The Library module is significantly improved in Lightroom v1.0, though it remains somewhat less coherent than Develop. The big change is the Folders panel replacing the old Shoots. While the name was clever, Shoots were a horrid confusion of virtual sets with physical folders that threatened to repeat one of Aperture 1.0’s worst mistakes, so the change is very welcome.

The new Folders panel lets you see where files are actually located in your folder system, files and folders where you want them without leaving Lightroom, rename or delete them, and run checks for files that Lightroom can no longer find because you’ve moved in Explorer (solution: once files are catalogued in Lightroom, only move them to new folders using Lightroom). Those capabilities are a big step forward from Shoots which let you move files only if they were stored in its managed folder tree but left you high and dry if you stored them where you wanted.

The panel isn’t perfect – you can’t yet right click a folder and simply tell Lightroom to import its contents (solution: re-import the folder and LR will reject anything that is already registered and import the rest), let alone set it to update automatically, or see its disc space usage.

One real silliness, a “gotcha” no less, is that Lightroom refuses to import two pictures which are in the same folder and have names that are identical but with different extensions. That may be OK if you shoot raw+jpeg and only want to import the raw file, but if you save psd, tif and jpeg derivatives in the same folder as your raw files, you’re going to have to change your bad habits (solution: if you must mix them, stick them in a subfolder).

DAM is about certainty and removing risk, and I’m always nervous of entrusting control of my pictures to any v1.0 product. Since iView works perfectly well in conjunction with Lightroom, there’s a fair chance that I won’t use the Folders panel much at all until any potential problems have been ironed out. Nevertheless it is very important progress in a design area where there had been real potential for disaster.

Welcome though the Folders panel is, DAM is also about not falling into the trap of using folders to analyse your files. That’s what metadata is there for – you have keywords and other metadata, plus the Metadata Browser panel. And you need to start making extensive use of Collections… the subject of my next post.