Apple Photos Underwhelms

(commentary)

With the recent update of the Macintosh operating system to version 10.10.3, Apple also shipped the final version of their new Photos application. 

The transition to Photos from both iPhoto and Aperture is a good news/bad news situation. Short answer: if you’re transitioning from iPhoto to Photos, once you’ve had Photos transfer your iPhoto library, you have additional options in editing you didn’t have before (though you need to discover how to access the advanced tabs). That’s the good news. 

The bad news is a very, very long list. The short version of that is that Aperture users won’t be happy. The list that produces the unhappiness:

  • Photos is very disk-intensive. Large libraries with slow drives are problematic.
  • Large libraries also are problematic in getting to iCloud Photos.
  • Only a single library at a time (must restart to get to another library).
  • Metadata entry is mostly gone.
  • Projects are gone.
  • Multiple adjustment layers/brushes are no longer available.
  • No link to external editors. No current plug-ins.
  • No watermarking.
  • Ratings are mostly gone (no stars and colors, just a heart).
  • No Web gallery.
  • Books and Slide Shows have been dumbed down.
  • Direct printing has been dumbed down.
  • No real presets.
  • …and more.


Realistically, Aperture users still face the same decision: keep using Aperture until they have to move to the next OS after Yosemite; or choose another program, such as Lightroom. 

It’s a shame that Aperture truly seems to be a dead-end now. While an Aperture library converts just fine into Photos, I don’t really see any point in doing so. 

Apple has a long history of restarting applications from scratch in order to take advantage of new technology and/or completely new frameworks that eventually support additional features. Sometimes these restarts are problematic but not total bad news (e.g. Final Cut Pro’s transition to X). Such applications quickly regain features and go on to show why the rewrite was necessary and useful.

Sometimes these restarts are more problematic but still not terrible news. The Pages/Numbers/Keynote restarts lost a lot of features that they’re still struggling to regain, though we do now have a much better ability to move files we’ve created between devices and the cloud. 

Sometimes the restart is very painful, and in the case of iPhotos and Aperture, I’d have to say that Photos is of this last group. Too much changed, too much is gone, too much is missing, and the payoff for all this is mostly zero so far and costly (e.g. iCloud Photos). 

Of course, if you were starting from scratch in imaging with only an iPhone as your camera, an iPad as your display, and a Macintosh as your computer, you might have a slightly different view of Photos and iCloud Photos. So the changes make a lot of sense for Apple. 

I’d argue that Apple still needs Aperture. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear they think they do. 

I’ve never truly understood Apple’s software side, even though I’ve watched it from very close range since 1983 (yes that date is correct). We’ve got outliers such as Filemaker Pro, really high end stuff with lower end mimics such as FCPX/iMovie and Logic Pro/GarageBand, and somewhat oddly positioned productivity products in Pages/Numbers/Keynote. They’ve completely abandoned Web, DVD production, and other applications. There’s not a lot of sense in what they’re doing other than in development tools (iBooks Author, Xcode, etc.).

Photos adds yet another strange bit. It’s a bundled application that comes preinstalled across multiple platforms, just as Calendar, Mail, and Contacts are. But those latter applications tend to be very bare bone, while Photos seems to have quite a bit of heft to it, much more like the optional Pages/Numbers/Keynote trio.

Photos won’t bring Apple any money (unless people pay the premiums for more iCloud Photos storage, which I’m guessing is going to be minimal given what they delivered). So it seems a little strange that they’ve invested so much in developing it.   

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