June 26, 2007 4:12 PM PDT

Adobe to open Lightroom to developers

Adobe plans to release Photoshop Lightroom 1.1 on Tuesday, but bigger changes will come later when the company starts letting outside programmers add their own plug-ins to the software.

The update responds to user complaints, fixes bugs and adds features that Adobe couldn't squeeze into the 1.0 release last February, said Lightroom Product Manager Tom Hogarty. For example, performance and memory errors are improved on Windows systems; tools for sharpening, noise reduction and red-eye removal work better; photographers get more control over storing images in catalogs; and the software now fully supports Windows Vista.

Lightroom 1.1, unlike the original Photoshop software, remains a closed package that only Adobe can modify. But that will change when Adobe opens up its interfaces to outside developers.

Hogarty wouldn't say when Adobe will release a software developer kit to permit that third-party programming, but the wheels are in motion.

"We've been talking to developers since the beginning about how they want to extend the application," Hogarty said. "The first thing is to work with developers to get a published SDK available as soon as we can. As soon as we can publish the (interface) spec, I think we'll all be impressed" with what outside programmers will add, he said.

Open interfaces are popular among companies trying to build a broader ecosystem of abilities around their core products. It's the latest rage among Web 2.0 companies--for example, countless Web sites rely on the Google Maps interface--but software such as Adobe Photoshop and QuarkXpress have benefited from other companies' add-ons for years.

Higher in the priority list than outside plug-ins is better integration with other image software, Hogarty said. "There's a lot of request for people to be able to move files (from Lightroom) into another application," he said.

Lightroom 1.1 already made a brief, inadvertent debut on Adobe's Web site on Monday.

Lightroom, like Apple's Aperture before it, is geared to handle raw images taken from camera image sensors without any in-camera processing such as noise reduction. Photoshop can convert raw images into more portable and easy-to-use formats such as JPEG, but only one at a time; Lightroom can handle them en masse and also adds the ability to add descriptive tags, build Web-based galleries, print and organize archives.

Lightroom 1.1 includes several significant changes.

• As with the latest version of Photoshop's raw image conversion tool, Lightroom now supports raw images from several new cameras, including the Canon 1D Mark III, Nikon D40x, Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro, Olympus E-410 and SP-550 UZ, Sigma SD14 and several models from Phase One.

Canon's high-end 1D Mark III has just hit the market, and its users are eager for Lightroom support. "They are the ones who are really anxious to get their hands on this update. That's one of the reasons why we're rushing," Hogarty said of the new release. It doesn't yet support the 1D Mark III's quarter-scale "sraw" format, though.

• Adobe fixed some out-of-memory errors and memory-handling issues that had afflicted Windows users. "I think Windows users will be pleasantly surprised with improved performance. It's not a quantum leap, but it's bringing the Windows platform up to what I think we should have had in 1.0," Hogarty said.

• Groups of imported photos previously called libraries now are called catalogs to reflect new abilities and not the idea of one giant image repository. For example, groups of images can be carved more easily into separate catalogs, and different catalogs can be merged. The changes help professionals who are handing off photos to clients or transferring a subset of their work to a laptop, Hogarty said.

• Folders of images now can be synchronized more easily with the underlying folders in the computer's file system.

• Noise reduction and sharpening is improved. The noise reduction interface looks the same, but the algorithm is better, Hogarty said, while the sharpening is more flexible to accommodate a wider variety of images.

• "We now officially support Vista," Hogarty said, including issues with burning DVDs and recognizing external devices such as memory card readers.

• The red-eye-removal tool has a more comprehensible interface and an updated algorithm.

• Some users' collections of presets for image editing, Web export and printing were getting out of hand, so they now can organize such presets and templates in folders and subfolders, Hogarty said.

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