When Apple announced Aperture 3 I was excited. The more I read about it on their site, and the more video demos I watched, the more I fell in love. The feature-list has everything I really wanted, and more besides. For me the really big deal was a power local adjustments feature, as well as Faces and Places. They also fixed some of my quibbles with Aperture 2. On paper this app was perfect for me. In reality however, it turns out not to be ready for the main-stream yet. The design is spot-on, but the implementation feels like a poor beta. As I write this I’ve down-graded back to Aperture 2.

My Aperture 3 adventure started with a full backup – which I’m really glad I took. In case you’re wondering what’s important to back up, here’s a little checklist:

  1. The Aperture App itself in /Applications
  2. Your Library
  3. The file com.apple.Apeture.plist in ~/Library/Preferences (~ denotes your home directory)
  4. The folder Aperterture in ~/Library/Application Support

With my files backed up I stuck in the DVD and ran the installer. The upgrade of my library took a long time. I have a large library so this didn’t surprise me. Once I saw how slowly the progress bar was moving I decided to just let it run overnight. The next day I fired up Aperture and expected it to have some work to do for faces. To watch it’s progress I opened up the Activity Viewer in Aperture (a feature that exists in Aperture 2 as well) by going to Window -> Activity. As expected this showed that it had literally thousands of photos to scan for faces, and also a few thousand thumbnails to generate. I let it at it overnight again.

On the third day I was finally ready to start using Aperture. At first things went well. I played with faces a bit, and after I’d corrected it’s guesses a few times it soon got very good at recognizing my family. I also had a play with Places and was delighted to see that all the geotagging I’d done with the Maperture Pro plugin was seen by Places. I was also happy with the improved projects view, and the improved searching in the all photos view.

It was when I moved on to trying to do some edits that it all went down hill, and fast. I first started by trying to brush in a selective adjustment. It went fine for the first stroke, but, on the second stroke all hell broke loose. The photo was suddenly covered in random digital noise! It looked corrupted. When I undid the edit all went back to normal. When I tried again I got parts of the image repeated over other parts of the image, rather than random noise.

Grumpy that the feature I wanted most was so buggy I reverted to trying some simple adjustments. A few clicks of the white balance slider and all hell broke loose again! This time the entire photo went solid blue! Now I was really angry, so I started browsing around. I soon noticed how horrifically slow Aperture 3 was loading images. Instead of the usual 1-5 seconds, it was now about 20-30 seconds. I also noticed that many of my images seemed over-sharpened. To have a closer look I brought up the loupe tool. To my horror it rendered the image out of focus! about 20 seconds later it corrected itself. But, the moment I dragged the loupe so much as a pixel in any direction the whole process started over again, first rendering out of focus, then 20 seconds or so later rendering in focus. This made one of my favorite tools unusable! I tried adding in a few more adjustments. When the image wasn’t in some way corrupted the adjustments were really slow to register, often taking 30 seconds. With delays that long you simply cannot work.

I slept on it for a night, and then decided I had no choice but to go back to Aperture 2. This is not as easy as it should be because Apple is too arrogant to provide an un-installer, and the Aperture 2 Installer will not allow you to install Aperture 2 over Aperture 3. To do my downgrade I started by deleting the four elements I had initially backed up. Then I stuck in the Aperture 2 DVD and tried to install it. It would not let me. It senses that Aperture 3 had been on the system! I Thought that by removing the app, the library, the preference file, and the folder in Application Support that I’d totally deleted Aperture 3, I was wrong.

In frustration I fired up TimeMachine and restored everything I’d backed up from it. That worked, but it didn’t explain why the Aperture 2 installer had still sensed Aperture 3’s presence. I later found the answer, the Aperture 3 installer had written a package receipt to /Library/Receipts (in the root folder NOT in my home folder). Had I also deleted the receipts I’d have been able to use the Aperture 2 installer. Also, had a I used AppDelete to remove Aperture 3 it would have removed the receipt for me too.

I’ve done a lot of reading about Aperture 3 around the web, and the consensus seems to be that people’s experiences are varying wildly, however, everyone is experiencing a memory leak that makes Aperture 3 take up more and more RAM over time, and everyone seems to be experiencing occasional crashes. After that it seems to be down to your graphics card. Since Aperture 3 is so GPU intensive, this is not surprising. Some graphics cards have no issues, and others result in the kinds of problems I’ve been having, in other words, slowness and screen corruption.

So, your experience may vary, but even just with the memory leak and the crashes I’d still argue that this program is not ready for serious use yet. The feature set really is fantastic, and I have no doubt that it will be a truly superb app when it’s fixed, but for now this Turkey is not cooked yet. When the juices start to run clear I’ll give it another go!