. From Macworld:

Library handling is also improved in Aperture 3. If you’ve got multiple Aperture library files, you can merge them all together in one place. A photographer with a MacBook Pro on a remote photo shoot can start with a fresh library and import it into his or her master library upon returning home. More impressively, Aperture will sync and merge libraries: photographers can export a portion of their libraries to a laptop, take it on the road to do work, and then bring that library back home. Aperture will detect what’s changed and sync only the changes back to the master library.

From what I know, Lightroom is very similar and someone else can make a strong case for using it as well.

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I agree on recommending Aperture. Regarding your point 2, Aperture allows you to store your masters on a network device (I have mine on my ReadyNAS) while putting your library on the local drive. With this configuration, if the network location is not available, Aperture will load the previews from the library but you obviously can't do deep editing since the masters are not available. This keeps the size of the library small on the local drive. While this works, it is generally slower than if the masters were local is well. I would therefore recommend keeping the masters local too. – Beno Jul 11 '10 at 2:08

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