Creating an Aperture Library with Matching Finder Folder Structure

by Ben Long

One of the nice things about Aperture is that once you're using it, you can spend less time hassling with the Finder. Thanks to metadata and Smart Albums, you can organize and sort your images by metadata tags, rather than by simple file and folder names. However, there are users who still want their folder structure organized in a particular way, regardless of how things are arranged in Aperture. But, with Aperture 1.5, you can take advantage of a few features that allow you to let Aperture create a Finder-based folder structure for you. This trick will be especially useful for those users who are needing to migrate an existing library of images.

The following procedure will create an Aperture library structure and matching Finder folder structure. In Aperture, you'll end up with separate projects for each year, and separate month albums within each project. In the Finder, you'll have separate folders for each year, with subfolders for months. One note, this techniue requires you to create a copy of all of your images. However, if need be, you can perform this procedure in chunks. Also, you'll lose any edits you might have made in Aperture. This process is really for an initial library setup, or for organizing images that you're just now importing. Read through it before you give it a whirl.

First, import your existing images into Aperture as references. It doesn't matter how you perform the import. If you want, you can even import everything into one project.

Next, click on Library in the All Projects pane and then create a Smart Album. In the Smart Album action menu select Text to add a Text criteria field to the Smart Album. Enter a year in the field, for example, "2004".


This will create a Smart Album at the Library level, which means it will gather images from all projects within your library. It will populate itself with any image that has "2004" in its metadata. In other words, the album should automatically fill with all images that you shot in 2004. Name the album "2004."

Now create additional Smart Albums for all the other years in your library. When you're finished, you should have a large collection of Smart Albums, each named for a different year.

Now you're ready to create a Finder folder structure that mirrors these Smart albums. Click on the first Smart Album to view it's contents. Select all of the images in the Smart Album by clicking in the Browser pane and pressing Command-A.

Choose File > Export > Export Masters. In the Save dialog box that appears, create a new folder on a drive that has enough space to hold a copy of your entire library. You're going to save all of your master images into this folder.

Change the Subfolder format menu to "Image Year/Month". Set Name Format to "Master Filename." Now click the Export Masters button. (If you've edited any of your images, then you'll also need to Export Versions of those images. Obviously, if you do this, you'll lose editability.)

When it's done, you will have a Finder folder for one year, with separate sub-folders for each month. Now perform the same export with all of the other Smart Folders that you created. This will create an organized Finder structure, now it's time to match this structure in Aperture.

Select all of the projects in your library and delete them. Don't panic.

Choose File > Import > Folders as Projects. Set Store Files to "In their Current Location" (if you import into the Aperture library, there's really no reason to hassle with all this Finder organization). Click Open.

When the Import is done, you will have a separate Project for each year folder that you have in the Finder, and within that you'll find separate albums for each Month subfolder. You now have an Aperture library structure that exactly matches your Finder structure. Now you can delete the original master images that you imported way back in the first step.

Note that you don't have to create a calendrical structure if you're willing to spend some time adding metadata. For example, perform your initial import, then tag all of your images with a keyword. Create Smart Albums that automatically grab all of the images with specific keywords, and then perform your export.

Obviously, the "killer features" that make this trick work are Smart Albums, and Aperture's ability to export Finder folder structures. Using these two features, you should be able to come up with just about any Aperture/Finder structure that you can think of.


2007-03-11 16:21:07
Thanks Ben. It is obvious starting with a good folder system, means less re-organizing later. Ok. I think I got this figured out. However, I am not quite sure where you are going here- AFTER you have a year project and 12 corresponding month sub-folders are you suggesting importing new shots into the appropriate month album and then build a Smart Folder from Metadata to locate each shoot? If I understand you correctly, you have a single year long project (containing all shoots for the year, then "month" sub albums and finally, JUST use Smart Albums to "contain" or seperate shoots.

While Aperture appears flexible in many ways, it is nice to get the "base" folder heirarchy dialed in. Your finder set-up makes sense when it comes to eventually creating a new library after several years (more or less of data), backing it up as you go, and then creating a new library again based on the current year; beginning the process all over again. Am I missing where you are going here? Got screen shots? Thanks.

2007-03-12 03:56:31
I wish I had seen this before I set up my aperture library. I did manually what I believe you are suggesting can be automated using smart folders. I am copying this link to some other new apertue users. Thanks so much!
2007-03-23 16:44:52
Great tip, but I've found that instead of using a text field, just using the DATE option and specifying the year, month, etc is much more accurate than a text field. Some how the text field left me with pictures in places they shouldn't be..
2007-03-24 11:53:06
There are, also, limitations to this. My experience has been that an odd organization structure appears in Aperture if you use a different approach to the folder structure in Finder. For me the structure of YEAR/PROJECT_NAME/MONTH-DAY/imagename.ext makes a little more sense as I often shoot projects on multiple days or even months but would still like to keep all the images of a single project in one place.

However, when importing this structure to Aperture I end up with a PROJECT of the year, followed by FOLDERS of the projects which contain ALBUMS of the month-day. This is a problem as Aperture's FOLDERS do not actually display images. You can see what I mean here:

So, following this process you're somewhat restricted to keeping the projects as the last folder in your Finder tree.

Is there a way to avoid the folders issue that I'm missing?

robert baronet
2007-12-14 08:06:35
I am using aperture. Can I create a new library on another hard disk when the one aperture is importing images is full