Aperture users are bound to take a sneaky peek over the garden fence from time to time at its chief rival, Lightroom. Lightroom has some great editing tools and every release brings more. If only Aperture had automatic lens corrections, a Graduated Filter tool, Radial Filter, the perspective-correcting Upright tool and all the rest!

By comparison, Aperture can feel like it’s stuck in some kind of development backwater.

But fancy editing tools are only half the story. These two programs have another, equally important job. Actually, I’m going to say it’s more important. They also have to catalog your ever-growing collection of images quickly and efficiently and yet still give you the flexibility you need to browse, search and organise your images in a way which suits you.

It’s not exciting, it’s not sexy, but this cataloguing and organising process is central to everything you do. Nobody pays it any attention, but it’s the thing that matters most, and here’s what I think:

Aperture got this right first time, and Lightroom has never caught up nor even shown any real sign of understanding the issues.

I think this is a crucial facet of the Aperture vs Lightroom debate.

Madness trigger #01: Projects versus folders

Aperture uses ‘projects’ as its primary container for images in your library. These may initially correspond to the folders on your hard disk, but they don’t have to. You can organise your projects into an entirely new structure without affecting your external folder structure.

In other works, you can organise your pictures how you like in Aperture, but if other programs need to access them on your computer, they’re still in the same place they always were.

Lightroom works directly with folders on your computer. These are its ‘primary containers’. It’s a simpler approach that has advantages – it’s easy to grasp what’s happening and you can move files and folders physically on your computer from within Lightroom.

But while the Lightroom approach might seem obvious, it brings an intrinsic limitation that affects the ways in which you can organise and browse your images…