Abandoning Aperture

by Ben Long

I don't actually think you should stop using Aperture. In fact, in my own work, I've pretty much abandoned all of my other workflow tools and am using Aperture exclusively. However, people keep asking me questions about renaming master files, or organizational questions about how to keep files arranged in the Finder. I try to explain that, very often, these issues are irrelevant because Aperture will handle them for you and, very often, the would-be Aperture user fesses up: "yeah, but what if I stop using Aperture one day?"

The Aperture library still scares a lot of people. In my talks, It's apparent from the questions that people ask that many still think that committing to Aperture will invariably set them up for some terrible problem in the future, should they ever need to abandon Aperture for another workflow solution.

So, in an effort to ease the minds of those who are hesitating to completely embrace Aperture, I'd like to explain exactly how you can stop using Aperture, should you ever decide to. Hopefully, once you see that you can easily extricate yourself from an Aperture-based workflow, you'll be more willing to completely throw yourself into Aperture.

Should you ever decide to stop using Aperture, your first goal will be to extract all of your images from the Aperture libary. Aperture's non-destructive editing architecture means that you need to take care to copy out both your master images, and any edited versions that you may have created. If you take only your masters, you'll lose all edits, ratings, and metadata that you've assigned. If you've been saving copies of your master images before you import them into Aperture, then you may be able to skip this step. However, to be safe, you might want to export all your masters anyway. After all, you can always sort through them later.

To export masters, first select a project, then select all of the images in that project and choose File > Export > Export Masters. Select a location and Aperture will write out copies of your master files. Then move on to the next project. Since you're exporting on a project-by-project basis, you can easily export your master files into separate folders, allowing you to build up an organizational scheme in the Finder as you go.

Next you'll want to create copies of the edited versions that you've created. You can choose to do this for every version in a project, or selectively export only the images that have been edited. Select the versions you want to export and choose File > Export > Export Versions. Pick a destination and an export preset and your files will be exported. Again, because you're going project-by-project, it's easy to keep your exported images organized.

For these export steps to work, you need enough disk space to hold all of your masters and versions. If space is tight, there's another approach you can take.

First, export your versions as described above. Then, in the Finder, navigate to the location of your Aperture library. By default, the Aperture library is kept in the Pictures folder of your Home directory. If you don't find it there, check your Aperture preferences to find out where it is.

Control-click on the Library document and choose Show Package Contents. A Finder window will open showing the contents of the Library. In the window's Spotlight field enter the file extension of one of your master file types (NEF, PSD, CR2, CRW, JPG, TIFF, ORF, etc.). All of the images in your library that have that file extension will appear in the Spotlight window. You can then drag them to a new location. You'll need to do a separate search for every file type that you've used in your library. If you use this technique, your Aperture library will be very messed up when you're done, so make sure that this is the very last step that you perform in your process. This procedure will also work if you one day find yourself with an Aperture library, but no usable copy of Aperture.

While the versions that you export will include any metadata that you've assigned, you can also export metadata as a tab-delimited text file. Select the images that contain the metadata you want to export, then choose File > Export > Export Metadata. Aperture will prompt you for a location and a filename and will then write a text file to that location.

As you can see, using the tools that are built in to Aperture, you can easily extract all of your master files, edited images, and metadata. If you don't have Aperture you can still access all of your master files directly from the Finder.

So, for those of you who are still worried about how to one day leave Aperture behind, post your fears here and we'll see if there's a solution.


2006-12-07 07:46:17
Couldn't you also use the Relocate Masters function to move the master image files to a new location outside the Aperture library? This would keep the Aperture library intact as the masters would now just be referenced files, and you could relocate them on a project-by-project basis for organizational purposes.

One of the cool things about 1.5 and referenced files is that if you store all your masters as referenced files you can easily build a database with another program such as iView MediaPro.

Daniel Mendez
2006-12-07 08:30:23
I think using spotlight to drag the images out of the library is better than having to duplicate the masters by exporting them, but still somewhat ugly. I agree with Micah about just relocating the masters (need 1.5). If you relocate the masters, you can still keep the library (which will be a much smaller size without the images) just in case you change your mind and want to keep using Aperture.

The one thing I see as beneficial of using spotlight to find the master images is like you said "This procedure will also work if you one day find yourself with an Aperture library, but no usable copy of Aperture." Were that to happen, make sure you copy the images and not move them.

With version 1.5 and referenced files, people should have no objection to give aperture a try.

[begin rant] There is one thing I wish Apple would fix when importing referenced files and the volume goes offline before the import is finished. Aperture *should* be smart enough when the volume is back online and I restart the import, to either continue the import where we left off or that if I re-import, it would not duplicate some images that were already successfully imported [end rant]

Thanks Ben for your post :)

2006-12-07 10:50:57
Honestly, the main reason why I keep my files out of the Aperture library is for peace of mind for backups. I just don't trust Aperture's backup system because it isn't transparent enough... I want to see when the file was last backed up and I don't want all-or-nothing backup and restore.
2006-12-07 12:48:53
"You can choose to do this for every version in a project, or selectively export only the images that have been edited. Select the versions you want to export"
Is this choosing and selecting done by hand? Or is there an easy way to select all edited files, and only edited files, in a project and export them?
2006-12-07 14:10:45
OK, so you have convinced me to let Aperture manage all of my images. I have a group of images I just added from a European trip. They are the first images I've added since the upgrade to 1.5, so I decided to take advantage of the ability to pull in referenced images. Now I have decided that I DO want to import them into the Aperture Library for backing up. How do I do that so that they are not duplicated and I don't lose adjustments I have made on a number of the referenced images?
2006-12-07 16:17:10
As a 14 year old, my only fear is how to pay for Aperture and extra lenses for my LX1 (I have found a cool way to make and adapter tube) I'm running short on cash and my MacBook was my birthday and christmas present
2006-12-08 04:27:40

As someone who shoots on a commercial basis every day, backups ARE really important to me. I have 2 external drives as vaults and after every import/edit/change, i sync both. As for the transparent aspect, the vault concept is no different than you copying the files in 1 folder over to the other.

Aperture seems to use the same logic as the rsync process and without looking at the code or studying the data flow, i'm gathering they would have used this. The benefit is that each time a vault is created, the app queries both source and destination and does analysis of what has changed. In the case of Aperture, anything not in the vault, but in the main image location, is copied over.

As for seeing when the file was backed up, ctrl + click on the value and then goto the file you want to see, the UNIX timestamp is there for all to play with.

Daniel Mendez
2006-12-08 06:16:15
what you need to do is to 'consolidate masters'.
Check this link for very helpful information on the matter:
Daniel Mendez
2006-12-08 06:18:29
Daniel [Cuthbert],
Do you mind explaining this sentence a little more:
"As for seeing when the file was backed up, ctrl + click on the value and then goto the file you want to see, the UNIX timestamp is there for all to play with."


Ben Long
2006-12-08 09:08:51
Bill, if you move the referenced images into the main library, it should move them over as separate master/version combos, so you won't overwrite anything you've already done. You'll just have two different sets.

2006-12-08 09:14:06
Micah, Yes, if you wanted to preserve your Aperture library, you could use Relocate Masters to move them out to another volume. Your Library would then be pretty small and you can easily file it away somewhere.
jace rivers
2006-12-09 22:54:55
I've got a problem using referenced files in Aperture 1.5.1 and here it is...
I've relocated all of my masters to an external drive to have more space on my MacBook Pro. After shutting down and coming back the next day, I open Aperture only to find that my masters cannot be located (and the drive that they are on is mounted and working fine). When I try to select all of the thumbnails and "Manage Referenced Files" it says that my selection contains no referenced files.

I can see my masters sitting on the external drive but I can't get Aperture to see them. How can I force Aperture to open the Manage Referenced Files dialog and reconnect them manually when it thinks that they're not referenced?

Soooo frustrating!!!!

Allan White
2006-12-09 23:02:06
A sane way to directly manipulate the photos within the .aplibrary: View Package contents, then drag the folders into iView Media Pro. I tried it, and it let me go from there easily.

2006-12-10 10:22:55
Thanks but that's not really an Aperture solution. And since I've elected to use Aperture as part of my workflow I need a solution that will reconnect my masters when the program itself believes that the images are not referenced but managed with missing masters.
Ben Long
2006-12-10 10:27:44
Jace, have you tried the Managed Referenced Files dialog? It will let you easily re-link master files. I think I've had the same problem that you have on one or two occasions, and Manage Referenced Files let me re-connect. One thing that's nice is that you usually only have to tell it one file, and it'll automatically find the rest.
Bill Booz
2006-12-11 05:12:47
Dan and Ben, thanks for your suggestions. I have looked at Bagelturf's site (http://homepage.mac.com/bagelturf/aparticles/ref/refrecon/refrecon.html) before and he has a ton of great info on Aperture. I had not seen the reference to "consolidate masters," but it worked like a charm, Dan.

2007-01-11 19:07:50
This is a helpful tutorial. However, wouldn't it be much much much simpler if Aperture gave us direct access to the Finder within Aperture? This is essentially how iView does it and by the sounds of it Lightroom V1 will as well. It seems obvious to me that Apple is in fact in the best position to do this (relative to iView/LR) because they own the end-to-end (OS, hardware, etc). Seems to me that all these processes we talk about can be much better done with the Finder access. With this functionality, everyone gets what they want. Am I missing something?
Boris Gonzalez
2007-10-17 07:53:03
I have my wd passport drive connected and mounted and still aperture shows it offline and won't see all the master files.
Any idea?