One Library To Rule Them All

by Ben Long

Aperture allows you to keep multiple library files, by simply changing the Library setting in Aperture's Preferences dialog box. Many people use this as a way to get around the fact that Aperture limits the size of an individual Library to a single volume. For example, they'll use one library for work files, and another for their personal projects.

While there are no right or wrong answers to how you should architect your Aperture library structure, I'm increasingly of the mind that it's much better to have a single library. First, it simplifies backups. Second, it lets you take advantage of one of Aperture's core features: a searchable library of your entire photographic archive. Third, multiple libraries introduce an extra level of organization and management hassle to the already complex chore of managing your image library.

So what do you do about that single volume library limitation? Fortunately, the ability to import images as references pretty much solves this problem, because your master files don't have to consume any storage on the volume where your library is kept. What's more, the previews that Aperture builds are small enough that you can have hundreds of thousands of them on a reasonable-sized drive. Because Aperture allows you to re-build previews, you can easily change your preview compression settings and rebuild them at any time, to free up more disk space.

Of course, if you keep everythingin a single library, then your Projects pane will be harder to navigate, as it will be crammed full of more projects. To minimize the clutter, consider grouping projects into Folders, or take advantage of Aperture's Favorites menu. Tag all your personal projects as Favorites, and then change the All Projects menu to Favorites.


This allows you to easily switch to a select group of projects. Or, change the menu to Recent Projects to view the last 20 projects that you worked on.

Keeping one library lets you take full advantage of Aperture's keywording and search features - features that end up somewhat less useful if you've spread your images across multiple libraries.


John Balliett
2007-12-07 06:50:51
I agree and have come to the same conclusion. Now my problem is to find the best way to take two reasonably large libraries on different drives and bring it all back together. I would guess that I'm not alone with this problem. Part of my problem is that I want to merge similar projects in each into one project in my new main library
random bob, a.r.c.
2007-12-07 08:30:51
Seeing as how I'm a hobbyist photographer, I really don't have to worry about "Personal" versus "Job shoot" delineation; all my shoots are personal in a way! But yeah, organizing them and keeping the structure svelte is still a concern. Everyone has their ways, subfolder organization I find works best, with logical-yet-broad top-level folders that incrementally get more narrow. The only problem with this approach is that then you're clicking a few folders before you see a picture/project.

Sometimes, I miss iPhoto's simplicity ;-)

sean ross
2007-12-07 10:11:36
Great idea, especially if you have less than 100,000 photos. I for one do not, and once this happens, you can't have smart folders and search your entire library for keywords, ratings etc., Pretty lame. So, I had to break up the library into 2, and I fear that I am rapidly expanding my current library into that 100000 realm again.
2007-12-07 14:14:32
I think importing by reference defeats Aperture's Vault capability for backups, so you need to be sure to have an alternative plan for backups. Right?
2007-12-07 19:05:50
I guess you have a small library. I have 450,000 images in mine and discovered that searches in aperture no longer work once you pass the 100,000 mark. that right, all searches become unable to operate if your library exceeds 100,000 images. Yo can now only search in individual albums that have less than 100,000 images in them, no more global searches. Pathetic.
2007-12-08 23:52:40
RE search limits: Have you found *any* programs that do well at that range? I used iView Media but when I was hovering at 60,000 images the program regularly crashed.

I'm not sure anyone handles huge collections like that with aplomb. Apertrue probably will do better this way as it matures.