Is the Media Browser a Drag?

by Charlie Miller

Over the last few months, I’ve written several posts about Aperture’s seamless integration with iLife and iWork via the iLife Media Browser. A few weeks ago I posted about using your Aperture photos with iWork’s Pages to create print layouts and I received a lot of good feedback from readers pointing out that there are other ways of getting images out of Aperture and into other applications on your Mac.

So today let’s talk about drag-and-drop. When you drag image thumbnails from Aperture’s Browser and drop them into other applications, the JPEG previews get placed into the target application. If you have a large display, you can do some smart window management and arrange Aperture’s window so that it doesn’t fill the screen. This makes it pretty easy to arrange another app’s window next to Aperture and drag your photos from one window to the other. But if you use a MacBook Pro like I do, then your screen real estate is going to be limited. However fear not: there are some great features of Mac OS X that we can put into action here. So take a minute, stretch your fingers and hands out, and read on. We’ll use iMovie as a sample destination for our photos.

Method One — Drag-and-drop combined with Exposé

In Aperture’s Browser, select the photo or photos you want to get into your iMovie project. Click on one of the selected photos and begin to drag within the Browser. You’ll see a little translucent thumbnail of your photo stuck to your cursor. If you had multiple photos selected, you’ll see a red badge in the lower left corner showing how many photos you’re bringing with you. Now, the important part: without releasing the mouse button, and without moving the cursor outside of the Browser window, activate Exposé’s All Windows mode. (The default keyboard shortcut for this is F9, however depending on your configuration it could be function-F9 on a laptop or F3 on the fancy new Apple keyboards.) Exposé will show all open application windows. Move your cursor over iMovie’s window and hold it there for about three seconds until iMovie comes to the foreground, then drop your photos into iMovie’s project panel. Your preview JPEGs from Aperture are now part of the iMovie project.

Method Two — Drag-and-drop combined with the Application Switcher

Start out the same way as method one: grab the photos in Aperture’s Browser and do not release the mouse button. Activate the Application Switcher by pressing and holding the Command key and pressing Tab. Press Tab until you’ve highlighted iMovie, release both keys and release the mouse button when the cursor is over your target destination.

These tips are not unique to Aperture; they work throughout Mac OS X in the Finder and many other applications. Next time you have to get assets from one application to another, try experimenting with these methods. Do Aperture users prefer these methods or the Media Browser? What are your thoughts on one method versus the other? I’d be curious to hear from readers on this.


random bob, a.r.c.
2007-09-08 12:23:47
there's a shortcut to method one that I find most people don't know about. I'm not sure if I found out about it on accident or read it somewhere, but once you have your mouse over the Window you want to drop the selections into, you don't HAVE to wait 3 seconds (I think it's two actually, but I digress...). Once it's highlighted, press the spacebar. it will immediately come forward as the active window. No waiting whatsoever.

And another trick I find is useful for me, a lazy one-hand user, is to select Exposé to be active by "Hot Corners" in the system preferences (System Preferences>Dashboard & Exposé>top half of screen). If you set the corners to do certain tasks, such as "Show All Windows, then you click and hold what you want to drag, flick the mouse pointer to the specified corner of the action you want to perform (that you defined in the system prefs), and you don't have to fiddle with a second hand to tap the correct F-key. Of course, if you really want to do it one-handed, now you have to wait :-)

It's these combinations of things, and drag & drop in general that I find make using a Mac so much easier than on Windows. Things happen "Naturally," or as you would imagine they should. If I want pics from aperture to end up in Pages, I should be able to drag the image I want out of aperture and into pages. That seems logical, and I love that on the mac it works that way. In the real world with paper in hand, that's how you'd do it; if you wanted a pic out of an album and in a new book or file or something, you'd get it out of the album (and maybe copy it) and then put it where you wanted it. You wouldn't look at the picture in the album then go to the file where you wanted it and open up some other thing to get the picture that was in the album that you looked at and then put away. And to me, that's exactly what the very Windows-Like Media Browser is.

BRAVO for putting drag & Drop back in the mainstream. And for anyone that's interested, I'm trying to compile a list of easy little tricks like this (Mac-related) on my own website. Nothing technical, it's mostly for new switchers I know that are trying to unlearn old Windows protocol.

random bob, a.r.c.
2007-09-08 13:05:56
if I'm going to mention the tips & stuff, I should probably give the direct address, huh? Like I said, it's a work in progress and not technical at all, as it's meant for noobs to the scene. Like friends & family, but anyone who'd like to learn is welcome (though most here probably know all this already)

2007-09-09 08:48:34
one thing i've never been clear on...if my preview preference is set to "medium" in aperture are the shared previews of limited quality? i'd rather not have full quality previews for most of my library but would like shared preview images to be the best quality possible.


random bob, a.r.c.
2007-09-09 17:40:02
Yeah, I think that the settings you apply in the prefs regarding the preview quality is in fact affecting what you're sharing (assuming that by "sharing" you mean "sharing w/ other programs"). The previews Aperture generates are what allow it to play with other programs in the first place. I.e., before the 1.5 update that brought previews into the mix, there was no such thing as Aperture in the media browser or drag & drop for the library inside; the files you were touching were all RAW, and aren't the standard JPEG format that most programs play nicely with, and as such Aperture (and Apple, in the end) nixed drag & drop & Media Browser capabilities for RAW.

I think because enough people complained/voiced their desire to have a quick method to share the photos in the library with other, it was added later in the 1.5 update.

If you feel you're going to be needing to put high-quality versions in other stuff frequently, it'd probably be more beneficial to just have Aperture handle the previews at a high-quality setting. If however you're only going to need "medium" quality images MOST of the time, with the occasional need for high quality (which is the boat I find myself in), do what I do: Leave the Aperture setting at medium, then on the occasion you NEED high-quality JPEGs, just go File>Export Versions for the pics you need, and select to export them at their highest quality JPEG setting.

It's a happy medium (pardon the pun!)

2007-09-09 17:44:36
thanks for the info. i think the export idea is what i'll stick with. i had been doing that anyway and now with a 2nd opinion i don't feel like i'm crazy for doing it.

is there really any reason then for previews at all if i'm just going to be exporting?

random bob, a.r.c.
2007-09-09 17:46:52
rethinking the question, you may want to consider manually handling your previews. I understand (somewhat) not wanting HQ previews for all of your library for HDD space reasons, I think. What you COULD DO is turn off previews to be made automatically upon import, then for the projects/albums you DO WANT to share, manually enable previews to be generated by going to the gear icon in the Source list on the left, and enabling "Maintain previews for this Project." Then, you can set the preferences to have a HQ setting applied, and just carry a load of previews for the pics you're wont to share often.

PS: thanks to the moderators for removing those garbage posts - it's appreciated

random bob, a.r.c.
2007-09-09 17:53:37
Yeah, I think so. The files I shoot (and you're probably at that or above) are 6+MP. Medium-quality previews are fine for most instances they're going to be shared with other programs. Posting to the web? you don't need 3,000x3,000 pixels at their highest quality setting. Putting together a quick poster or contact sheet in pages (similar to posted about here a few weeks ago)? Even if you're doing the mini-poster idea, it's not taking up more than 1/2 of an 8.5x11" sheet of paper, and again a mid-range quality will not make a noticeable impact on the visual quality.

Exporting to print? Sending the full-size image to someone to view/edit? yeah, of course you'll want full-quality then.

but for me, it's nice to have previews on hand when I need them w/o having to wait to have them generated. Most of the times I use the previews it's not necessary to have HQ versions. Again, on the occasion it's necessary, I export right quick & be done with it.

So yeah, to summarize: I think they are useful. So long as you have the disk space. And I don't think the previews are all that big anyways. missing lots of info.

2007-09-09 17:55:35
i have considered turning them off as i almost never have shared with other applications. although thinking back i might have done it with iweb at some point without really thinking about the quality issue. i wonder if i turned previews off if those images would simply disappear?

anyway, space isn't a huge issue as i'm on a desktop (with referenced masters on a 2nd drive) but it seems pointless if i'm not really putting it to much use.

random bob, a.r.c.
2007-09-09 19:48:14
it's still not useless, I don't believe. IF you have HQ previews enabled, then when/if you're masters aren't available, you'll still be able to see/make minor changes to an image. Also, as the image loads, if there's previews available, as I understand it Aperture will default to showing you the cached preview, saving some CPU cycles and time spend rendering the preview from the RAW source. And if you're doing slideshows, then the same applies: Aperture will default to using the previews, and if they're of good enough quality, then you'll not notice any visible difference, and it will be smoother & faster than if Aperture were building a preview on the fly for each image.

Maybe not a big issue if you have a newer, more powerful machine & you don't have any background applications hogging memory/ bandwidth, but otherwise that's how I see them being useful.

The only time they're absolutely the OPPOSITE of useful is when you've just imported and Aperture's processing them in the background as you try to make changes. Then it's sucking horsepower for no reason. I usually manually turn off automatic preview generation, so that way it's not generating previews for files I'm about to change anyway. I set the previews to be on manually after I've gotten through my first batch of image manipulation.

2007-09-10 07:02:34
One thing to keep in mind: the Preview Quality slider's highest setting is 12; dropping it to just 11 can create a dramatic difference in file size. Here's a test: I used a 8.5MB, 10 megapixel RAW photo as an example and the size to "Fit within 2560x2560". With the Preview Quality set to 12, the JPEG created was 3.8MB. Backing the quality down to just 11 resulted in a preview JPEG of only 1.1MB. Pretty impressive.
2007-09-10 07:36:04
Thanks to both Random Bob and Charlie for your ideas regarding previews. Now if you could just let us know when to expect Aperture 2.0...

But seriously, I use Lightroom at work and there are quite a few things that Aperture could catch up on. I realize that opens a whole other can of worms but anyway.

Arthur Joyce
2007-10-26 12:11:51
I was hoping for some explanation of the drag and drop from Aperture that would give me an answer that I haven't been able to find. Unfortunately, this didn't, though I did like the tip on the use of Expose (however, when I'm holding the mouse button down to drag I can't just punch up the function key because that will activate the keyboard illumination instead of expose. I need to hold the function key down also - but only if I've got my mouse button down and am in process of dragging images).
My problem is that I can't figure out why dragging an image to my desktop from Aperture results in a smaller file than when I export that same image to my desktop. Changing the preview quality slider doesn't have any effect on this. And I can't find anything that will have an effect on it. I should be getting an original JPEG copy of the image but apparently not. Perhaps this could be addressed in another article.