• Sometimes Apple gets it right

    Over the past month I've had the pleasure of working with an Aperture alternative (Lightroom 4) and whilst the Lightroom product has proved to be a massive improvement on Aperture dated and watered down approach, I can't help but miss Aperture.

    I recently did the review of Lightroom which focused on the a number of Aperture's shortfalls when it came to photo libraries and the reality is, when it comes to core editing and management of images, it is a better product. The last couple of weeks has been enough to make me realise that I can only wish that Apple improved Aperture rather than forcing those users with heavier requirements to move to Lightroom or other alternatives. When it comes to quality control, more often than not, Apple gets it right.

    The things that frustrate me are the little things, the little pieces of usability and more importantly, the reliability of the product when it comes to interfacing with third party products. People are quick to knock Apple and Aperture but the one thing they get right is their connectivity to third party products, if they develop them internally of course. Where they provide functionality for third party plugins, they provide an addon that allows the developers to create a reliable product.

    Facebook is a good example of where Apple has invested time making sure the product works well while Adobe has simply provided a second rate interface that seems like it's there simply because Adobe need to say the product has that capability rather than because they actually wanted to provide a decent solution. It all comes down to quality control and if Apple put their name on something, they make sure it works 100% before they put it out to market (most of the time). If we ignore Apple's extra functionality (over Lightroom) of auto-tagging or publishing to status and galleries and simply focus at the publishing part, in my experience it's been virtually problem free. You create and album, and voila, your photos appear on Facebook. No errors, no republishing, no worries. Adobe on the other hand has been a mixed bag of tricks. On most days, one photo will publish every time you click the publish button or in some cases none. Annoying enough it creates the first image on Facebook but Lightroom isn't aware of this and it continues to try republish every time you click the publish button after it fails. After 50 manual attempts to republish, your 30-photo album might have finally been published in Facebook (45 minutes later) along with 20+ duplicate photos for every time it's tried to publish and failed, in which case you need to go back and delete the duplicates manually from Facebook. Some of the users on Adobe's forums blame Facebook and the constant changes, but when Apple manages to get a flawless publishing mechanism while Adobe has something that looks like a Windows beta, I start to wonder how one vendor can get it so right and another so wrong and the problems canít be attributed solely to Facebook

    The fact that these problems also exist with third party plugins for Smugmug and Flickr points to the fact that Adobe hasn't created their publishing module properly rather than the culprit being with the third party developers, although, in the developers defense, their solutions work far more reliably than the Adobe standard ones do and people have mentioned that one of the third party Facebook plugins is far more reliable than Adobe's internal version. How a single developer can get something right when Adobe canít is a mystery to me. Some of these issues can be attributed to logins on multiple locations. I.e. if you try publish to Facebook you need to ensure that you are not logged into the Facebook site in Safari or using a tool like MenuTab for Facebook. Whilst some may consider this a valid argument, this only has limited improvements to reliability when you do this and again, given Apple has not had this limitation to contend with with their publishing tool, it seems to be more of a bad development issue than a Facebook issue.

    What surprises me with this scenario is that Facebook has become a medium for photographers worldwide to publish their work and the fact that Adobe ignores this or has provided second rate tools makes me wonder whether their focus is simply on sales or providing a good quality tool because at this point, it just seems like a checkbox they want to fill and nothing more. The result of the above is that I have now resorted to exporting my photos and manually uploading them to Facebook (or using iPhoto or Aperture for publishing), a sad indictment on how poor the Lightroom plugin actually is. I am investigating one of the third party plugins for Facebook but having to use third party tools when Adobe provides its own tool seems to be the wrong answer to a problem that shouldn't exist, particularly in a day and age when social media is the core of any business. This may seem like a relatively minor issues, but often it's the small things that give you an indication of how a company operates as a whole. Small or big, quality is important and whilst bugs may find their way through, doing some investigation into this issue shows that this issue has existed going back to Lightroom 3 and for a couple of years.

    I can understand Apple's position on Adobe when it comes to the quality of their solutions, particularly around Flash. Adobeís focus is on producing solutions but quality control and performance does not seem to be a priority. Their approach seems more aligned to Android's approach of stuffing as many features into a product as possible and then fixing the issues later, if they get around to it.
    And to answer your question, no, I wonít be going back to Aperture just yet. Unfortunately Image editing is one of the key criteria and unless Apple updates Aperture to meet the needs of heavier users, itís simple not good enough. That said, if an update appears, I could be tempted back to the dark side.

    About the author

    Athol Hill is the Practice Lead for Stonebridge Systems, an SAP & OpenText implementation partner specialising in web and content management implementations and strategy.

    He is a certified SAP and Project Management Professional with a large number of implementations spanning the globe including Australasia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. When he isn't kitesurfing or spending time with his family, Athol writes part time for Mactalk on a range of subjects including iOS/OSX in the workplace, bleeding edge, product reviews and anything Mac. If you have something new and exciting to review, feel free to get in touch. He can be contacted via twitter on @themissionman or email on athol.hill@mactalk.com.au. Opinions noted here are Athol's own and aren't any official policy of position of his employer.
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