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January 11, 2006 - There's another new digital photo workflow package for Macintosh OS X, this one a free release from Adobe Systems. Called Adobe Lightroom, the package includes tools for sorting, editing and outputting images. Still in beta testing, the program is available as a free download from http://labs.macromedia.com/technologies/lightroom/. Adobe's press materials predict that the initial commercial release will come in late 2006, but do not say how much it will cost. A Windows version will follow the OS X release.
Lightroom fits the same program category as Apple's Aperture – both programs are designed for sorting and editing large numbers of RAW and large JPEG files, and are marketed to professional photographers. Though Lightroom has apparently been in development for some time, the feature set reads as if it were written to address the key complaints about Aperture.
Photoshop users will be pleased that Lightroom implements a powerful curves tool. Lightroom picks up Adobe Camera RAW file conversion technology, including its long list of compatible cameras. Lightroom can work with images without copying them into its own library file, so users who are more comfortable keeping files in the OS X file system have that choice.
Adobe refers to Lightroom's "garden path" of modules and functions. The path begins with "Library," for organizing images; moves on to "Develop," for RAW file conversion, color correction and other editing; and concludes with "Slideshow" and "Print." Slideshow creates slideshows in HTML, Flash or as pdfs, and has an FTP function for direct uploads. Print has a watermarking feature, lays out index pages, allows color management and print sharpening.
The Develop module also includes a grayscale mixer, for optimized grayscale conversions, a split-toning tool, HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminance) color tuning, tools to correct color fringing and vignetting, and a camera calibration feature.
Lightroom is beta software, Adobe materials stress, and has bugs. The company has set up user forums for general discussion, feature requests and bug reports.