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Lightroom for iPhones takes big step closer to PC version

In ability, the mobile app for editing and cataloging photos steadily approaches the PC version. Also, there's a helpful new comparison mode for Windows and Mac.

Lightroom 2.6 for iOS revamps editing controls. These are exposure and tone controls; icons on the right open up new editing options.​
Lightroom 2.6 for iOS revamps editing controls. These are exposure and tone controls; icons on the right open up new editing options.
Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

When Adobe Systems launched Lightroom for phones and tablets, it was a pale reflection of the version for Windows and Mac. It's been gradually improving, but an overhaul Thursday brings the mobile app much closer to the PC version of the photo editing and cataloging software.

Adobe surveyed its customers to figure out what they'd like. The new editing interface is the result, Adobe mobile chief Josh Haftel said in a blog post.

The new Lightroom version 2.6 shows how mobile software is gradually expanding to compete with PC equivalents. Small screens and tiny keyboards remain a major difference, but with each passing year, you can get more done on your phone. Lightroom shows how mobile devices are getting better at creative tasks, too, not just passive activities like browsing your inbox or watching videos.

With the new look, the app's bottom edge -- or right if your phone is in landscape orientation -- offers editing options for cropping, filters, exposure, color and other adjustments. Tapping one of them expands the edge panel to offer all the controls for that option.

In addition, a central drop-down option lets you switch from editing mode to one to see and change information including caption, title and star rating. Adobe also updated the app to make it easier to use with a single hand -- for example changing the three-finger tap gesture to a single-finger long-press if you want to see how your edited photo compares to the original.

The new Lightroom is for Apple iPhones only at this stage, but it's sure to arrive on devices powered by Google's software later. The Android version of Lightroom sometimes gets new features first, too: a "professional" mode when using the camera arrived first there but with the new Lightroom 2.6 for iOS now works on iPhones.

You still can't add keywords, but you can give titles and captions to photos with Lightroom 2.6 for iOS.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

The mobile version is free, but you'll have to spend at least $10 a month for an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription if you want advanced features or want to sync your mobile photos with your PC.

Adobe on Thursday also released an updated Lightroom for Mac and Windows with support for new cameras, new lenses and photos from new phones including the Google Pixel. Lightroom 2015.8 improves performance for background tasks, too, Adobe said, so you'll be able to edit a photo without getting bogged down so much by simultaneous other chores like moving photos or backing up your catalog.

Lightroom 2015.8 has a reference view mode to compare a photo you're editing with one you already edited.

Adobe Systems

A more visible new feature in Lightroom 2015.8 makes it easier to keep a consistent style across a group of photos. A tool called reference view shows a photo you've already edited on the left side of the screen; on the right is another photo you want to edit, combined with the usual panel of editing controls that'll let you match the look of the left photo.