Lightroom beta 4 came out earlier this week - see Ian Lyons's notes. It has made great strides in what the raw converter can do, and features like Vibrance and Fill Light take the program well beyond Adobe Camera Raw. But if you're trying it, take a good hard look at what happens when you import files by “Copy files to Lightroom Library”.

This option copies the images to a special folder defined as the “managed space”. The images are shown in shoots, which correspond to subfolders of the managed space. So move a file in Lightroom from one shoot to another, and the file itself moves between subfolders of the managed space. It makes me wonder why they don't just call these shoots “managed folders”….

While this sounds neat, it only really works if you want to keep your files in that area of your system, and never want to move any of the files that are logged “by reference” in Lightroom's library. Doesn't sound so good now, does it? Save them where we want or you're on your own. “Adobe iTunes”?

Even where the managed space concept does work well, importing a “binder” of Lightroom work from another computer, it's a mystery why the program doesn't ask you where you want to store the files and then import them to the Lightroom library “by reference”. Instead, they are marooned in the managed space and you then can't move them elsewhere on your system.

It's as if Adobe have moved too far out of their image processing comfort zone to see that the managed space concept is the antithesis of what everyone most liked about Lightroom when it was announced last January. And isn?t it ironic that their Mac-limited competitor adds import by reference on the very day Adobe launch beta 4?

Test this area now - and tell Adobe what you think.