Apple has announced Aperture 1.5, a major update to its all-in-one post production tool for photographers.

The application now boasts a new open library, iLife 06 and iWork 06 integration, XMP metadata support, new adjustment tools and an export API to help extend the Aperture workflow to third party applications and services.

"Aperture has given photographers around the globe the confidence to work in exciting new ways," said Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice president of applications product marketing. "Now with Aperture 1.5, we've opened the library and extended the workflow to provide a solution that is as flexible as it is powerful."

Flexible image storage management

Managing RAW, JPEG and TIFF images in Aperture 1.5 is has been made more flexible, as the new open library system lets photographers store image files wherever they want - either within the Aperture library itself, or elsewhere, including external hard drives, CDs or DVDs.

Aperture can now generate high-resolution previews of each image so that users can review, rate and organize 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, make it possible for photographers to keep their original images safely stored on a desktop system at home or in the studio, while still being able to take a compact version of their entire photographic library on the road using a MacBook or MacBook Pro.

"In less than a year, Aperture has become as essential to me as my camera, lens and tripod," said Steve Winter, contributing photographer for National Geographic. "At the end of a day's shoot, it's so easy to find photos in my Aperture library and use these amazing tools like the Light Table to quickly piece something together and figure out what I need to make the story complete."

"Aperture has been a rock for me, and I'm now using it to build an archive of all my professional work - 25 years' worth," said Bill Frakes, staff photographer for Sports Illustrated. "With everything tagged and organized, including my current projects, I can retrieve any photo I want in a matter of seconds."

Extending the reach of the application, Aperture 1.5 worls with all current Macs, including Mac minis.

iLife integration lets snappers build image websites

The iLife integration means photographers can choose to create websites featuring their work (in JPEG format exported from Aperture) using iWeb, build slide presentations using Keynote, or produce DVD slideshows using iDVD.

Photographers can also sync their image collections with an iPod using iTunes 7, and can access and copy Aperture photos from within iPhoto.

Metadata matters

Aperture 1.5 streamlines the process of adding metadata to photo shoots with new pre-filled IPTC Metadata Presets. Captions, credits and other critical metadata that photographers rely on can be added on import automatically or via a batch process at any point in the workflow. Another major enhancement to metadata support within Aperture is the ability to export RAW images with IPTC data stored in XMP sidecar files for easy use with other applications like Adobe Photoshop and even the ability to generate XMP files automatically through AppleScript.

New image adjustment options in Aperture 1.5 include a luminance-based Edge Sharpen filter and a new Color tool that lets photographers tune the hue, saturation and luminance of specific colour ranges within each image.

Aperture's Loupe magnifier has been enhanced with a set of onscreen controls, smooth zooming with up to 1,600 per cent magnification and a new option that enables it to be detached from the cursor while making adjustments.

Individual image adjustment settings can now be saved as presets that can be automatically applied through a menu command, so that photographers can quickly and easily make standard adjustments.

Apple's plug-in promise

An innovative new export API plug-in architecture in Aperture 1.5 allows third party developers to create plug-ins that connect Aperture's workflow to complementary applications and services. Plug-ins from industry leading companies, including Getty Images, iStockphoto, Pictage, Flickr, PhotoShelter, DigitalFusion, Soundslides and Connected Flow, will be demonstrated at photokina 2006. These plug-ins will demonstrate a range of printing, publishing and storage workflows that take advantage of this new architecture.

The £219 (including VAT) software is available this week in English, French, German and Japanese as a free Software Update to current Aperture 1.0 customers.