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Apple Aperture 1.5: This time it's good

Apple's Aperture has always been pretty, but it's only now that the photographic tool of the future has got the brains to match...

Aperture has always had a place in our dark little hearts -- there's something undeniably Minority Report about the way it manages photos on a virtual table. But the first release of Apple's digital darkroom, though visually thrilling, was processor-intensive to the point of oppression, and was undermined by a flawed raw conversion method that, in our experience, gave photos odd little multicoloured fringes in areas of high-contrast detail -- to mention just one quirk. This was intensely frustrating, like driving a Lamborghini with a flat tyre.

Apple has been quietly overhauling the software in a series of point releases, and with Aperture 1.5, it's now widely reported to have got to the point where it's actually a practical solution for pro and semi-pro photographers.

Raw conversion algorithms are improved and the software now lets you work on photos referenced anywhere -- even on removable media such as CDs. This might sound like an obvious feature (Adobe's competing photo software Lightroom has had it since first beta), but Apple overlooked it in previous releases.

Aperture used to have an annoying habit of duplicating all the photos you imported and then hiding them in invisible folders, like a senile old tramp hoarding aluminium cans. Now you can store image files wherever you want -- either within the Aperture library itself, or in other disk locations, including external hard drives, CDs or DVDs.

Aperture now generates high-resolution previews of each image, so you can review, rate and organise images as well as perform slideshows -- even when the master images are offline. The previews, which can be generated at a range of size and quality levels, let you keep your original images safely stored on a desktop system at home or in the studio, while still being able to take a compact version of your entire photographic library on the road. Finally, it looks like beauty is getting a brain to match.

Aperture 1.5 is available to order now for £219 from Apple's online store. -CS