Aperture on a PowerBook, Pt. 3 - DAM

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Derrick Story

Derrick Story
Dec. 12, 2005 07:44 AM

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I've been reading about whether Aperture is a true Digital Asset Management (DAM) system, or more of a photo management application. I'm not totally clear on the distinction, but I can tell you this. I've tested its backup and restore, and I think it works great.

There are two basic ways to backup. The first is using "Vaults." Generally speaking, Vaults are complete copies of your entire Aperture library that are stored on external FireWire drives. I have three Vaults. The first is located on a 60 GB iPod that I always carry with me. The second is on a FW drive at home, and the third is on a drive at the office. I manage these Vaults with its Inspector.

Vault Inspector

In the Vault inspector, Aperture shows you the status of your Vaults and if they’re connected. If the status button is black, the Vault is up to date. Yellow indicates that all of the Master files have been backed up, but a change has occurred to at least one version file that hasn’t been backed up. Red means that you have at least one master file that has not been backed up. To back up a Vault, just connect the FireWire drive and and click on the yellow or red update button. Aperture will compare the library in the Vault with that in Aperture, then update the Vault with the differences. The status color will then change to black.

The backups are incremental and speedy enough not to ruin your workflow. When you restore, as I've also tested, Aperture makes your existing library "old," and adds the restored library to your Pictures folder.


I actually copied the old library on to an external drive (just to be safe), then trashed it on my PowerBook. I was then using the new library. Everything was intact when I relaunched Aperture. But I did have to wait for the thumbnails to reload when I opened each project. This was a one-shot deal. After the first loading, the project behaved normally as before.

The other method I want to mention is actually dragging a project out of Aperture and on to your Desktop or external drive. The project -- with all of your master images, versions, metadata, etc. -- lives in a container that you can drag into another copy of Aperture. This is really slick, and a great way to backup parts of your library or share them with other Aperture users.

Regardless if you consider this a true DAM solution or not, I like Aperture's approach to backup. It will be fun to see how this function evolves in upcoming versions.

More in this series...

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit www.thedigitalstory.com.