Adobe Releases Lightroom Beta

To coincide with the start of Macworld 2006 this week in San Francisco, Adobe has released a beta version of its new tool to compete with Apple's Aperture. Called Lightroom, the software enables professional photographers to work with digital photos more easily and natively supports manipulation of RAW images.

According to Adobe, "The concept behind Lightroom is to provide a single environment that has all of the functions photographers most commonly need to perform on their images." But the company says it isn't "interested in trying to pack more knobs and switches into Lightroom than Aperture."

Instead, Lightroom is intended to offer "the RIGHT knobs and switches, in the cleanest, least cluttered, easiest to use package."

The beta release, which is only available for Mac OS X, is not yet feature complete. Over 100 camera RAW formats are supported, along with DNG, TIFF and JPEG. Nikon NEF files are not yet fully supported, but Adobe says it is working with the camera manufacturer to fix this.

A Windows version of Lightroom is in development, along with an Intel-based Mac release, but Adobe is holding off until Windows Vista launches. Lightroom will support Windows XP, but is designed for Microsoft next-generation operating system.

When the final release is made later this year, an SDK for Lightroom will open the platform for third party development. "Developers and customers have long appreciated the ability to extend Photoshop functionality through third-party plug-ins and scripting support. Lightroom draws on the lessons learned through Photoshop and has been designed from the ground up with a fully modular architecture," says Adobe.

"All of the tasks you see in Lightroom's main interface—Library, Develop, Slideshow, and Print—are actually independent modules that have full control over your images, and which can use the entire screen to show you just the tools you need for the task at hand."

Lightroom Beta 1 is available for download from FileForum. Adobe is encouraging users to comment on the release through its Labs Web site.

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