Maperture is a free geo-tagging plugin for Apple’s Aperture photo management and editing software. This plugin will not be of interest to everyone. Unless you care about inserting latitude and longitude information into the EXIF data of photographs, you will have no interest in this what-so-ever. In fact, I’d go even further, I’d posit that this initial version of Maperture is only for people who care about embedding location data into their photos, but who don’t have a GPS device. Future versions (one of which is in beta ATM) will be of more interest to more people, but right now Maperture is for those of us who need to use Google Maps to find the co-ordinates of our pictures because our cameras can’t do it for us. This software really feels like a 1.0 product though. You can see it has massive potential, but right now it’s still rather rough around the edges.

Lets start with the bad, and then go on to the good. What annoys me about Maperture more than anything else is its default start-up behaviour. It doesn’t start you where you were last time, instead it tries to start you at your home location. This sounds good, except for one major flaw, it doesn’t let you set that home location, it sucks it out of somewhere, possibly your registration details for Aperture. In my case though, Google Maps fails to properly interpret my address, so each and every single time I open Maperture I get an alert that it can’t find my address, then I have to dismiss that popup and manually type “Maynooth, Ireland” into the search box to get started. In many ways this is a small annoyance, but a small annoyance that happens often is still very annoying!

Secondly, the interaction model is not very well thought out yet. The Maperture people could do with have a good look at the mapping feature in Flickr’s Organizr. Rather than dragging and dropping the thumbnails onto the map like you do with Flickr, you have to select one or more of them, and then click on their location on the map. However, the cursor does not become a cross-hair, it remains a hand, and in fact, you move the map by clicking and dragging, and you place photos by just clicking. Not at all an intuitive or a sensible model.

Thirdly, although you can easily geotag massive amounts of images at once by selecting lots of thumbnails and then clicking, when you want to move those thumbnails they do not move as one (like in Flickr), but individually, and I haven’t found a way around that yet. So, when you place things wrongly, and you will because of the poor interface I described in the last point, you are in for a world of annoyance to correct each image one at a time.

Finally, we come to the last problem, and in fairness, this is not Maperture’s fault, but Aperture’s fault (at least according to the Maperture FAQ). When you export a “Version” from Aperture which has location meta data generated by Maperture in it, Aperture, most annoyingly, strips that meta data out on export. If you export a “Master” this doesn’t happen, but in reality, you’re way more likely to need a version exported, rather than a master. Apparently the bug has been reported to Apple so hopefully this can be fixed soon.

So, what are the good points? Well, first and MOST importantly, it works! It lets you geotag your images from within Aperture without leaving Aperture, and gives you all the precision of Google Maps to do it. The interface is also clean and quick to load. I can also see great potential here for the future. The features in the beta of Maperture Pro look good, in particular the ability to add bookmarks and to do reverse-geotagging (turning co-ordinates into place-names). Unless they charge an extortionary price for the release version of Maperture Pro, I will almost certainly be buying it, and I’m confident that when I review that future version, most, if not all, of my grips will be gone.

Finally, just a quick tip, in order to err very much on the side of caution, Maperture makes a backup copy of all the files you geotag with it, just in case something goes wrong. They insist that Maperture does not corrupt images, and I can say that it hasn’t corrupted any of the hundreds of images I’ve geotagged with it, but those copies are made non-the-less, and will start taking up disk space if you don’t cull them from time-to-time. By default these copies are placed in a folder on your Desktop called ‘Maperture Backups’, but you can change that default location in the Maperture preferences window.

In summary, Maperture works, it’s free, but it’s a bit rough-and-ready for now.