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Adobe releases Lightroom beta for Windows

Company's program for high-end photo editing isn't just for Mac OS X users anymore.

Adobe Systems released on Tuesday the first Windows beta version of Lightroom, software geared for enthusiasts and professionals who need to edit, catalog and view digital photos.

Lightroom bears similarities in form and function to Apple Computer's Aperture version 1.0, which was released in October 2005. Adobe, which dominates the digital-editing market, released its Mac OS X beta of Lightroom in January, but Apple countered with Aperture 1.1 in April and a price cut from $499 to $299.

Although Apple offers some Windows programs, Aperture is not one of them. Adobe, in contrast, has a strong Windows-based software business.

Lightroom and Aperture are designed to handle photographs taken in the "raw" formats available on higher-end digital cameras. Raw images preserve more detail because they're pulled directly off a camera's image sensor; some of that information is lost in typical cameras when they convert that data into more convenient JPEG files.

Although raw images can be better adjusted for exposure, color balance and other qualities, they bring a profusion of new options for the image-editing process. In effect, raw images must be "developed" into the more convenient formats before they can be used.

The Lightroom version that Adobe released is beta 3, but the software will be changing. In June, Adobe acquired Pixmantec, a Copenhagen, Denmark-based company that sold software called RawShooter for handling raw images. Adobe said RawShooter technology will be incorporated into Lightroom.

Adobe's venerable Photoshop software for image editing has a module for processing raw images. But Lightroom is built around raw images from the start. It can be used to catalog, label, adjust, view and print images. And its black background is a stark departure from the more utilitarian look of other Adobe software.

While Lightroom has some Photoshop features, it's not a full replacement. It lacks many of Photoshop's abilities, such as a multitude of tools to select portions of images, remove image flaws, combine different images, apply visual effects or add text.

The Windows version of Lightroom is missing some features found in the Mac version, including camera or memory card detection, a mechanism to create slideshows in Web pages' HTML format, and the ability to play music during slideshows.

Lightroom Beta 3 for Windows, a 6.9MB download, requires a machine with Windows XP SP2, 768MB of memory, and 1GB of hard-drive space.